After the members of New England Yearly Meeting approved a minute expressing their commitment to challenge White supremacy, they had to discern how to fulfill that goal. It eventually became clear that racial justice intersects with many other issues, adding up to two fundamental questions: How is God calling us to live into relationship with each other? And how do we begin the work of reconnecting and entering into a space of healing and justice?
In this episode, participants in Beacon Hill Friends House’s “Healing from the Sin of Separation” workshop describe the experience of talking with one another in an online classroom, learning to recognize overlapping cultural patterns of injustice and inequality, then making their resources available to others. As one member says, “What would be so lovely is to see this work being done all around Quaker communities.”
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Lisa Graustein: So New England Yearly Meeting, several years ago, approved a minute saying that we were committing as a whole body to challenging White supremacy, and I’ve been hearing these different calls – to challenge White supremacy, to address climate change, to begin the work of reparations and apology – as a greater whole. A lot of times we think of racial justice as this thing, and climate change as this thing, and maybe those of us who aren’t Native are paying attention to Native issues or not, but to me they’re all about: How is God calling us to live into relationship with each other? And I wanted to pull them together so we weren’t seeing them as separate things, but part of the greater healing work and justice work we’re called to right now, and when I thought about what’s at the core of all of these different issues, to me what it is is separation, and so how do we start to heal that? And so I put together a workshop called, “Responding to the Call: Healing the Sin of Separation” that was a chance for Friends from throughout New England (and we had Friends from other yearly meetings join us) begin to look at how are these different issues intersecting and how can learning about one help us better move in the other, and underneath all that how do we start to do the reconnecting work we have to do to really get into a space of healing and justice?
Healing From the Sin of Separation
Aiham Korbage: Of course during the time of pandemic we couldn’t meet in person so we would meet on Zoom every other week as a bigger group, and smaller anchor groups would meet every other week in between the larger meetings, and so there was an opportunity to engage with the work on a personal level, on a small group level, and at a large group level.
Emma Turcotte: In terms of structure it followed I think kind of a similar pattern most weeks of opening up with some sort of multimodal, usually a video or music video (something like that) that just brought people together and was about previewing what we were hoping to focus on for the evening. Then we’d go to, I guess what I think of as the lesson of the day almost, and we usually had some sort of framework coupled with a personal anecdote from one of the facilitators to help explain that and give meaning and real life examples to what we were framing for people.
Aiham Korbage: And for us our role was to usher people in in a safe space where they can engage with the material at a level that was comfortable for them.
Jennifer Higgins-Newman: That is the story of how it just moved through us, I think. It just became clear that this is a way people can connect; this is a way they can kind of, in this wild time where we’re all wrestling with so much – there’s so much collective trauma happening – how we can create a space that’s flexible to have these conversations.
Briana Halliwell: And so one of the coolest parts about this course is that every other week there are opportunities for small groups to meet and we actually just had a reunion with some of the participants and a lot of them are still meeting with those small groups now three or four months out, which they said has been sort of their saving grace. Once all of this starts to be opened up to them they see all these patterns and they start to see how everything’s connected and to have a group of people who went through the Responding to the Call: Healing the Sin of Separation course together to continue having those conversations has allowed all of these different gifts to start to fruit around New England, which I think is a really beautiful thing.
Resources for Continuing the Work
Aiham Korbage: Healing from the Sin of Separation as a workshop and as a course, supported by the Beacon Hill Friends House, it was one event. What would be so lovely is to see this work being done all around Quaker communities.
Lisa Graustein: We created this large Google Classroom where there were many, many different resources pulled from the internet: either resources that were free or resources where I contacted the author and got their permission to use it. We’ve got that Google Classroom up and available if people are interested in accessing those resources they can contact me at Lisa@NEYM.org and we can share those resources. We also recorded parts of the session where we were teaching a framework or leading a different practice that are available and so while anyone logging on won’t get the full experience of the course, all the components and pieces are there and anyone is welcome to use.
Jennifer Higgins-Newman: As Friends institutions, the more that we can create resources for meetings or groups of people who want to engage in this work publicly available and communicate that openly can be of use to our society. And so what are the ways that we can partner together to take on big topics and challenging queries and call each other into greater faithfulness?
- 1) How does looking at the interconnected nature of oppression affect your ministry, personal or collective?
- 2) How do you stay connected with your community to do healing work? Do you find it’s better to work in community, to work by yourself, or to do a mix of both?
The views expressed in this video are of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect the views of Friends Journal or its collaborators.