Episcopal Church’s ‘Sacred Ground’ releases report, updated curriculum
Three years after launching Sacred Ground, a dialogue series on race, racism, and whiteness with more than 20,000 participants thus far, The Episcopal Church’s Racial Reconciliation and Justice Team is releasing a comprehensive evaluation report, updated curriculum and resources, and expanded licensing that invites people in other denominations/faiths to start their own Sacred Ground circles.
“Everywhere I travel, people are bursting to tell me about the transformational impact Sacred Ground has had in their lives,” said Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Michael Curry. “The Lord is building Beloved Community through this movement, and in its updated and expanded form, Sacred Ground will help many thousands more take the next steps in the lifelong work of racial healing.”
In partnership with the Union of Black Episcopalians, Sacred Ground worked with Christina Pacheco of Indígena Consulting Inc. in 2021 to conduct surveys and focus groups with more than 2,900 participants, facilitators, and organizers of the film- and readings-based series that includes circle groups throughout the U.S. (84 dioceses were represented among survey respondents).
The resulting 63-page report is designed to help Sacred Ground facilitators, organizers, and churchwide staff discover what they can do to create the best outcomes for circles. It includes a detailed breakdown of questions and results, charts, graphs, and numerous quotes from respondents.
Among other findings, the survey showed overwhelmingly that Sacred Ground has had a powerful impact on participants’ knowledge, attitudes, and emotional capacity. It has prompted action such as initiating “racial reckoning” conversations in one’s family, supporting Black businesses, holding listening sessions with Indigenous people, and joining county-level policing accountability projects. The survey also reflected a desire for more guidance in this area.
“It has helped us take action on racial justice, not just preach about it,” a Sacred Ground organizer is quoted as saying in the evaluation report.
While the program was especially designed to help White people talk with each other about race, the survey showed that participants of color also found the experience valuable for their own learning and transformation.
These and other survey results—as well as a curriculum review by volunteers, consultants, and advisors—informed changes, updates, and additions to the Sacred Ground program that include the following:
- A list of best practices for organizing and facilitating Sacred Ground circles, including a recommendation for more interracial circles.
- “We Bless You,” a 22-minute invitational video produced collaboratively with the Union of Black Episcopalians that speaks to those discerning whether to participate in a circle, and whether to form a White or interracial circle.
- A revised session 10 and new session 11 to help address the desire for help in moving from reflection to action.
- Curriculum additions, such as some related to the history of Indigenous boarding schools.
- Higher visibility of theological reflections in the program.
- Deeper Dive, a list of supplementary videos and readings for those who want to go further in their learning and exploration.
In addition to the updated curriculum, Sacred Ground’s three-year licenses for videos and readings have been renewed, with an expansion for other local-level faith groups that would like to offer the program without direct Episcopal Church involvement.
One Sacred Ground facilitator is quoted in the report as saying: “Thank you. However painful it is to see what our country has done wrong, I am glad to have become informed of the truth. I hope everyone can have access to this program.”