by Kyle Turver, Director of Worship
This Summer, I received an invitation from the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship in Grand Rapid, Michigan to facilitate a six-week seminar at Bethany called “Race, Class, and the Kingdom of God”. The institute invited a handful of churches from around the country to gather a group of 10-20 people to spend 6 weeks studying and discussing together. In January 2019, the facilitators will participate in a panel discussion on the course at Calvin’s yearly Symposium on Worship.
The invitation is an exciting opportunity to have a group from Bethany engage with themes around race, class, and the church. The goal is to begin developing shared knowledge, language, and practices to grow in our call to be a reconciling community. This is a topic many at Bethany feel called by God to engage and this seminar helps us to continue the dialog and be open to the Spirit’s transforming power.
With the help of Doug and Lynne, I put together a list of about 30 people who have been engaged in conversations around race or had expressed interest about the topic. After inviting people to participate, all 20 spots were filled by responses over the next couple of days. The response was a helpful marker that folks at Bethany see the need to have difficult conversations about race and justice in our community. This gives me a lot of hope!
At the first meeting on October 14 we gathered in 7 Howe and began the study together. The seminar is based around group dialog and watching 15-20 minute video presentations by David Bailey, director of Arrabon Ministries and co-creator of the curriculum. The first two weeks of the study begin by looking at the overarching narrative of scripture and seeing how God has a heart for a just society. The middle two weeks highlight formational practices that are vital to churches becoming a Reconciling Community. The final two weeks focus on the spiritual journey of pursuing “shalom” or flourishing in the world.
I was encouraged to see how quickly people began to enter into deep, caring, and respectful conversations. We heard from a high school student about how she found the courage to say something when her classmates made racially demeaning jokes. We heard from a young adult about the importance of showing up for, while not taking over, work led by people of color. We discussed the assumption that newcomers assimilate into the dominant culture at church. We discussed how the people of God should interact with the “Empire.”
At the end of the session we found partners and made plans to connect midweek to discuss how each is processing. When I called my partner on Tuesday we talked about Isaiah 58, how we were feeling inspired and slightly fatigued, and what opportunities we saw to integrate what we’re learning into our lives.
My prayer is that the Race, Class, and the Kingdom of God seminar can help to continue the conversation on how we at Bethany can be an inclusive, reconciling community. I also pray that there will be opportunities down the road for more people at Bethany to have these conversations. If you are interested in being a part of these conversations in the future, send an email to Lynne Blessing at firstname.lastname@example.org and/or myself (Kyle Turver) at email@example.com.