Pursuing the work of antiracism

How do we become an antiracist church?

For the past month, Church of the Incarnation has been talking about racism and what a faithful Christian response is to the systemic racism in our country. This past Sunday, we talked about our Rule of Life and how the work of becoming antiracist is a spiritual practice that fits well within the faithful practice of our Rule. Here are the notes from our conversation, along with some resources that we talked out.

Starting on July 12, 2020, we will host a 6-week study on the book, “America’s Original Sin,” by the Rev. Jim Wallis. To allow for as many people as possible to join us, we will start at 11:30am (CDT) and will plan to be finished by 12:45pm. You can purchase the book now from your favorite book seller. The free study guide is included at the bottom of this page, along with a short video about the content of the book. Stay tuned for more info on how to sign up.

The Incarnation Rule of Life includes the spiritual practices of:

  • Daily prayer
  • Daily confession of sin
  • Daily scripture reading
  • Regular study that brings you closer to God
  • Weekly participation in worship
  • Weekly observance of the sabbath
  • Service to the Church
  • Service to the world

Together, this Rule is the backbone of a faith that is not just professed but also practiced.

What does it mean to be antiracist? 

According to Ibram X. Kendi, in “How to be Antiracist,”

  • The word ‘racist’ isn’t a slur, it’s a descriptive term used to describe actions and policies that favor one race over another
  • The opposite of racist isn’t “not racist,” but antiracist
  • Because of the deeply embedded history of racism in America, there is no such thing as being “not racist”–you either practice racism or you practice antiracism. “One either endorses the idea of a racial hierarchy as a racist or racial equality as an antiracist” (Kendi).

In order to be an antiracist church, we must practice antiracism, not just say we “aren’t racist.”

Being antiracist is a spiritual practice and our Rule of Life can help. We can:

  • Pray that the Holy Spirit will change our hearts, change our unjust systems, and guide all our efforts
  • Repent of our own racism and renounce the unjust systems that many of us disproportionately benefit from
  • Read scripture that reveals God’s continual solidarity with the poor and the marginalized, from the prophets to the gospel
  • Study black theology, the theology of oppression, the Church’s role in working for antiracist policies, and learn how to be part of real change
  • Worship with people who affirm God’s presence with those who suffer and hold your own religious communities accountable for their ministries to the poor and the oppressed
  • Observe a day of rest where your principle identity is as a member of the household of God rather than in an economy that depends on the exploitation of others
  • Push, pull, and lead the Church into a new way of being the Church–one that rejects religious nationalism and seeks to serve Jesus Christ in all persons as a moral conviction and a call from God
  • Serve those who are suffering and advocate for real change using the gifts and resources God has given you

Ibram X. Kendi says this about being antiracist: “like fighting an addiction, being an antiracist requires persistent self-awareness, constant self-criticism, and regular self-examination.”

What is your dream for Church of the Incarnation as we pursue this work together? How is God calling you, personally, to be involved in building an antiracist church and an antiracist society?

Here are some resources that I am using to continue make the work of antiracism part of my spiritual practice.

How to be Antiracist, by Ibram X. Kendi

America’s Original Sin, by Jim Wallis comes with a very challenging 6-week study guide to help congregations educate themselves so they can pursue effective change.

The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival is uniting people across the country to challenge the evils of systemic racism, poverty, the war economy, ecological devastation and the nation’s distorted moral narrative of religious nationalism. You can take action, here.



Building a Church through Pilgrimage and Prayer

Part of the tent city where people are living in Matamoros. In between the tents is where the food is served on the days there are volunteers to provide it.

Over the first weekend in November, several members of the Incarnation community went on a pilgrimage with a couple of other Austin-area Episcopal churches to the US-Mexico border. It was a powerful and rich weekend of encounter, reflection, and transformation. Our primary job was to prepare food to serve to folks living in the new tent-city in Matamoros, just over the border from Brownsville, TX, which has grown from around 100 to upwards of 1000 asylum-seekers just in the last couple of months.

On Saturday, after learning about the Good Neighbor Settlement House and Team Brownsville–the two primary organizations who are serving the needs of the growing group in Matamoros and Brownsville–we got to work preparing a healthy and hot meal of black bean and chicken casserole for 600 people. A volunteer team from Trinity Methodist Church, here in Austin, made a similar casserole to get to the 1000 meals that, together, we served for dinner on Saturday. It being Dia de los Muertos while we were there, we also gave out a fair amount of candy to the kids who were joyfully running around the camp the whole time we were there. The children and their boundless and undeterred enthusiasm stood out amidst the otherwise dire situation that is happening because of changes in US migration policy in the last few months.

On Sunday morning we returned to Matamoros for the last time to celebrate Holy Eucharist with the folks living in the tent-camp, which was an especially moving experience of being united with each other in faith regardless of differences in language and country of origin. Many in our group were fluent Spanish speakers, but I am not, which made leading our worship service a clumsy and humbling experience, but one of grace and gratitude, nonetheless. I believe all of us would do it again in a heartbeat, and we spent the drive home talking about the next opportunity we might have to serve in Matamoros.

Joyful and boisterous children couldn’t help but bump into our makeshift altar, spilling Communion wine over everything. But we were undeterred and all we still fed, but we said a special prayer asking for the Altar Guild’s forgiveness for staining the linens!

One of the practices the Incarnation Community Builders have been exploring is a Rule of Life, which is an 8-part pattern of living that helps us not just profess but live our faith. The practices of our Rule are:

    • daily prayer
    • daily scripture reading
    • daily confession of sin
    • regular study
    • weekly worship
    • regular service to the world
    • regular service to the church
    • keeping the sabbath

Over the weekend the Incarnation community formed itself around these anchor points, both among the group who remained and worshiped with our House Church and those who were on a pilgrimage of service and prayer. People ask me all the time, “How do you start a church?” This weekend illustrates the answer better than I could put into words. Simply put, we are building a church one person at a time by practicing now, on the small scale, what we aspire to offer for all of South Austin.

On Saturday we handed out balloons with one of the Team Brownsville to kids who were eager and excited to add them to their play.