More than a dozen faith leaders in the Northern California Nevada Conference gathered online in early July, coming together to address issues of racism, to plan actions and identify resources that churches can use in authentic ways. The “Pray Their Names’ art installation was one of the ideas that grew out of that conversation.
The outdoor art exhibit of 160 hearts emerging from the ground, each bearing a single name, serves as a large visual memorial showing solidarity with Black Lives Matter. Each heart identifies a Black Life lost to violence. Created and installed at First Congregational Church UCC, Sonoma, where it remains until August 14, the outdoor sculpture will become a traveling exhibit, and will be displayed at Northern California churches including Santa Rosa, Mill Valley and Foster City.
The Conference is supporting the anti-racism work with ideas to engage congregations around the “Pray their Names” installation and a kit for churches that want to create a similar exhibit of hearts and flowers on their property while waiting for their turn to host the art installation, or for churches that are not able to host the installation on their property. Another plan is in the works to create an Abolition Calendar where each month churches can focus on educational opportunities and resources and actions around a particular Abolition theme.
“We have been planning these programs for a long time in this Conference,” said Conference Minister the Rev. Diane Weible. “The murder of George Floyd has raised awareness and compelled the kind of action and response that has led so many more people to join us in this work. Our churches are committed to justice work and I think something that has become clear is the intersectionality of many justice issues related to race. We are discovering the power that comes from working together for justice.”
For a number of years the Conference has been supporting “Let’s talk about race,” small group conversations around race and privilege. Groups of 6-10 people meet for six weeks to talk together about race, racism, and white privilege, with the third round of these groups beginning in August. Authorized ministers and lay leaders also have the option to participate in racial justice training with the Rev. DaVita McAllister, one of the creators of the United Church of Christ’s ‘White Privilege: Let's Talk’ curriculum, launched in September 2016. Weible said the Conference is renewing its commitment to offer the program with McAllister several times a year.
“I am so proud to be a part of the Northern California Nevada Conference,” Weible said. “Our authorized ministers and members have shown they are not afraid of the difficult conversations and work that needs to be done in the area of anti-racism work.”
In addition, Weible said there are four resolutions that will be brought to the NCNC Annual Gathering in October, related to actions churches and congregants can take to confront and address racism.
“The original plan was that we would present a resolution on declaring ourselves and Anti-Racism Conference but we want to make sure we are not just making a statement. We want to put into place action that supports this important declaration,” Weible said. “These resolutions will ask the Conference to commit to education and action towards living out our commitment to being an Anti-Racist Conference.”
“Our Conference members have repeatedly shown a desire to learn and grow. The work we are doing together around anti-racism work gives me great hope for the ways we can live into the UCC commitment to work for justice and transform lives.”
Learn more about the ‘Pray Their Names’ art installation here.