Kirkwood UCC Continues “Table Talks” on Racism

Members and friends of Kirkwood UCC (KUCC) have been consistently engaged in critical conversations on racism through “Table Talks” since July. “Table Talks” were initially designed to encourage real, relevant and relational conversations on racial justice as KUCC members and friends gather at the table for a scrumptious dinner provided by Kirkwood UCC member Chef Mary Patrick-Powell coupled with heart-to-heart sacred conversations.  According to Senior Minister, Rev. Susannah Davis, “This summer, we launched these conversations on white privilege, biases and prejudices under the direction of the Holy Spirit, trusting that personal and communal transformation would take place.  It was our hope that faithful and challenging discussion questions immersed within formal presentations would cause us to embrace soul-searching pause and reflect on the many ways we can respond to the reality of racism, individually and collectively, with the truth and hope of racial equality and justice for all. And, I must say, the direction of the Holy Spirit has led us into even deeper and wider conversations over these past few months.  We remain in great anticipation as these deep and wide conversations on liberation and love continue.”

Several presenters have shared with KUCC over the past few months, including representatives from the Southeast area Anti-Defamation League as well as Dr. Kenneth L. Samuel, Dr. Jennifer Pinkett-Smith and Kirkwood members Rhonda Dunn and Abby McCann. According to Rhonda Dunn, KUCC Co-moderator, “Recognizing what is going on in our society, the “Table Talks” gave our local community a safe space to talk about race and discrimination.  Conversations about white privilege, reparations, and forgiveness take courage and can be risky.  These conversations can also present difficulties in recognizing one’s own role.  I believe having these conversations together made the process a bit easier.  These conversations opened my heart to so much forgiveness, allowing me to hear and feel the heart of our community and wishing that somehow we could replicate the willingness to have open dialogue such as these with the wider community.”

Conversations on racism are not only welcomed during Table Talks at KUCC but have also become integrated into other spiritual learning communities/small groups at KUCC.  The KUCC Book Chat Group recently lifted up the novel, Small, Great Things by Jodi Picoult and also Waking Up White and Finding Myself in the Story of Race by Debbi Irving.  Plans for the next Book Chat include a discussion of Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson, followed by a churchwide outing to view the film in January 2020. The KUCC Family Ministry has also integrated conversations on racism during weekly parent gatherings, including a discussion of Raising White Kids:  Bringing Up Children in a Racially Unjust America by Jennifer Harvey

According to Dan Binney, one of KUCC’s 15 Table Leaders for the “Table Talks” and a member of the KUCC Planning Team for future racial justice offerings, “It’s been a great opportunity to participate in table talks on racism at KUCC.  As an older white male living in our country, I was certainly aware that racism still exists, but it has been eye-opening to see racism from the point of view of people of color, and to see how its causes and effects continue to be embedded in us as individuals, as groups and in America as a whole.  One thing we all clearly agree on is that we as a KUCC community need to continue this journey of awareness and action to try to eliminate racism and its effects from ourselves, our communities, and our institutions.”