Repacking and racial justice

November 14, 2022
by Caleb Schrock-Hurst
Church Relations and Racial Justice Leader

In February, it will have been two years since the creation of the VMC Racial Justice Task Force (RJTF). Two years, in the stream of Christian history, or world history, or even compared to the course of a lifetime, is not a particularly long time – and this is something we need to remember even as we make our way forward.

Quaker peace scholar Dr. Elise Boulding encourages us all to place our actions in a 200-year window — looking 100 years back into history and thinking forward 100 years into the future. In this context, the work of the RJTF remains extremely pressing. The raw wounds of Jim Crow, school segregation, and urban renewal are still well within this 100-year history – as are racially segregated pews, footwashing basins, and communions. There is much work yet to be done when we look at the past.

And what of the future? What will God’s church in Virginia look like 100 years from now? Are we building communities where people of every nation, tribe, and race feel welcome and able to connect with God? Are we on the path towards racial equality, or are we content with how far we’ve come?
With this framing, the idea of repacking is an important one. We as Christians are followers of the way of Jesus, and we need to think clearly both about where we’ve been and where we’re going – and what we’re carrying along the way.

Racial justice work is a place where we need to be willing to repack and re-evaluate, and frequently. White people in particular should always be willing to repack as we hear new stories and see new manifestations of racism. Often, we aren’t fully aware of how racism has affected communities of color, nor how we have benefited from racialized systems that favor white communities, like redlining. We need to be willing to repack, and that often means taking hard looks at what we’ve carried so far.

And, I’m happy to say, we have done some repacking as a conference. The letter from leaders of color which led to the creation of the RJTF lists several goals, including asking white leaders to “change their conversational posture from debating and/or dismissing the voices and information shared by persons of color to genuinely listening to understand the experiences and perspectives shared by persons of color.” This is a piece of repacking we can all commit to and must keep centered. But we all know we don’t just pack once and then call it quits – we constantly repack as we journey forward. We must pray for God to continue to give us open hearts and ears so that we know what we need to let go and where God is calling us forward.

One thing I encourage everyone to let go of is the need to get racial justice perfectly right, right now. We can’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good – there is much to be done, and we can all do some of it. None of us can or will fully solve racism in two years, or ten, or perhaps even 100, but we can all commit to repacking, moving in the right direction, and making as much difference as we can. Through our various efforts as an RJTF – from formal trainings like the Inclusion and Diversity Inventory to informal cultural enrichment events and conversations in and outside of church – we hope to keep helping the conference repack and refocus, at God’s pace and with God’s help.