Diocese of Central Gulf Coast – Becoming Beloved Community Grant Recipient
By Gary Moore and Joe McDaniel, Jr.
As many other dioceses have experienced during the pandemic, the Commission on Racial Justice and Reconciliation of the Episcopal Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast has seen significant change in how it interprets and fulfills its mission and ministry.
Most of the goals described in our original grant request were planned for in-person gatherings, which were halted/modified. We remain in frequent contact with our grant partners: DuBose Union of Black Episcopalians (UBE) Chapter, Alabama Arise, and Alabama Institute for Social Justice, seeking innovative ways to explore Becoming Beloved Community.
Our goals are to move us and our neighbors from being uninformed to informed; from informed to concerned; and, from concerned into people engaged in action.
Our acclaimed speaker series immediately pivoted to online offerings, hosting representatives from Alabama Arise (Alabama’s leading anti-poverty advocacy group); Alabama Appleseed Center for Law & Justice (Alabama’s leader in criminal justice reform); Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama (a community-building advocacy group); and Poor People’s Campaign. We informed people regarding issues about which they knew very little and explored ways to address them.
To deepen and improve our capacity, nearly every one of our commission members participated in a three-Saturday training program created by Conversation Starters (a cultural competency and equity consultation firm that specializes in diversity and facilitation training). We enhanced the commission members’ ability to engage courageously in difficult conversations, enabling creation of inclusive spaces where authentic relationships can build sustainable communities.
Future plans are to introduce the Dismantling Racism Youth Curriculum. We plan to sponsor and invite youth leaders from all churches, Boys & Girls Clubs, and other groups.
We are also planning a public awareness campaign to bring together African American, Asian, and Hispanic speakers to discuss how we view this pandemic through a racial equity lens.
We engaged in conversations with a large United Methodist Church (UMC) to collaborate on social justice work. We found that joining together in sponsoring guest lecturers, pilgrimages, etc., provided a critical mass of people which creates power in the optics of larger numbers of people gathering, whether on Zoom or at meetings. Several UMC members have attended our workshops, and we believe sharing resources and joining together on many levels magnifies our ministries.
Our ability to reach beyond our traditional footprint is enhanced by the presence of non-Episcopalians. Our canons do not require commission members to be Episcopalians, so we invited two Missionary Baptist allies to join (one an assistant pastor).
Commission members have become more active in local and state-wide community organizations aimed at creating and strengthening relationships: Path to Peace, Hope Community, Alabama Faith in Action, Alabama Arise, JUSTPensacola. Our message is finding its way into places we’d likely not have in our traditional church-scaled efforts. Our commission is also partnering with the Community Remembrance Project, a national project led by the Equal Justice Initiative (Bryan Stevenson of the Montgomery-based Legacy Museum and the Memorial For Peace & Justice) to memorialize the sites of extrajudicial lynchings.
From Oct. 23—Nov 20, we are leading a pilgrimage of 100 participants to the Whitney Plantation in Edgar, Louisiana, which focuses on plantation life from the perspective of the enslaved person. With our required pre- and post-meetings, we expect small groups to be generative and to lean into each of the Becoming Beloved Community quadrants, exploring next steps to delve deeper into our respective communities. We expect many long-lasting relationships and cooperating partnerships.
In spring 2022, we will host a Service of Repentance at our Cathedral in Mobile, Alabama, to which are invited other Christian churches, the Mobile Christian Jewish Dialogue members and friends, the Trialogue (Muslim-Jewish-Christian), and others to help expand the reach of the service’s message and meaning. Prior to the service we will have information booths from advocacy groups, essay and poetry contests, choirs, and drama to share stories of the sin of racism, the long-lasting effects, and how we can go forward together.
Just completed was our annual Jonathan Myrick Daniels Pilgrimage. Jonathan Myrick Daniels was an Episcopal seminarian killed while working in the civil rights movement in Hayneville, Alabama. Guest speakers this year were the Rev. Kim Jackson (also a Georgia state senator) and Dr. Catherine Meeks, whose remarks focused on threats to voting rights at the time Jonathan was martyred and, sadly, today. A unique partnership was enjoyed this year for this virtual event among the Episcopal Diocese of Alabama, Episcopal Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast, and Episcopal Divinity School of Union Theological Seminary.
Because the issues of racial equity and inclusion are not a binary white-and-black skin concern, we are hosting a pilgrimage to the annual Thanksgiving Pow Wow conducted by the Poarch Band of Creek Indians in Atmore, Alabama. We previously visited their new interpretive museum and were given a private tour and discussion.
We continue our Racial Reconcilitation Sacred Conversations workshops online, with the never-ending hope of returning in person. Our speaker series also continues virtually.
Our grant partners, their members and general public who desire to become informed, to grow concerned, and to be called into action are invited to participate in our many offerings. We aren’t tourists. We are truly pilgrims on a journey of Becoming Beloved Community.
Gary Moore and Joe McDaniel, Jr. met while serving on a bishop search committee, during which time they explored issues important to the church. Racial justice was chief among their concerns. From that experience they obtained approval from Bishop Russel Kendrick to form a diocesan Commission on Racial Justice and Reconciliation, which has attracted superb members. Both men had legal careers, with Joe practicing corporate finance law on Wall Street and Gary working for the U.S. Department of Justice with an emphasis on civil rights enforcement.
The Commission on Racial Justice and Reconciliation received an Impact Grant in the 2019 Becoming Beloved Community grant cycle.