Back in the fall of 2019, GNJ voted on a significant commitment toward ending the sin of racism. On its own, this legislation represented a dedication of real effort, attention and money toward combatting one of America’s greatest sins.
Within weeks of this legislation, GNJ received a generous grant from the Lilly Endowment for the “Bridges Project,” an effort oriented around community reconnection, storytelling and antiracism. Director of Resourcing Enger Muteteke described this moment, “With Kairos timing, God has enabled us to explore many routes on the same mission to combat racism.” She went on to point out that the sin of racism is so deeply entrenched in our culture that there is, of course, not one solution. Rather, it will take a concert of efforts, voices and leaders to accomplish real healing.
This is A Journey of Hope’s commitment, to create partnerships with incredible organizations like Fearless Dialogues and the Lilly Endowment, to experiment with different approaches to connecting churches with their surrounding communities, and to create financial opportunities for congregations of color who have traditionally faced under-resourcing.
The Bridges Project is one part of Journey of Hope’s broader effort to combat racism. In particular, A Journey of Hope intends for the Bridges Project to equip congregations with the proper tools to engage the diversity of their surrounding communities. We have noticed that without these tools, a lack of community engagement turns to fear, then insularity, irrelevance and even closure. However, congregations who have done the hard work of cultivating relationships across lines of difference demonstrate a resilient joy. The Bridges Project takes participating churches through a 12-month process that makes this kind of joy likely. We recognize that building community delight takes time, and we are inspired by the image of slow revelation in Luke 24’s story of Jesus’ walk to Emmaus. With this image in mind, the yearlong process will take on three phases, characterized by (1) Noticing, (2) Mission, and (3) Practice.
Participants will engage in a 12-month cohort experience punctuated by three onsite events. Through a highly experiential program rooted in relationship, playfulness, storytelling, and self-reflection, participating congregations will emerge with:
1) an ability to identify their own social location
2) the skills to practice deep empathy, even amidst difference
3) a deeper theological understanding of the role of diversity in the Imago Dei
4) a clarified sense of their Christian values and mission
5) a renewed engagement in meaningful spiritual practices
6) more delight in both God and others
All three phases will include the following:
- a multiday gathering experience
- a rhythm of storytelling, story listening and deep reflection
- ongoing homework assignments supported by focused coaching
Each yearlong cycle will accept up to 25 congregations within GNJ. Each team will be made of four to seven laity and clergy. These teams will be responsible for developing and implementing a final project in their context.
Again, we are thrilled that the Lilly Endowment has invested so significantly in our mission, and we look forward to our first yearlong cohort to begin in early summer 2022!
God’s Clarion Call
Jesus issues a clarion call of sorts to his disciples in Matthew 28:19-20. The Greek word for ‘nations’ in verse 19 is ‘ethne’ or ‘ethnos’ meaning ‘a race, people, a nation’; properly, people joined by practicing similar customs or common culture. Our call, by virtue of our baptized identity as children of God, is to lift the common culture of Jesus we share high in our world. We do so affirming that it takes all of us – each with the imago Dei (image of God) reflected in us – to undo the sin of racism so that all are freed in Jesus’ name.