Marty Kuchma, Senior Pastor
Throughout the upcoming church-year that officially begins with a 9:30am service in the Sanctuary on September 8, we will be celebrating the 150th Anniversary of the founding of St. Paul’s United Church of Christ, Westminster! That is very exciting, a momentous occasion and a marvelous milestone! The Anniversary will give us a chance to reflect more deeply on the long and distinguished history of this congregation and remember the saints who have gone before, and possibly to explore our Reformed and Evangelical and Reformed roots, even as we seriously ponder who we are right now, and orient toward what we will be and do into the future. We will likely mark the Anniversary with a grand, dedicated service in the Spring of 2020. More Anniversary plans will be forthcoming, so stay tuned.
In terms of recent major movements in our congregational life, we are coming up on our 11th anniversary of being Open and Affirming for the LGBTQ+ community, and we continue to find dynamic and engaging ways to make that ONA commitment real and meaningful. And we recently, of course, just became a WISE Congregation which continues to shape our life together, for example, in this “Summer of Wellness,” in the building of our relationship with NAMI and the strengthening of our relationships within the larger mental health, sub-stance abuse, and brain disorder net-work, in our engagement in a community-wide anti-stigma campaign, and in other ways that continue to emerge as we move forward.
And I wonder if we might do one more big thing before we celebrate and may-be take a rest for a brief moment… (At 150 years old, we might need a little breather, right?) That one thing would be to consolidate all of the work we have already been doing around racial justice for the past many years by engaging in an intentional process to become an Anti-Racism Congregation within the United Church of Christ. Anti-Racism is a topical matter in contemporary culture and it is a major focus within the United Church of Christ at this time. It is also an ur-gent issue in our very own community where, for example, students of color in the public school system are routinely harassed, called the N-word, spit upon, denied opportunities for advanced classes, and disproportionately disciplined.
Some of us are indeed directly involved in Anti-Racism work in the Catoctin Association and the Central
Atlantic Conference. St. Paul’s has been identified as a racial justice leader in the Association and is one of a handful of congregations that have been asked to do a brief presentation on our racial justice work at the Conference annual meeting on October 4th and 5th in Bethesda. At that annual meeting, we will talk about such things as our sustained, intensive involvement with community racial justice groups (e.g., Carroll Citizens for Racial Equality, NAACP, CCPS Multicultural Education Council, Human Rights Commission, etc.), our annual Racial Justice Event – coming up on its fifth year, hosting various other events that address racial justice, sponsoring our own African American Read-in and inviting students of color from Carroll County Public Schools to present their original works, as well as periodic but consistent focus on racial justice in Seekers and in services, and more.
In all likelihood, engaging in the process of becoming an Anti-Racism Congregation would be similar to what we have done for ONA and WISE. Specifically, we might consider naming a Leadership Team, having ongoing conversations about racism – perhaps continuing the monthly congregational conversations during Sunday School, orienting occasional worship services to include a more deliberate focus on Race and Racism, strengthening our racial justice-oriented work in the community, bringing in speakers from time to time, and providing other related trainings, book groups, movie screenings, etc., as appropriate. We might also think about having more people participate in the Civil Rights tour led by the Zepp Center, or in the Culture Expo put on each year by CCPS. What else? In the end, we would, as with ONA and WISE, draft a covenant that sets forth what we believe and what we commit to.
No doubt we are, by our very nature, an Anti-Racism Congregation, and we are already doing much work that demonstrates that, though there is always more and more to learn from many and varied perspectives. The question for us all at this moment is: Shall we take the next step to go through this process and officially become an Anti-Racism Congregation?
Church Council will be talking about this in their gathering on Tuesday, August 20, at 7:00pm in the Parish House Conference Room. Absolutely everyone is invited and encouraged to be part of the conversation! If you would prefer, you can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with your thoughts on the matter. (If the email address comes up with Linda’s name, that is the right one too, so feel free to click send.)
Clearly, like with everything else, this is something we can only do together. Let’s see if we are up for it…