By Stan Friedman
COLORADO SPRINGS, CO (March 5, 2012) – Four Evangelical Covenant Church congregations came away from a recent Invitation to Racial Righteousness (I2RR) weekend with a better understanding about the role of race in each others’ lives and the beginning of possible new relationships.
Participating in the weekend were Relevant Word Ministries, Living Hope Covenant Church, Iglesia de Cristiana Getsemani, and Faith Covenant Church. The event was held February 17-18 at Relevant Word Christian Cultural Center.
The racial righteousness weekends enable people representing different ethnic groups to explore racial injustice, move toward a sense of true community across racial lines, and identify steps for change, both personally and as a community.
“I2RR provided a forum for us to continue in our work to discuss and bring about healing for those who have been wounded by race,” said Promise Lee, pastor of Relevant Word, an African American congregation. “Racial righteousness is an absolute mandatory part of giving, advocating for the less fortunate, healing, and restoration in order to bring true community – a community that is representative of the kingdom of God.”
Lee says participating in the weekend was important for his congregation. “We were able to see and share with others deep-seated pains and how those experiences have shaped and molded us in compassion or the lack of. This weekend exposed how imperative it is for us to continue to recognize how much we need each other in order to promote not only racial healing, but true kingdom unification.”
That unity was strengthened by listening and having the freedom to speak, says Evan Westburg, associate pastor at Living Word. “We talked about our own stories of when we discovered race was an issue. We wholeheartedly engaged in unpacking some difficult issues.”
Lyn Arroyo, who is married to Cristiana Getsemani’s pastor, Cesar Arroyo, says, “It left me kind of angry that we still live in a world like this. I was angry at what some of my brothers and sisters have to go through.”
Arroyo grew up in seven different countries because she comes from a military family. “People here talk about how they are afraid to go to an area of the city because it’s a black neighborhood or it’s a Hispanic neighborhood, and I don’t know why they have to feel that way.” When she lived in other countries, she never had to worry about walking in a neighborhood populated primarily by another ethnic or racial group.
Despite the anger the weekend evoked, Arroyo, who is Anglo, said the event was “not at all” about casting blame, and she looks forward to the churches doing more together. She says her congregation meets at Faith Covenant, as does a Messianic Jewish congregation, noting they have done joint activities.
Greg Ralston, Living Word senior pastor, says his congregation appreciated the opportunity to have discussions that were revelatory, but not meant to induce guilt. “I think we all came away with a new appreciation of other ethnic groups. No one felt that others were trying to put anyone down.”
The privilege that some shared because of their race was acknowledged, however, and Ralston says participants from his congregation were glad they participated. “It was an amazing thing to have the opportunity to sit around a table with people of different ethnicities and have a discussion on a level playing field.”
Pastors from all of the churches are scheduled to meet soon to discuss next steps.