A Milwaukee church is building a justice revival around hope this weekend – hoping to inspire people to learn more about racial equity and provide them with tools aimed at dismantling white supremacy.
"Our church studied the White Privilege: Let's Talk curriculum from October through May," said the Rev. Andrew Warner, pastor of Plymouth Church UCC in Milwaukee, Wisc. "As we continue to look how to go deeper at dismantling white supremacy, we see this revival as key to our next stage of work as a congregation – as we seek to be witnesses, working in solidarity with people of color in Milwaukee."
'Reviving Hope,' Oct. 21, is designed to motivate participants using song, story, art, and study to take part in meaningful conversations about race and racial justice, and give them the opportunity to make new connections for justice work.
"One of the things I am really excited about, is that we are incorporating the role of the arts in justice work," Warner said. "We'll be using visual arts, storytelling, and song. Our presenters can be talking about the removal of statues… and also about how the role of art in Milwaukee that can engage people in the work of justice."
The Rev. Velda Love, UCC Minister for Racial Justice, will be leading the study addressing white supremacy.
"The topic of race in America is often difficult to discuss in social settings," she said. "Very few Christian churches are leading courageous conversations regarding historical and contemporary issues regarding race, racism, and the meaning of whiteness. How does one overcome a socially constructed ideal of humanity based on skin color alone? The workshop I will be providing at Reviving Hope: Inspiration, Education and Action for Racial Equity addresses what it means to be human first as a step towards understanding and overcoming white supremacy."
Plymouth Church has been offering revivals, with the support of UCC Justice and Witness Ministries, for the last few years, first inspired by a JWM program in the Pacific Northwest in 2014. Warner brought the idea to the Milwaukee area in 2015 – the first, Reviving Justice, the second in 2016, Reviving Peace, and Saturday, Reviving Hope.
"We've learned from having these revivals. We think differently about who our audience is. It's about community," Warner said. "We're offering justice education events outside the church, like in the local library, to make sure our events are offered to a wider audience. We don't have to be reaching into our particular community… but to reach out."
Interaction between people from all sectors of the community is key. Using song to give voice to justice, stories or testimonies about one's experience of race, art to show the struggle for racial equity, and a study of ways of overcoming white supremacy, the church is drawing registrants from its congregation, other faith groups and the wider community – a third of those registered are not connected to a church.
"Sometimes when people talk about a revival, you get a different visual," Warner said. "We want to be open hearted, open minded. We welcome other faith traditions. We want to gather together to get charged up and get ready for the justice work we have to do."
This year, Warner reached to increase the youth participation, with 36 young people registered this time – up from eight last year. There are workshops, like 'Hip Hop and Social Change,' aimed particularly at youth and young adults. They'll be addressing relevant issues –around race and implicit bias, individual rights around school suspensions, and DACA and the importance of immigration reform.
Understanding the issues around racial equity is an important first step.
"I look forward to engaging people in conversations that generate understanding, and dispel myths about people with diverse cultural and ethnic orientations," said Love. "I hope to create space for deepening relationships so people can look forward to journeying together as we seek to be people of faith working together to dismantle racism and become a beloved community."
More information can be found on the Reviving Hope webpage.