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Thriving Together: Congregations for Racial Justice

Earlier this year our congregation was selected to be one of about a dozen churches to participate in a program led by Drew Hart, through Messiah University, called Thriving Together. Pastor Jason Haldeman, JulieAnn Keith, and myself are representing our church.

Thriving Together is described as: a two-year Christian anti-racism program leading towards initiating and/or deepening their racial justice efforts as they consider their tradition, mission, practices, and values. We will be exploring the history of the greater Harrisburg area and how race has shaped and continues to affect these places now, and what the Bible has to say on race. We will engage in anti-racism training, and will be visiting the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC, as well as going on a Civil Rights bus tour.

I think that this is such an amazing opportunity for our church. We get to sit beside, learn with, and potentially partner with such an incredible and diverse group of churches and individuals. I believe that what we learn here goes hand in hand with what the Racial Justice Working Group has been hard at work on for the last few years within our church. We are a church who wants to be open and accepting of and to all people. Thriving Together will help us more fully realize this goal.

Thriving Together met for the first time at the beginning of September. The focus of our first meeting was on race and religion in the Capital region. We heard presenters speak about the Carlisle Indian Industrial School, we drove around West Shore neighborhoods that were red-lined. We visited the African American Monument on the Capitol grounds and learned about the people who are memorialized there, and then we visited the Harrisburg First Church of the Brethren in the heart of Allison Hill to have lunch and discuss Jemar Tisby’s, The Color of Compromise, which had been our required reading leading up to the day. When we returned to Messiah’s campus Robert P. Jones, author of White Too Long, and The Hidden Roots of White Supremacy, gave a presentation on christian nationalism. And our day together ended with a short liturgy and blessing.

Our first meeting left me energized and excited for what is to come. I am excited for my part in this and for what I personally will learn and for how I will grow and be challenged. But I am even more excited for us to share with the congregation all that we absorb as we walk this path with fellow seekers.

Submitted by Jacob Weaver-Spidel, Racial Justice Working Group

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