Grace Lutheran Church and School


Continuing our conversation on racism

04.09.18 | Church News | by Faith Perspectives

Continuing our conversation on racism

    Join the conversation at these film discussion sessions:

    “A Time for Burning”
Wednesday, April 11, 7–8:30 p.m.
    Sunday, April 15, 2:30–4 p.m.

    “I Am Not Your Negro” 
    Sunday, May 13, 2:30–4 p.m.,
    Wednesday, May 16, 7–8:30 p.m., 


    “A Time for Burning” is a 1966 American documentary film which explores the attempts of the pastor of Augustana Lutheran Church in Omaha, Nebraska, to persuade his all-white congregation to reach out to "negro" Lutherans in the city's north side. The film chronicles the relationship between the pastor, the Rev. L. William Youngdahl, his white Lutheran parishioners, and black Lutheran parishioners and leaders in the community. The attempt to reach out does not succeed and Youngdahl resigns from his job as pastor of the church.

    Fifty years after “A Time for Burning” was made, American Christians and American society still find themselves struggling with racism and racial injustice. Bigotry is no longer sanctioned by the law of the land, but racism still pervades American life, and for many reasons, the call for racial justice has intensified.

    A year ago Grace members embarked on a series of conversations about racism, organized by the Faith Perspectives Committee. During Lent of 2017 participants met in small groups to discuss the book “Waking Up White,” by Debbie Irving. Feedback from those sessions suggested that these conversations were only a first step in a process of learning about racism and responding to the need for racial justice in America. Most people agreed, “We need to hear from additional voices.”

    Three Adult Education sessions on Sunday mornings last fall brought additional voices to the discussion: Anthony Clark, founder of the advocacy group Suburban Unity Alliance; Pastor Sherman Hicks, former Bishop of the ELCA Metro Chicago Synod and retired Director of Multicultural Ministries for the ELCA; and Pastor James Brooks of Harmony Community Church in North Lawndale.

    In a February conversation with the Faith Perspectives Committee about next steps, Pastor Brooks talked about a paradigm for responding to racism: relocation, reconciliation, and redistribution. By relocation he did not mean geographical movement; he spoke of “relocation of the heart” — hearts moving toward people beaten down by racial injustice, recognizing our kinship with them as children of God and understanding the systemic racism that oppresses them. It is a process both of raising consciousness and raising compassion regarding racial justice.

    The journey continues then in 2018, with more listening. During the Easter season — April and May — the Faith Perspectives Committee is offering screenings of two films, “A Time for Burning” and “I Am Not Your Negro,” a provocative new documentary featuring interviews with the Harlem novelist and playwright James Baldwin. Pastor Sherman Hicks will facilitate the discussions at these screenings. We are grateful to him for his continued interest in working with members of Grace Church as we continue on a journey toward both understanding and action.

    Please join us, as we further explore racism in America and reflect on how we are called to respond as Christians.

    The Faith Perspectives Committee


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