Jun 01, 2019Seeing the Face of God in Each Other – South

Seeing the Face of God in Each Other – South

June saw the re-scheduling of the ‘Seeing the Face of God in Each Other’ workshops that were postponed due to bad weather earlier in the year.

Gary Allman Eight-minute read.   Resources
Cheryl Cementina leading an exercise to illustrate privilege at the ‘Seeing the Face of God in Each Other’ workshop on June 22, 2019. Image credit: Gary Allman

Despite working for the diocese since 2014, I have somehow missed attending any diversity training. Keen to remedy the situation I signed up for the rescheduled ‘Seeing the Face of God in Each Other’ workshop held on June 22 at St. Philip’s, Joplin.

The day’s sessions were led by Shirley Bolden: St. Augustine’s, Kansas City; Cheryl Cementina: St. Andrew’s Kansas City (Shirley and Cheryl are the co-chairs of the Diversity and Reconciliation Commission); Drew Brown: Christ Church, St. Joseph, and Fr. Chas Marks: St. Augustine’s, Kansas City.

This interactive workshop was attended by twenty people from churches in the Southern Deanery: St. Philip’s, Joplin; Grace, Carthage; St. John’s, Springfield; St. Mark’s, Kimberling City; and St. Stephen’s, Monett (apologies if I’ve left anyone out).

The session started with a very simple exercise. We were asked to write down a single hope and fear for the day. I’ll share mine (from memory).

  • Hope: To learn and understand.
  • Fear: That I’m not as enlightened as I would like to think I am.

Both proved to be correct, which in the case of my fear, is unfortunate.

Cheryl Cementina leading an exercise to illustrate privilege at the ‘Seeing the Face of God in Each Other’ workshop on June 22, 2019. What you can’t see – Fr. Frank Sierra and Shirley Bolden at the back. Image credit: Gary Allman

The workshop was illuminating, humbling, gave a lot of historical context, and addressed the ‘knee-jerk’ reactions to the label of ‘privilege’ among others.

For some afternoon physical exercise we looked at the issue of privilege by arranging ourselves in a line across the back of the room and then taking a step every time we could positively answer a question posed by the facilitator, Cheryl Clementina. Fr. Frank and Shirley Bolden were left standing at the back of the room. I was surprised to find that as a Legal Alien, I didn’t progress too far either.

Drew Brown discussing institutional racism at the ‘Seeing the Face of God in Each Other’ workshop on June 22, 2019. Image credit: Gary Allman

I am sure that everyone present came away with something to think about, and the knowledge and acceptance that there is a lot of work still to be done; both personally and institutionally.

The next workshop session (June 29 in Kansas City) is fully booked, but more sessions will be held. I strongly urge all people in church leadership to take part, whether they think that they and their churches are ‘enlightened’ or not. Keep an eye out for announcements of future workshops in the eSpirit and on Facebook.

In case you missed the advertisements for the workshop, I’ve reproduced a (lightly edited) copy of the text below:

Working for justice is difficult at best, excruciatingly difficult at worst. Most of the time it seems as if the more exact word for this long-hoped-for state of being is ‘just-us’ and even ‘just-me.’ It is one thing for churches, and yes, this is true of many denominations, to pass resolutions that repudiate this blight on our nation and repent this personal and institutional sin, to say that we are against racism and exclusion, and that we are working for justice.

It is one thing for us to say that we decry the artificial and illegal barriers erected between those who have power and those who seek their rights, between those who enjoy the rich economic resources of this country and those who cry themselves to sleep from continuous hunger and deprivation. It is another thing altogether to be the seeker and the advocate and the trainer and the record keeper and, and … Only the super strong can labor in that vineyard alone. Only the robotic can be immune to the waves of fatigue, self-doubt and hopelessness that frequently assail us as we work to actualize that which everyone professes to want without the pain of getting there.

Taken from the event publicity.

Finally, many thanks to the good people of St. Philip’s for their generous hospitality.

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