By the Rev. Rebekah Hatch of West Hartford CT
TLDR: If you’re wondering, like me, why the conversation about racism in the church seems so awkward, dated, difficult and fraught with baggage, I think - especially after attending the White Privilege Conference - I have a clue. We are an institution founded squarely within patriarchy and white supremacy, with a robust financial foundation, on which we still stand, built on that intersection. And we’ve just begun….barely. There are myriad scholars, mostly of color, who are far more capable than we are, who have done far more work than we have that are leaving the church in the dust. (If you read more, there is hope, I promise.)
Backtrack with me: two years ago, I went to hear Debby Irving. I’d begrudgingly read Waking Up White, found it surprisingly helpful, and, when a too-convenient opportunity to hear her came about, I went. She introduced me to the White Privilege Conference, run by the Privilege Institute, founded by Eddie Moore, Jr. Intrigued, I checked out their website and made up my mind to go.
In March, using funds procured through a grant from my diocese (The Episcopal Church in Connecticut), I made my way to Cedar Rapids, IA. Alone. I didn’t go with anyone. I didn’t know anyone going. I had no idea what I was getting into. Here’s a brief rundown.
Day One: Over a dozen preconference offerings. The one I registered for: Navigating Triggering Events: Critical Competencies for Facilitating Difficult Dialogues on Race, Racism, and White Supremacy. What?? How much of my life as a young-ish-clergy-woman-in-a-diocese-that-just-launched-a-season-for-racial-reconciliation-married-to-a-black-man-raising-brown-children-mama does this describe?? For an entire day, that’s all we did. Unpack triggers. The whats, whys, what-to-dos, what-to-don’ts. Goals for the workshop included “learn to helpfully synthesize emotional responses to triggers” and “choose appropriate responses that further the conversation, but stop violence”. How do we show up as leaders as a clearer instrument so that we might shine light on the white supremacist spaces in our collective lives together? And, for me/us, in the church? We were left asking quite a few questions - you can imagine - but here’s one to take with you: What can you do to clean up your side of the street, essentially leaving you in a space to better navigate hard conversations.