Last Fall, the Social Justice Ministry offered “Sacred Ground,” a film and readings-based dialogue series on race and faith from the National Church. Sacred Ground is part of Becoming Beloved Community, the National Church’s long-term commitment to racial healing, reconciliation, and justice in our personal lives, our ministries, and our society. Two small groups walked through 10 weeks of America’s history of race and racism while weaving in threads of family story, class, and political and regional identity.
You can find more details and a preview of videos: Sacred Ground – The Episcopal Church (episcopalchurch.org/sacred-ground). We are planning another small group for the fall. If you’re interested, please contact the Rev. Laura F. Gettys, Jennie VanDeveer, Nicki Soule, or Paula Barnes ON REALM (gracestlukes.org/realm) or through the Church Office (901-272-7425). The deadline for signup is July 31.
Here are two reflections by past participants: Robbie Weinberg and Anne Carriere.
From Robbie J. Weinberg
Having been on my own spiritual awakening journey the last 6 years, I was excited to learn about Grace-St. Luke’s offering the Sacred Ground course. I hoped the course would be a safe environment to learn and ask hard questions. The oppression of the overwhelming issues of the world is often debilitating for me. I was hopeful Sacred Ground could allow room for a small community to help me hold the hard things I might learn. I was right.
Sacred Ground gave me a blueprint of hope through the template of the Episcopal Church’s reconciliation goal around Becoming a Beloved Community. We started with a clear understanding of some basic touchstones like confidentiality, respecting silence, using “I” statements and allowing everyone to be where they are. The facilitators gently helped us honor the importance of the group consciousness throughout the 10-session class. The mixed-media syllabus allowed me to stay more engaged and the organization of the sessions is enormously helpful.
This program has forever changed the lens by which I view and understand myself and humanity around me. It’s given me the uncomfortable data my soul knew was missing but didn’t know how to find. The information was often painful to digest but the class allowed an evolution of emotions to safely leak out as needed. Shame is often an emotion I have felt when exploring or deconstructing difficult topics alone. This unique class is masterful in not allowing shame to define our forward movement.
In my opinion, redemption can only happen through reconciliation. The Episcopal Church’s Sacred Ground program offers a path forward for systemic change. It’s a brave course and requires courage to embark. You won’t be sorry if you take the leap.
From The Rev. Anne S. Carriere
I’m proud of the national Episcopal Church’s team that put together the curriculum for Sacred Ground. I recently learned that since 2019 over 2,100 Sacred Ground Circles with over 20,000 participants have been created in Episcopal churches across the country, incIuding the two groups formed at Grace-St. Luke’s. I am grateful that GSL was the first parish in West Tennessee to offer the opportunity. I learned so much history that I had never been taught or learned before!
Throughout the program we read Jesus and the Disinherited, by Howard Thurman, and Waking Up White, by Debby Irving. Both texts exposed insidious white racism from a theological perspective and a cultural point of view. Each unit included excellent documentaries from PBS and others, and articles from a number of different authors with a variety of perspectives. I learned about the history of racism and prevalence in our society that impact so many different cultural communities. We were fortunate to have the space to meet face to face (masked), and I am grateful that we could share our questions, different perspectives, and experiences. I now more clearly see injustice and inequity, and I’m motivated to help bring about change to end discrimination.