Raleigh Mennonite Church, 2022

Raleigh, North Carolina

To investigate how the legacy of white supremacy affects worship practices, to learn to better appreciate and include worship materials from other cultures without appropriating, and to learn how anti-racist practices are implemented by other churches leading the way in these efforts.

Summarize your grant project and how it will address a need in your worshiping community. 

Through experiential and relational learning, we want to see our congregation move into deeper anti-racist practice this year. Plans include a joint multi-racial gospel choir with a local Black church, learning visits to churches who are intentionally and boldly anti-racist in their vision and practice, scholarships for a week-long anti-racism camp for children, and a panel discussion on intersectionality and appropriation.

What two questions might you ask about worship in the coming year that will generate theological reflection and shape your project? 

How can our worship widen the space for reckoning with our racial formation and history? 

How can we recognize and work within our identity as a white-majority congregation, while at the same time imagining and striving for welcoming, inclusivity, and "beloved community"?

How will your project impact the worship life and habits of the congregation?

Our worship must attend to the culture and community we inhabit. We want to build stronger relationships across racial lines, better understand the context for spirituals, gospel and freedom songs we incorporate into worship, and learn new songs and practices. Singing brings us joy, which is important in this work! We want to learn from churches who are intentionally and boldly anti-racist in their vision and practice, gleaning any approaches and commonalities from their work that may be applied to our own setting, helping us to live deeper into our anti-racist identity as a congregation. This work will also kickstart our newly formed anti-racism team, which will continue the work beyond the funded year. 

What might be your greatest challenges (or challenging opportunities)?

We’re approaching the year with an exploratory mindset, and it may be a challenge to stay focused and keep forward momentum, as we’re unsure what we might learn. We trust that God has something to teach us. And of course, with the topic of racism we anticipate potential resistance, denial, defensiveness from our (albeit progressive) white-majority congregation, but we know that working through that discomfort brings learning and growth. 

What do you hope to learn from the Grants Event and other grant recipients?

I’m curious to see intersections and transferrable ideas from other projects, that might inform our work this year. I'm sure that seeing the projects reported out from last year’s awards will energize me as project director, and help me to form a more concrete idea of where we're going and how to get there.