Presbyterians Today

OCT-NOV 2017

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24 OCTOBER/NOVEMBER 2017 | Pr e s by te r i a n s To d ay plain view of the church because of the one or two people with concerns, and we haven't had any trouble." Saying the dynamic of the conversation at Trinity is differ- ent, given the majority of African- American attendees, Mize "doctored" the format established by Buford to fit the context of the northeastern Oklahoma City neighborhood. "I'm astounded that they came in the first place, and that they keep coming back," Mize said. "Part of what we wind up talking about is what is racism and what is it not, and what is bias, and what is prejudice." Mize said the power of the program is that it is easy to imple- ment — "costing only electricity and coffee" — and follows "the secret of 12-step programs," with participants listening to one another and not lec- turing on racism, arguing about it or trying to find solutions for it. For this session, the group will be using the PC(USA)'s Facing Racism resources. Mize says the meetings will be a safe space for sharing without judging, fixing or much back-and-forth (unless specifically asked for). "If you're in this work together, grace has to apply," Mize said of the group's outcomes. "We have to assume that we're all here together of goodwill. And if out of ignorance or habit or unexamined word choice we say something offensive, we have to be gracious about it." Personal stories are the "secret sauce" for the group and provide the most meaning, furthering under- standing and healing, Mize said. "It's about my story and it's about your story, and it's about being quiet and listening to each other," he said. "We talked about hope last week, and some people spoke about their hope in the youth. There happened to be a teen there that came in for her first visit, who said, 'I'm y'all's hope.' "And that was a holy moment." Gregg Brekke is the editor of the Presbyterian News Service. people in America today, to be called racist is the one of the worst," he said of the reluctance to confront personal and institutional racism. "It's the reason our churches are racist. Not unlike alcoholism, we are in denial. It's not going to end in our kind, sym- pathetic organizations until we admit we are racist. And we're not going to change until we remember it, and repent of it daily." Not so anonymous While many aspects of the AA format are used in the meeting, the ano- nymity is not. Those attending the first session of Trinity's discussion were asked to sign in and provide contact information at each meeting. Some members were concerned that agitators, or worse, would attend the gatherings. "They were afraid trouble would show up," Mize said. "So we asked a police officer, a community service officer, to show up at the first meeting. We parked the police car in was so glad it didn't take that for me to furl that flag." Trinity's membership is 75–80 percent African-American, and this is the second Facing Racism & Racists Anonymous discussion group to form. The church is the result of a merger between two congregations in the mid-1960s — the predominantly black Bethel Presbyterian Church and the predominantly white Creston Hills Presbyterian. Admission of racism is key For his part, Racists Anonymous founder Buford said earlier attempts at dialogue on racism resulted in "white people feeling guilty and black people feeling angrier." At his current church, which has Alcoholics Anonymous meetings every day at noon just outside his office, Buford began to tie together AA's methodology and a possible framework for more constructive work on racism. "Of all the things we can call COURTESY OF TRINITY PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH Members of Trinity Presbyterian talk candidly when they meet for the Facing Racism & Racists Anonymous discussion group. Everyone in the group attends out of goodwill and a desire to learn.

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