The Four Vision Quests of Jesus and our own transformation

The Four Vision Quests of Jesus and our own transformation

This blog was written by Dr. Melissa Bird from the Engaging Racial Justice Working Group.

This year our diocese has experienced such glorious opening and expansion through our commitment to addressing issues of racism and white supremacy. Those of us who have been part of the Engaging Racial Justice Working Group (formerly the Commission to End Racism) have participated in enriching, graceful, and substantive conversations about race and racism. We have changed our name because the term racial justice goes beyond being anti-racist, it calls for the creation of supports to achieve and sustain racial equity, and we believe that is the work we have been called by the diocese to do. 

Recently our group was invited by Dr. Melissa Bird (Southern Paiute) to read The Four Vision Quests of Jesus by Steven Charleston. This book invites us to think of how we are all connected to God, Mother Earth, and our communities. In our conversation we discussed the transcendent experience of engaging in dismantling white supremacy and being organic in the way we are engaging in our work. White supremacy would have us believe that we are disconnected from each other and our collective experience. Steven Charleston reminds us that dissonance helps us develop a deep spiritual connection, change is meant to be uncomfortable. If we are willing to explore connection while releasing assumptions about this work, we allow ourselves to get us closer to our calling as God’s children.

We would like to invite you to reach for the spiritual center of the story and to look at anti-racist work as an opportuntiy for personal transfiguration. Bravery and courage for this work comes from our incredible liturgy. We are all one body, we are all interconnected, and we have access to the transformative and healing power of our gospel.

Our workgroup would like to invite you to open yourself to deep listening and transfiguration. You can begin with vulnerability and storytelling. There is time and more than enough grace to be deliberate and thoughtful in this work. You are being invited to a lifelong process of change, disruption, and dismantling of white supremacy and racism. We welcome you to join us in the temple, flip the tables, and bring people to Jesus’s calling to social justice. Some of the questions we invite you to ask yourselves are, “How do you want to engage in this work?” and “How do we weave this work through liturgy?”

When we pay attention to life, even the smallest details can bring us even closer to the great universal love of God. We hope that you will accept this invitation to engage in your own vision quest and reimagine your way going forward in doing anti-racist work. 

In closing we would love to share these words from Steven Charleston, “In the traditional Native spiritual understanding, all of creation is endowed with the spirit of God. The very fact that God imagined something into being means that that object of creation has the mind of God within it. The nature of God, the essence of God, the love of God have touched all things, for nothing exists that is outside of God.” Amen.

Dismantling Racism Workshop

Anti-Racism Training for Leaders of Faith Communities

Especially now, work on justice and inclusion presents itself as an imperative to communities of faith. In the Episcopal Church, one of the ways we live into this mandate to “strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being” (BCP p.305) is through General Convention resolutions requiring anti-racism training for those in positions of leadership.

All church members are invited and encouraged to participate in anti-racism training offered by the Commission to End Racism.

In the Episcopal Diocese of Oregon, all persons serving in the following capacities are required to take anti-racism training sponsored by the Episcopal Church:

  1. Clergy in any form of church ministry
  2. Diocesan Council
  3. Standing Commission
  4. Board of Trustees
  5. Diocesan Staff
  6. Leaders of key diocesan committees and commissions
  7. Convocation Deans and Presidents
  8. Deputies to General Convention

Training is $25 (need based scholarships available) and includes lunch. The workshop begins at 8:30 a.m. and concludes at 3:30 p.m.  Please note that this training is mandatory for all of those elected and serving in any of the above diocesan capacities.

Click here to register for this training.

Anti-Racism Training for Faith Leaders

diocesan clergy at a people of faith anti-racism march

Dismantling Racism Workshop: Anti-Racism Training for Leaders of Faith Communities

Especially now, work on justice and inclusion presents itself as an imperative to communities of faith. In the Episcopal Church, one of the ways we live into this mandate to “strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being” (BCP p.305) is through General Convention resolutions requiring anti-racism training for those in positions of leadership.

All church members are invited and encouraged to participate in anti-racism training offered by the Commission to End Racism.

In the Episcopal Diocese of Oregon, all persons serving in the following capacities are required to take anti-racism training sponsored by the Episcopal Church:

  1. Clergy in any form of church ministry
  2. Diocesan Council
  3. Standing Commission
  4. Board of Trustees
  5. Diocesan Staff
  6. Leaders of key diocesan committees and commissions
  7. Convocation Deans and Presidents
  8. Deputies to General Convention

The next Dismantling Racism Workshop offered by the diocesan Commission to End Racism is:

February 29, 2020
8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Trinity Cathedral
147 NW 19th Ave
Portland, OR 97209 (map link)

Training is $25 (need based scholarships available) and includes lunch.

