Racial Justice Awareness Confirmation Event 2020

Racial Justice Awareness Confirmation Event 2020

Event for Youth Invites Racial Justice Awareness- Seekonk, MA 
January 2020 

How can we inform and engage youth about social justice issues and guide their strong young voice into the future of change?

This question is woven into many of our confirmation programs and is crucial to consider as youth continue to develop their discipleship on their faith journey as a confirmand.  Living out the love and justice of Jesus presents many opportunities within a confirmation year.  One opportunity in the RI area is the annual Racial Justice Awareness event for confirmation youth.  Confirmation groups and leaders from the historical RI Conference gathered together on Sunday, January 26, 2020 from 1:00 to 5:00 PM at the Seekonk Congregational Church in Seekonk, MA.  Participation involved 6 churches with 40 in attendance. Racial Justice Awareness Trained Facilitators of the program were Rev. Kurt Walker, Rev. Nancy Soukup and Rev. Dr. Kathy Henry with coordinator of the program, Kristin Putney, CE and Youth Ministry Consultant in the Southern New England Conference.  The RJA  facilitators shared focus on 4 segments of the event:
1) Racism Definitions  
2) The National Peace & Justice Memorial  
3) “Color of Fear” Video  
4) “Being an Ally” Video.  

The event began with a mock segregation experience that randomly segregated everyone by color dots to represent levels of privilege and all received special snacks and seating according to the colored dot level. Rev. Marilyn Ricci from the Seekonk Congregational Church includes this important awareness event every year into her confirmand’s schedule as a required event.  Rev. Ricci noticed that her confirmands were immediately immersed into the discussion of segregation upon arrival because of the color dot system which separated her confirmation class and gave special privilege to a chosen few with cushioned seats in the front and extravagant snacks.  This privileged seating arrangement contrasted harshly with others in her group who were seated in the back on hard chairs with a limited snack.  

Opening worship included participants lighting a candle to represent each one’s light of Christ shining through them to move forward in racial justice awareness.  After each video segment, youth from the various area churches engaged in discussion breakout groups.  Brianna Vierra from the Seekonk confirmation group said “I really liked how kids from different churches were able to get together and talk about more adult topics and we were listened to as we responded to a variety of questions about our awareness of racial concerns.”  

Another Seekonk confirmand, Kaidan Hollins, said he thought the powerpoint of the National Peace & Justice Memorial ( https://museumandmemorial.eji.org/ ) was very powerful because it showed what happened in our history and how some have grown from the awareness with these stories told.  Rev. Hilary McLellan from the First Congregational Church in Bristol commented on the impactful slides of the lynching memorial prepared and narrated by Rev. Kurt Walker who spoke of his personal experience in viewing this newly built memorial in Montgomery, Alabama that memorialized the named and unnamed victims of the racial terror lynching from 1877-1950 from 12 southern states.  Rev. McLellan commented on one powerful part of this presentation that struck her.  She was impacted by how some of the duplicate memorial steel markers that were made for each county to take and memorialize in their community were never retrieved by many of the southern counties so they laid untouched alongside the impressive memorial area.  

The event ended with a prayerful time reflecting Martin Luther King Jr. and receiving communion.  Several RI churches participate every year with their confirmation group and invite confirmand’s mentors to participate as well.  Many RI churches participate  every other year coordinating with their confirmation biyearly schedule. We are hopeful to include additional SNEUCC congregations in future RJA events, now that our collaborations throughout the area are expanding. These awareness opportunities are vital for our young people in order for them to grow and mature into faith filled adult disciples of Jesus, supporting and creating change.  
Kristin Putney is a CE and YM consultant and member of the Discipleship Team of the Southern New England Conference United Church of Christ. She can be reached at putneyk@sneucc.org or by calling 774-991-1555.
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