This is Sacred Ground
Across the country, parishes and dioceses are implementing the Sacred Ground and Healing from Internalized Oppression curricula created by The Episcopal Church to address systemic racism in congregations and communities.
This past August, the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society staff (DFMS is the legal name of The Episcopal Church) took up this work too. Following the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, a core group of staff prompted by Director of Human Resources Raphaelle Sondak and led by Missioner of Black Ministries Rev. Ronald C. Byrd Sr., proposed the creation of self-selected affinity groups to address racism, oppression, Whiteness, and Blackness within the staff of The Episcopal Church. During the summer In House session, the semi-annual online gathering of DFMS staff, a conversation around race and racism revealed the need to thoughtfully expand the conversation. Out of these conversations, it became apparent that the work of racial reconciliation needed to begin here “at home.”
The two racial affinity groups of about 30 individuals are led by Byrd and The Rev. Tom Brackett, missioner, church planting, ministry redevelopment, and Fresh Expressions of Church; The Rev. Isaiah “Shaneequa” Brokenleg, staff officer for racial reconciliation; and The Rev. Dr. Molly F. James, deputy executive officer for general convention. The groups meet regularly across multiple time zones to do the work of racial reconciliation. Separately, the groups look deeply and critically at the culture in which we are immersed. There is no shaming or blaming, just thoughtful examination of our disparate experiences within the dominant culture. The groups have separate readings and cover different topics, but all have the same goal, which is create the space for reconciliation and understanding within our organization. Participating staff are grateful for the time set aside for them to do this work; it takes time to build the trust necessary to have honest, healthy, and empowering conversations. We educate ourselves by listening deeply and engaging thoughtfully with our colleagues. We live out our faith striving for justice and peace among all people and respecting the dignity of every human being.