As three distinct conferences of the United Church of Christ, we were traveling down the road of justice and hit the proverbial fork in the road. Do we ignore the current racial undertones of our country, or do we go down the path where few have traveled, where we become staunch advocates of racial justice?
At the Tri-Conference Annual Meeting, the Connecticut and Rhode Island Conferences voted in favor of requiring clergy to partake in racial justice training every few years. The Massachusetts Conference is currently in the process of developing a racial justice roadmap that congregations can look to for guidance.
My friends, I am so pleased to tell you that we all, in fact, did go down the path less traveled.
Robert Frost, in “The Road Not Taken,” famously wrote:
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
When Frost says “difference,” there is a natural inclination to assume this path had a positive light; that it was somehow better. “Difference”, however, could have multiple interpretations: The path could be challenging, or scary, or feel uncertain.
Although we are traveling down this road as a unified conference now, we must remain cognizant of the fact that individuals make up the conference, and that each of us has our own individual path to travel as we work toward racial justice. These individual paths may be daunting; there may be lost friends, there may be social gatherings to which we are no longer invited, there may be times when we question our sense of going forward.
I don’t have future insight on the road we are traveling; however, I know that people and organizations across the country are watching the stance we take on racial justice - watching for inspiration, or maybe watching for our faults, to critique us. The only fact that matters is that we persist; that we do not turn from the path we have chosen. We may not end racism tomorrow, but so long as we keep traveling this road and continue pressing on despite adversity, I am confident that one day we will find our work and our commitment have been well worth the costs.
This is our moment. This is our time to say that we, as people of faith, cannot sit idly by while our siblings in Christ suffer every day from the malicious effects of racism. We are called to be a living example of the Gospel; and this is our witness, the cross that we bear.
The resolutions passed by the Connecticut and Rhode Island conferences call on all authorized clergy to undergo racial justice training. It is a major feat to equip the leaders of our congregations with these tools so they can better serve their parishioners, and I am optimistic that not only will clergy take this racial justice training, they will encourage and challenge their parishioners to take the training as well.
However, my friends, racial justice training is not the end of the road! Our work is not done after we have taken one training, or read a few books, or watched a few films, or even gone to a few demonstrations. Our road only ends when we have nurtured a culture where all of God’s people are treated with equity.
TJ Harper is the Racial Justice Associate for the MA & CT Conference, UCC.
Many Voices, One Mission is a regular series highlighting the ministries of the
CT, MA, and RI Conference of the United Church of Christ.
TJ Harper is Associate for Racial Justice for the Massachusetts Conference, United Church of Christ.