During Holy Week, a multi-generational delegation of nine RCA pastors, seminarians, lay people, and GSC staff traveled to Washington, D.C.
During Holy Week, a multi-generational delegation of nine RCA pastors, seminarians, lay people, and staff traveled to Washington, D.C., to participate in the Rally to End Racism. The National Council of Churches (NCC), an ecumenical body of which the RCA is a member communion, sponsored this three-day event.
The Rally to End Racism was the NCC’s launch for A.C.T. Now!, its multi-year program to address racism in America. The gathering’s events included a Greek Orthodox worship service in observance of Holy Tuesday, a silent march from the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial to the National Mall, an interfaith rally, and a variety of learning opportunities and legislative visits focused on social topics pertinent to racial justice.
The goals of the gathering and broader campaign are three-fold: to awaken ourselves to the truth of racism, to confront racism, and to transform the people and structures that shape society.
“This is not merely a social matter or merely a church matter; it is a whole-life matter for many people,” said Earl James, the RCA’s coordinator for Cultural Agility and Advocacy and leader of the delegation to Washington. “How we live—whether we are overt racists, knowing recipients of racism, or are ignorant of how we benefit from racist systems or are impacted by racism—all this is lived out before God’s face. … Racism too often is seen as a personal or interpersonal thing. It has those dimensions, but is also cultural, institutional, and systemic.”
The RCA group left the rally with a commitment to implement anti-racism strategies in their contexts, like connecting African American seminarians with mentors, holding a mass incarceration connection event, offering poverty simulations, and providing tools like an implicit bias survey and the Trusted Ten exercise.
James was also compelled by the spirit of ecumenism at the rally events. “Ecumenically, the RCA can do and experience things it cannot do alone,” he said.
For James, the choice to confront racism is non-negotiable, and the RCA must “continuously seek out opportunities and partners to combat it in the name of Christ.” Part of that pursuit, he said, necessitates reflection and self-awareness.
“In our desire to be celebrative and unified, we grossly overlook how divided and separated we are racially and ethnically. [We] allow politics to supersede … how sisters and brothers in Christ experience life and belittle efforts to create change for their blessing and betterment. And [we overlook] how our denomination grew from and grows from racism, as do many institutions and movements in our history and the present.”