Parish Racial Reconciliation Initiatives
Commitment to Equity and Justice
October 2016 At-a-glance
The Vision of St. Peter’s Episcopal Parish Church is to become a community of bold followers of Jesus, a crowd that effects good change for the world, a place known for radical love and welcome, and a beacon of hope in Center City Charlotte.
In keeping with our Parish Vision and the Baptismal Covenant in which Episcopal Christians vow to “respect the dignity of every human being, loving our neighbors as ourselves,” we have made a focused commitment to engage the prayerful and important work related to racial equity, reconciliation, and justice. Considered by many as the “mother church” of the region, we were the first Episcopal Church in Charlotte, organized in 1834, and recognized as a parish in the Diocese of North Carolina in 1844. Since 1895, the front doors of the church are unlocked, whenever the parish offices are open, as a place of prayer and respite for the city and a visible example of our call to radical welcome. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the parish established two hospitals, then called St. Peter’s Hospital for the poor and Good Samaritan Hospital for blacks; both were incorporated into what is now Carolinas Medical Center. During the Civil Rights Movement, the Rector and certain parish leaders were intentional about inclusion of all persons regardless of race and ethnicity. This commitment resulted in welcoming the first black member of the parish in the early 1970s.
Spring 2013 marked the beginning of a significant series of large and small inner-parish and community-wide events in response to the sin of racism, and what steps we, individually and collectively, might take on the “journey” to create equity and seek justice for all members of the human family, in the name of reconciliation.
February – March 2013. Parish-wide Book Read: Radical Welcome (Stephanie Spellers) with Group Discussions on 2/18 (Introduction: Journey, Defining), 2/25 (Dream of God, Living with Arms Wide Open), 3/4 (Be Not Afraid, Beyond Inviting, Radical Welcome Signs), 3/11 (Re-imagine Your Common Life, Check Your Reality), 3/18 (Reckon with Your Fear, Where Do We Go from Here?), and 3/25 (Conclusion: Joy in Struggle, Bread for the Journey).
November 6, 2013. “Traces of the Trade: A Story from the Deep North” Community Viewing and Conversation. Documentary follows the steps of the largest slave traders in American history and explores racism in America; unearths a hidden legacy of slavery in America, tracing the family’s journey through the dark past of the slave trade, which enriched their New England family.
November 15, 2013. “Fifty Years Later: The State of Racism in America” Webcast. Community viewing and conversation about national historical event hosted at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Cathedral in Jackson, Mississippi, featuring The Right Reverend Michael B. Curry.
February 2014. “Good News: A Congregational Resource for Reconciliation” (Authored by The Rt. Rev. Steven Charleston, drawing on the life and teachings of Jesus in the Gospels) 4-week Parish Hall Forum Series. 2/2 (Introduction), 2/9 (Justice), 2/16 (Compassion), 2/23 (Reconciliation).
Summer 2014 Reconciliation Movie Series on Sundays. June 15 (“Babies”), July 13 (“As We Forgive”), August 10 (“A Class Divided”). Afternoon viewing, conversation, and fellowship.
November 8, 2014 and November 14, 2015. “Seeing the Face of God in Each Other” Anti-racism Seminars. Offered by Diocesan Racial Justice and Reconciliation Committee for parishioners and non-parishioners.
March 6-8, 2015. “God’s Tapestry” Lenten Retreat based on the Parish-wide Book Read, God’s Tapestry: Understanding and Celebrating Differences (William M. Kondrath). Co-facilitated by the book’s author, The Rev. Dr. Bill Kondrath, and the Episcopal Church’s Missioner for Social Justice and Advocacy Engagement, The Rev. Chuck Wynder, Jr., to assist the parish in its desire to co-create the “beloved community” with God.
Summer 2015. God’s Tapestry Conversations. May 31 – Parish clergy-led conversation about race and God’s mission of reconciliation. June 7 – Former Charlotte Observer Editor and Racial Justice Leader Fannie Flono and Charlotte Historian Tom Hanchett join clergy-facilitated conversation about race matters and reconciliation opportunities in Charlotte.
June 25, 2015. “Reflecting on Charleston and The State of Racism” Prayer and Conversation in the Church after the massacre that occurred on June 17th at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church in Charleston, S.C.
August 2015. Parish Social Justice Ministry Team established three initial areas of prioritization: Racial Reconciliation, Assuring Democracy, and Community Justice.
Spring 2016. Outreach and Social Justice Parish Hall Forums: Being a Beacon of Hope in Center City Charlotte. February 14 (Celebrating the Life and Ministry of the Reverend Absalom Jones, the first African-American Episcopal priest). May 1 (Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Assignment, Segregation, and Justice).
Spring 2016. Pub Theology Conversations. March 3 – “People of Color and Racial Reconciliation in The Episcopal Church” at Rock Bottom Brewery facilitated by The Rev. Ollie V. Rencher. April 7 – “Our Call to Racial Reconciliation” facilitated by the Reverends Ollie V. Rencher and Joslyn Ogden Schaefer at The Liberty Restaurant.
Eastertide – Pentecost 2016: March 27 – May 22. Parish-wide Book Read: Between the World and Me (Ta-Nehisi Coates) with Group Discussions on April 12, May 3, and May 22.
June 7, 2016. “A Community Dialogue on Racial Justice, Equity, and Community in Charlotte.” Local thought leaders, Fannie Flono (former Charlotte Observer Editor), The Honorable Harvey B. Gantt (Charlotte’s first black mayor), The Rev. Dr. Paul Hanneman (former program director at Charlotte’s Urban Ministry Center), Rosalyn Allison-Jacobs (community organizer and organizational consultant), Oliver Merino (Levine Museum of the New South), Amy Hawn Nelson (UNCC School of Public Policy), and The Rev. Ollie V. Rencher (Rector) serve on panel in the church for a conversation to examine racial justice, equity, and community through the lens of Between the World and Me (Ta-Nehisi Coates).
June 25 – July 1, 2016. Teen Mission Experience in Ferguson, Missouri. Eleven parish high schoolers, four adult Journey to Adulthood leaders, and friends from Charlotte area parishes, St. Martin’s, St. Mark’s St. Patrick’s, and All Saints’ travel to Ferguson and St. Louis, Missouri, seeking to understand and make a difference in race relations and systemic injustice.
August 6, 2016. Co-hosted “Forgiveness and Justice: A Town Hall Meeting” with First United Presbyterian Church at the historically black First United Presbyterian Church, St. Peter’s new partner in equity, justice, and reconciliation ministry.
September 21, 2016. St. Peter’s joined Charlotte Convocation of Episcopal Congregations at St. Martin’s Parish in the nearby Elizabeth community for “Evening Prayer, Service of Light, and The Great Litany” following the September 20th death of Keith Lamont Scott and subsequent riots, protests, and violence. Ordained and lay parishioners participate in community protests, religious and other thought leader sponsored events, and a variety of racial justice initiatives. St. Peter’s Rector and Associate Rector are members of Charlotte Clergy Coalition for Justice (CCCJ), directly involved and/or offering support to further the commitment of the coalition.
September 25, 2016. Parish Youth Presentation on Summer Missions that included time in Ferguson, Missouri, with the Episcopal communities involved in racial equity and justice work.
October 9 and 16, 2016. Beacon of Hope in Center City Charlotte: Conversations with Parish Clergy. After-worship conversations about how St. Peter’s has been responding and can respond to the most recent unrest, cries for justice, and need for healing and reconciliation in our city. How might we become a beacon of hope in Center City Charlotte as our Parish Vision suggests? For related reflections and more, visit our website’s God’s Tapestry blog.
updated October 16, 2016