Join the Movement announces new All Church Read titles, reflects back on 2023

As one book closes, two more open.

The United Church of Christ’s Join the Movement for Racial Justice concluded discussion of 2023’s All Church Read of Ibram X. Kendi’s How to Be An Antiracist during a virtual celebration on Jan. 17. Participants shared insights and heard how others are putting their racial justice dreams into practice. Join the Movement’s resident historian, Renee Harrison, shared her journey with the book, as did Join the Movement leader Rev. Velda Love.

In addition, two new titles were revealed as the books for the next All Church Read commencing later this year.

‘A house that needs repair’

Harrison likened the exercise to maintenance on a house.

“Becoming an anti-racist is a process,” she said. “We play the role of fixing the house we live in. We have to take responsibility that we are living in a house that needs repair. I struggle with wondering if the house can ever truly be repaired.”

Love reflected on the All Church Read discussions and is hopeful that those who participated can see themselves adopting an antiracist mindset.

“Kendi took us on a journey and invited readers to visualize new ways of approaching racists policies and practices that continue to threaten, harm and take the lives of African Americans in the U.S.,” she said. “Kendi urges us to move beyond the rhetoric of words by providing clear and concise definitions. For those who were present in Indianapolis for General Synod 34 and attended the Join the Movement fundraising dinner, they had an opportunity to hear Kendi make connections between political self-interests and intentional movement towards maintaining white racial hierarchy with the assistance of the Supreme Court.”

Learning and unlearning

Jude Van Buren of the United Churches of Olympia, Washington, a primarily white congregation, said her church read Kendi’s book and has done a lot of self-exploration. Their group invited a local Black author to lead discussions around African American history in their area.

“These stories about teachers, about ministers, about farmers are so inspirational,” she shared. “I shared it with my son, and it opened his eyes. This journey hurts a lot, knowing what we’ve done. But we’re here, here I am, Lord — thank you for the work you’re all doing.”

Sharon Royers of the Countryside Community Church of Omaha, Nebraska, chimed in. “We learned a lot, and this discussion jumpstarted our church. This learning and unlearning is incredibly important, and there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t feel I wasn’t taught about so much in our history class growing up.”

Transformative work for the long haul

Sharon Fennema, Join the Movement’s curator, sees opportunity for continued transformation through the books identified for the 2024’s All Church Read.

“We know the work of racial justice can be overwhelming and demanding any time, but especially in this season of global struggle and preparation for national elections in the U.S.,” she said. “We hope these All Church Read books will help ground and nourish movement-makers, offering practices and reflections that replenish and sustain this transformative work for the long haul.”

Not one but two books were announced as Join the Movement’s next All Church Read for 2024. Sacred Self Care: Daily Practices for Nurturing Our Whole Selves by Chanequa Walker-Barnes will be complemented by Black Liturgies: Poems, Prayers and Meditations for Staying Human by Cole Arthur Riley.

Join the Movement is also sharing resources for Lent, including a daily practice calendar and weekly book study guide, launching with a pre-Lent webinar on Feb. 8.

“Our hope is that everyone who participated in the 2023 All Church Read felt the spirit of Ubuntu: ‘I am because you are,” Love reflected.

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Categories: United Church of Christ News

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