This Summer It’s All About Racial Justice
By the Rev. Canon Stephanie Spellers
Back in 2020, before COVID-19 lockdowns and the murder of George Floyd, Episcopal racial justice and reconciliation leaders were all set to gather in Minneapolis for the first Becoming Beloved Community Summit. We thought hundreds of Beloved Community grant recipients and leaders would come to share strategy, hopes, and wisdom. We thought we would host the first in a series of Concerts for the Human Family. We were wrong.
Instead, two events turned our world upside down. First, COVID struck and forced us to cancel nearly all in-person gatherings. Then Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin murdered George Floyd, forcing us to reckon afresh with the depth and depravity of systemic racism in the United States.
We moved the Becoming Beloved Community Summit online and were amazed when thousands of people joined for three days of plenaries and small groups around racial truth-telling, healing, and formation. We gave thanks for the miracle of Zoom, but we never stopped hoping for the day we could come together.
That day is coming. I hope you’ve heard about the “It’s All About Love” festival on July 9-12 at the Baltimore Convention Center. It’s many things: a revival equipping and sending us to be the Jesus Movement in a post-pandemic world; a festive kickoff to the presiding bishop’s final year as our chief pastor; a fulfillment of our 2022 promise to come and bless Baltimore. But the festival also features a racial justice track that serves in many ways like the Beloved Community Summit we always imagined.
First of all, we will be inspired by revival worship. Bishop Michael Curry will preach the opening Sunday night revival. Monday night, one of the stars of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church, the Rev. Mariama White-Hammond, will preach at the intersection of race and environmental justice. The final night of revival worship, we’ll hear a challenging, holy word from Sarah Augustine, who heads the religious Coalition to Dismantle the Doctrine of Discovery. And at the Wednesday morning closing Eucharist, President of the House of Deputies Julia Ayala Harris will send us forth to pursue justice, inclusion, and equity as beloved community.
That’s just worship. We will engage with dozens of the most important racial justice and reconciliation leaders in and around our church. Dr. Kwok Pui Lan, one of the world’s foremost feminist theologians, will reimagine a decolonized Anglicanism in the Monday morning plenary. You could spend days moving between 35 workshops and learning sessions with leaders like Dr. Catherine Meeks of the Absalom Jones Center, the Very Rev. Dr. Kelly Brown Douglas of Episcopal Divinity School, and the Rev. Dr. Rachel Taber-Hamilton, vice president of the House of Deputies.
Learn from the Rev. David Chavez on forced migration and justice at the border; Lallie Lloyd on Sacred Ground; Joe McDaniel and Don Edwards on the work of truth-telling; the team from St. Paul’s-Richmond on public history; or the Rev. Isaiah Shaneequa Brokenleg on preaching social justice. Grey Maggiano of Memorial Church-Baltimore will lead a downtown tour tracing disappeared Black communities. Sacred Ground alums will gather Sunday afternoon for a pre-conference gathering focused on moving into action. And that’s barely a third of what you’ll find!
The last three years have been so hard. We’ve marched, organized, preached, wept and poured our hearts into racial justice and healing. We’ve felt inspired but also isolated and exhausted. We need the Holy Spirit, and we need each other. We need to study Beloved Community and also practice it.
That’s what “It’s All About Love” is all about. I truly hope to see you in the circle and share the love this summer in Baltimore.
The Rev. Canon Stephanie Spellers is canon to the presiding bishop for Evangelism, Reconciliation and Creation Care.