Racial Healing and Reconciliation Learning Cohort

April 27, 2022

WNCC’s Equity and Justice Ministries recently completed a pilot Racial Healing and Reconciliation Learning Cohort. Under the leadership of Rev. Dr. Bill White, Jr., and in partnership with Mrs. Cindy Thompson of Boundless Impact and Rev. Dr. Vincent Howell of Partners in Ministry Leadership, the learning cohort brought together nine churches that are implementing intentional racial healing and reconciliation ministries. Mrs. Thompson shared that the program was designed “to equip churches to answer our call to the ministry of reconciliation.” The Learning Cohort included a 6-month educational experience beginning in October 2021 through March 2022, and each church was represented by a team of clergy and laity. Participating churches included:
Aldersgate UMC – Shelby, NC
Centenary UMC and St. Paul UMC – Winston-Salem, NC
Christ UMC – Greensboro, NC
Church Street UMC – Knoxville, TN
Dilworth UMC – Charlotte, NC
First UMC – Belmont, NC
Mount Tabor UMC – Winston-Salem, NC
Skyland UMC – Asheville, NC
The pilot Racial Healing and Reconciliation Learning Cohort was designed and delivered by a diverse Guide Team who facilitate monthly sessions, as well as coach and journey with the church teams throughout the program. Guide Team member Rev. Dr. Tory Butler explained, “Racial Healing and Reconciliation work is the work of the Spirit. It helps us live into our Baptismal vows that beckons us to ‘resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves.’ Through our cohort we are challenging local churches to live into who they say they are by their baptism and by their membership.” The framework for the Learning Cohort is a 6-step process for racial healing and reconciliation developed by Rev. Brian Tillman of the North Georgia Conference of the UMC. “Without racial healing, the wounds of racism will remain and will continue to inflict those who endure racism and those who benefit from it. We all need healing. It is the path to beloved community,” stated Rev. Tillman.
The curriculum included topics such as team formation and development, strategic planning, partnerships and collaboration, strategies for dealing with conflict, funding opportunities and resources, as well as sustainment planning. Sessions focused on theology, theory and practice of the 6-step process, and featured guest speakers sharing their own racial healing and reconciliation journey. Guide Team member Mr. Bert Giles observed that “churches need to remember to start where they are. They may have a vision and desire to be much further down the road, but the focus should be on taking the next step. Don’t get frustrated if it feels too slow, but keep doing the work in order to move forward.”
The Guide Team is preparing an on-line reference guide for local churches interested in pursuing racial healing and reconciliation which will include training materials, lessons learned and support resources. An on-going Basecamp site for sharing resources is available to teams, and additional learning opportunities are being planned to keep taking steps forward. Outcomes for the learning cohort include:

  1. Equip and enable churches to read reality with compassion and rigor
  2. Develop a community of truth through honest and respectful relationships
  3. Implement the 6-step process for racial healing and reconciliation in participating churches
  4. Change the culture within participating churches through changing narratives
  5. Form community partnerships for churches to sustain racial equity efforts
  6. Use our collective voice to speak truth to power and privilege, resisting systemic racism in our churches and communities
Rev. Dr. Vincent Howell shared, “It is my prayer that we all are reminded by the words of Jesus that we are called to this work because of love.  We must not be afraid because He is with us.  Our actions must be impactful.  As the late Rev. Dr. Samuel Proctor encourages, ‘Believing that change is possible causes one to act in harmony with such faith.’”
With generous support from the Reynolds Ministry Fund of the United Methodist Foundation of Western North Carolina, the Racial Healing and Reconciliation Learning Cohort will be offered again in Fall 2022. Interested churches are invited to complete an Interest Form providing basic information and describing their local church’s efforts in racial equity and justice. To learn more or ask questions, please contact Cindy Thompson, Executive Director of Boundless Impact, at 336.209.1570 or cthompson@boundlessimpact.org.

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