This past summer, after what seemed like at least one incident per week of police shootings and killing
of African Americans, I realized I could no longer sit back and do nothing. While I do not view myself
as prejudiced against any race I also recognized that for the most part I was not actively seeking to
solve the problem. It was time I moved off the sidelines and begin to take an active role in being part
of the solution. So last October I attended a conference at Montreat called Disgrace that dealt with
issues of racism. I followed up with a sermon on Justice and Persistent Prayer in which I invited people
of the church to begin a conversation on race. We began that discussion with 16 people and have seen
it grow to 30. We began by telling our stories using a tool I received from the Disgrace conference:
Creating Your Racial Autobiography
•What are your earliest memories related to race?
•As a child, what were you taught about how to relate to people of different races? What did
you learn that you weren’t explicitly taught?
•What experiences with racial identity did you have in middle and high school? College and/or
•What experiences have you had in your life with being in the racial minority? What emotions
did you have during and after those experiences? If you have none, why do you think that is?
•How often is your race a factor in how you are treated in your daily life? What are some
examples of how that happens?
We discovered we had a wide variety of experiences when it comes to race. I grew up in the deep
South during the 60’s where racism confronted you head on with separate restrooms and water
fountains and segregated schools. It wasn’t until I started Junior High that I attended an integrated
school. Others shared their experiences from the North where racism was much more subtle yet still
present. Still others shared growing up in places where there were no real minorities. Each story was
unique and enabled us as a group to recognize our own biases, prejudices, and white privilege. We
continued our work with reading the book “America’s Original Sin: Racism, White Privilege, and the
Bridge to a New America” by Jim Wallis. We also listened to an African American church member tell
her story of growing up in Baltimore and a South Korean man who was adopted by American parents
but who also faced racism.
Recently our Conversation on Race group led a Sunday worship service. We used scriptures, personal
stories, and music to share with the congregation what we were doing as a group. We also shared a
preliminary statement that we will continue to refine and hope eventually will be adopted by the whole
congregation. It reads as follows:
A group within the Presbyterian Church of Easton has been studying racism through personal
experience and acknowledgement of prejudice in many forms and against many people. We tried to
recognize it, analyze it, confront it, and talk about alleviating it. While we don’t fully comprehend
where this will lead beyond today, we do know as a result of this study, it at least includes
personally affirming the worth of all people first as individuals and not as members of any group.
As we continue our Conversation on Race, I’m not sure where it will go. We are continuing to share
our stories and hope to extend the conversation outside the church and even begin conversations with
minority churches. We hope to be seeking racial reconciliation in our community.
The following web links include my sermon that began our conversation on race and then the stories
we told during our worship service dealing with race: