Wellshire Presbyterian Church Diversity/Anti-Racism Initiatives and Accomplishments
Through September 30, 2022
Third Quarter Accomplishments, thru Sept. 30, 2022
Diversity and Anti-Racism were celebrated in a variety of worship services in the third quarter. In July, one sermon proclaimed that profaning God’s name includes arguing that He hates gay people or “really anybody.” It further argued that addressing immigration as a Christian begins with seeing ourselves in others. A sermon on David and Goliath asserted that often we act more like Goliath, enjoying power and privilege as Americans, as relatively Wealthy and as White. With a reference to David, the sermon noted that sometimes Power can be derived from stepping outside tradition. Another sermon criticized the “historic patriarchal, sometimes misogynistic, church” and celebrated the Pope’s recent apology to Indigenous peoples in part as an apology for colonialism. In the same vein, the Presbyterian church recently apologized to African Americans for complicity with slavery. The “stones of oppression” are getting moved away!
In August, the sermon on “God’s Family” called for peace and justice for all – we are all part of God’s family. Jesus’ warning of Division was deemed to be due to resistance to fundamental social change by “the rich, the oppressors, …and us.” Another sermon highlighted that “Sabbath” is derived from “gathering,” implying that broad Community activities are fundamental to the original concept of Sabbath. And, “Justice,” too, was said to be a fundamental part of “worship.” A Confession in one service was taken from “Black Liturgies:” “we are willfully oblivious of the damage we cause.”
The sermon on “The Lowest Place” referenced “Christian Nationalism: Taking America Back for God,” that proposes that Christianity has been mis-used and abused: “supremacism” (white, Christian, America) is the opposite of the “humility” Jesus espoused. “We like our privilege and we protect it.” The sermon during Re-Connect Sunday was entitled “Belonging” and called for us to eliminate exclusionary practices: “Sin” is not just individual, but communal; there are many policies and practices across our institutions and communities that serve to exclude certain peoples. It was noted, coincidentally, that Re-Connect Sunday was “Disability” Sunday for PCUSA. The sermon on “We’re All in this Together” noted that Christians, even “us”, have at times supported the structures of racism and oppression.
In general, the pulpit was used consistently to celebrate Diversity and to promote Anti-Racism as part of our Faith.
In July, Rev. Dr. Paul Bretz was introduced as the guest preacher along with his husband; Dr. Bretz also referred to his husband in his remarks. Wellshire has sanctioned LGTBQ+ marriages since 2015.
A Minute for Missions featured Schmitt Elementary, with 95% non-white students, and Wellshire’s recent adoption of two Afghan refugee families settling in the neighborhood. We were invited to volunteer at Schmitt as teacher aides; volunteers began working in September. Wellshire collected school supplies for Schmitt in July/August.
Another Minute for Missions requested volunteers to help two refugee families make their new homes in Denver (15 family members hoping to settle in Virginia Village). Many volunteers then attended training led by Lutheran Family Services and teams began to be formed to support various needs. The Hunger Task Force is allocating money to support their food needs over the first three months.
People of color have been featured in many art themes at worship. For Luke 14, “The Great Banquet” featured people of different colors, religions, and ableness – the visual was striking and was displayed for most of the service.
eNews continued to offer diversity-related definitions, including “Tulsa Race Massacre” and “LGTBQ+.”
Wellshire hosted a reading of “Jesus for the Disinherited”. Sixteen people attended the book club discussion led by Rev. Fenn. Most participants confessed significant isolation from people of color in Denver. The discussion ended with Thurman’s plea that churches, too, become integrated as a way to achieve “on Earth as it is in Heaven.”
Children’s time has been intentionally redesigned to accommodate neurodiversity, “the range of differences in individual brain function and behavioral traits, regarded as part of normal variation in the human population.” A combination of learning techniques and active times help all children grow together.
Wellshire participated in multiple days of build for Habitat including housing at Five Points and Aria (Wellshire is represented on a multi-church council at Denver’s Habitat). Local Missions provided lunch at a build in September. Local Missions is also coordinating provision of hygiene items to Colorado High School Charter, Osage, and Globeville, Elyria and Swansea (GES) campuses.
The job posting for Manager, Communications, was distributed in a broad range of platforms, including social media, in an effort to reach a diverse audience. The Personnel Committee also asked the Diversity Task Force to draft a “DEI Statement” (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion); such statements have become common alongside job postings for both public and private institutions.
Diversity Task Force
We once again organized the Ministry Fair held between services on ReConnect Sunday in September. Twenty-five ministry opportunities in the church and into the community were represented including greeting at worship and building Habitat houses. A one page compilation of volunteer opportunities and contacts, used for the Fair, was made available for multiple Sundays before the Fair.
The Diversity Task Force also hosted a discussion with Benny Samuels of AYA Foundation. We learned how AYA is supporting Denver black entrepreneurship with training, seed money, and community building. We are exploring a partnership with AYA that can help them meet their mission.
The library added William James Jennings’ “After Whiteness.” Our collection of children’s books that support diversity continues to grow: “Josey Johnson’s Hair and the Holy Spirit” by Esau MacCaulley and “The 1619 Project: Born on the Water” by Nikole Hannah-Jones and Renee Watson.
Other – After both Wellshire’s Session and the Denver Presbytery endorsed the proposed “Apology to African Americans,” Wellshire designated an Advocate to push for approval at the national General Assembly. The Denver Presbytery has already compiled a history of its experience with Blacks consistent with an action item following from the Apology.