Click here to register for this training.

We Have to Make a Change

By Shaun Hall of the Grants Pass Daily Courier

SCOTT STODDARD/Daily Courier

The Rev. Ernestein Flemister of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church said America has a ways to go to attain Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream of justice and freedom.

She and others spoke to a crowd of about 200 people gathered Monday for a Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration at Bethany Presbyterian Church in Grants Pass. She said there’s work left to do, nearly 57 years after King gave his “I Have a Dream” speech during the 1963 March on Washington.

“If we truly want to see the United States of America become the dream, we have to make change, and the change starts in our hearts,” said Flemister, one of the few people of color in the room. “I am the same as you, and I am as worthy of love and care as you are.”

Despite King’s hopes, inequality persists, she said. Barriers exist.

“Our dilemma is a dilemma of the heart,” she said. “What we need is a change of heart. A heart to love … all of God’s people.”

She got a standing ovation.

Flemister, marking her second King holiday since coming to Grants Pass in 2018, urged people to stop being uninformed, misinformed and deliberately ignorant. White supremacy is a fallacy, she said. Those people on the border – referring to detained immigrants and their families at the U.S.-Mexico border – are no different from you or me, she said.

“We have no business putting children in cages,” she said. “We are all one people, no matter what part of the globe you are from.”

Flemister pointed to police brutality and pervasive discrimination, saying that Europeans seem to have a “sense of ownership” over Africans.

The audience burst out in applause when she said, “It’s not OK for somebody to be sleeping outside in the freezing cold.” A warming center is expected to open soon for people on the streets in Grants Pass.

Monday’s gathering was the second year in a row for the King Holiday celebration in Grants Pass, after a decade of quiet.

“We would love to see this grow and grow and grow,” said the Rev. Tom Berry, of Bethany Presbyterian.

Berry wore a shirt bearing the colors of the rainbow and the words “Love wins.”

Rabbi Russell McAlmond took the stage, greeted the audience by saying, “Shalom,” or peace, and said God “wanted all of us to be brothers and sisters.”

Jewish people know the harm done by discrimination, McAlmond said. Jews to this day are murdered “only because they are Jews,” he said.

Quoting King, he said, “Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

Jeni Foster of the Songbird Trio, one of three groups that performed during the event, told the audience that “peace and justice begins with the work in our own community.” The audience stood for the final song of the night, “Lift Every Voice.”

The Rev. Ryan Scott of Newman United Methodist Church also quoted King: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

He said King fought for the value and dignity of others.

“Today, the same fight is before us,” Scott said. “There are forces of evil at work in this nation that are dictating the value of our neighbors. We cannot let this continue.”

Scott spoke about his own part in a fight with the Boy Scouts of America over its discriminatory practices. He is an Eagle Scout and remains a volunteer in the organization, which recently lifted its ban on gay scouts and LGBTQ leaders, and made accommodations for transgender youth, in addition to including girls in all its programs.

“We kept pushing and change happened,” he said.

Scott urged people to listen, learn and act.

“Those of us who enjoy a certain level of privilege have a moral obligation to use our power lift others up,” he said. “The promise of inclusion lives within you.”

Opposing discrimination across the nation, in Oregon

The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was much more than one speech about having a dream, says the Rev. Ernestein Flemister of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Grants Pass.

“He made many, many more you never hear about,” Flemister said at Monday’s King Holiday celebration at Bethany Presbyterian Church.

King was born Jan. 15, 1929, in Atlanta and died at the age of 39 from an assassin’s bullet on April 4, 1968, in Memphis, Tennessee.

For the 11 years after he became the president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1957, until the day he was shot on a balcony at a Memphis motel, the preacher spoke at more than 2,500 events, wrote five books and traveled more than 6 million miles, according to the Nobel Foundation, which awarded King the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964.

King preached and practiced nonviolence, but was arrested 20 times and was assaulted four times, according to the foundation. In 1963, when 250,000 peaceful demonstrators marched to the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., King gave his famous “I have a dream” speech.

Flemister spoke about the nation’s “original sin” of slavery. In Oregon, despite entering the Union as a “free state,” that legacy translated into discrimination.

According to the Oregon Historical Society, blacks in Oregon were barred from participation in the Donation Land Claim Act of 1850, which swelled white migration to the state. According to the Oregon Constitution of 1857, blacks were barred from living here, a provision made moot by passage of the 14th Amendment in 1868, after the Civil War, although the law wasn’t taken off the books until 1926.

Blacks were barred from marrying whites in Oregon, a law not taken off the books until the 1950s. As late as the 1920s, Oregon was home to the largest Ku Klux Klan chapter west of the Mississippi.

In Josephine County, the Daily Courier printed a picture of a KKK march through Grants Pass in 1919. However, open KKK activities withered before the 1930s arrived, according to the Josephine County Historical Society.

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People has had a chapter in Oregon since 1913. King was on the organization’s executive committee starting in 1954.

In Josephine County, the number of blacks rose from 0.1% of the population in 1990 to an estimated 0.6% in 2018 – 524 people out of the county’s 87,393 residents, according to the U.S. Census.

According to the latest crime statistics compiled by Oregon State Police, two hate crimes based on race or ethnicity were reported in Josephine County in 2018.

This article originally appeared on the front page of the January 21, 2020 edition of the Grants Pass Daily Courier and is republished with permission.

What Is In My Name: A Tribute to Black History Month

From the Rev. Dr. Deborah R. Brown, rector of St. John the Evangelist, Milwaukie

What Is In My Name

In my name is the Nigerian queen sold into slavery
lost her children, tribe, heritage, and name
chained to rust and iron

In my name floated nameless bodies at the bottom of the Atlantic sea
bodies as property and cash to work land never to own
given names not by choice,
my name now

In my name represents the ones
denied ordination to the priesthood, equal access to education, housing, and opportunities
every educated doctor, lawyer, engineer,
teacher, professional who had to work on the Union Railroad, and other jobs
as domestics excluded from their professions
called only by first names, or “boy”, “gal”, “darkie”, not Dr., Mrs., Mr., Reverend
their children “pickaninnys”

In my name is every person who read “colored only” “whites only” signs,
saw burnt crosses, nooses, draggings, and burnings
reacted to salve for dog bites, bruises from Billy clubs
horrified at the sight of blue lights in the rearview window

In my name is every tear-filled parent who
had to draw and cut out on paper bags the outline of her feet and her children’s feet
for department store shoes, and wasted hard earned money on unreturnable clothes

In my name represents those denied college educations
acceptance into doctoral programs

In my name represents being the “first” in many things

In my name represents every poor and marginalized person
effected by the Vanport Flood, displaced and redlined in Portland,
micro-aggressions, setbacks, humiliations, determinations,
perseverance against oppression and marginalization

In my name represents being rendered invisible and viewed as less than

In my name represents Dr. Maya Angelou, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr,
the Honorable Thurgood Marshall, Dr. DeNorval Unthank,
Dr. Clarence Pruitt, Judge Mercedes Deiz, Rev. Pauli Murray, Bishop Barbara Harris
General Colin Powell, President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama,
not Maya, Martin, DeNorval, Pauli, Barbara, Mercedes, Colin, Barack, Michelle

In my name is the fulfillment of chattel slaves’ dreams and weary protestors’ hopes
My name is the Rev. Dr. Deborah R. Brown, (aka. Rev. Dr. Brown, Dr. Brown, Rev. Deborah)
my ancestors and colored folks of yesteryears and today cry out,
“do not call her only by her first name Deborah!”

I agree. In my name is everything.

Becoming Beloved Community Week 1: Telling the Truth

(Ash Wednesday through Feb. 24)

PRAYER:

Q:          Will you persevere in resisting evil, and whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord?
A:          We will, with God’s help.

O God, you made us in your own image and redeemed us through Jesus your Son: Look with compassion on the whole human family; take away the arrogance and hatred which infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us; unite us in bonds of love; and work through our struggle and confusion to accomplish your purposes on earth; that, in your good time, all nations and races may serve you in harmony around your heavenly throne; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

– Prayer for the Human Family (Book of Common Prayer, p. 815)

REFLECTION AND LEARNING:

  1. Read the detailed description of Becoming Beloved Community, focusing on Telling the Truth (pages 9-12)
  2. Read the Pastoral Letter written by the House of Bishops in 1994 on confronting the sin of racism.

ACTION:

For individuals:

  1. Anti-racism training is a requirement for all leaders in the Episcopal Church. In the Diocese of Oregon, the expectation is that this training (Diverse Church I) be taken at least once every ten years.
  2. If you haven’t taken the training recently, make the commitment now to take one of the workshops that will be offered throughout the rest of the year. (Click here for dates and registration.)

For congregations and groups:

  • Commit to surveying your leadership structure and see who might need to take this training – Ex: Vestry and BAC members, clergy and staff, church leaders and teachers, boards, convention delegates, and those in your congregation or group who serve at the diocesan level. Encourage those who need to take the training to commit and sign up for workshops that will be offered throughout the rest of the year. (Click here for dates and registration.)