Heart of the Rockies Christian Church in Fort Collins, CO

Anti-Racism Work is Part of our Disciples Identity

“I give you a new commandment, that you love one another.
Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.
By this everyone will know that you are my disciples,
if you have love for one another.”
John 13:34-35 (NRSV) 


George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery. We say these three names from a long list of names, of neighbors who have died as a result of systemic racism in the United States. We acknowledge that as history unfolds before us, we experience a wide range of emotions – grief, outrage, guilt, sadness, confusion, etc. And we trust that our God is big enough to hold all of those. 

When confronted with the recent virus of COVID-19 and the centuries old virus of racism, we do what so many who have gone before us have done. We turn to the words of our tradition for guidance. We hear these words spoken by Jesus that point us to the task ahead: To love one another just as we have been loved.

Your pastors, program & administrative staff, Church Board, and Elders unanimously and unequivocally affirm the statement of our General Minister and President Rev. Terri Hord Owens:  “As members of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), we condemn this injustice. We weep not only for George Floyd, but for the entire system of oppression that has kept us from seeing each other as beloved children of God.” Read the full statement here

What we say matters. So does what we do. The Gospel of Jesus Christ compels us to both: To prophetically claim the realities of a broken world while calling on us to act in love. 

Loving one another has never been an easy task. Even when we get it wrong, it is still our commandment. Love is messy. Love is risky. Love is relational and mutual.  Love is speaking out against systems of oppression and violence. Love is listening with openness and curiosity and being willing to learn. Love is a way of living in the world that ensures justice and wholeness, so that all God’s people can flourish. Love is saying what we know to be true because we are all created in the image of God: Black Lives Matter.

Moments like these are an invitation to learn; to do our own self-examination and to learn about how systems of power and privilege function for the sake of how we can better live into that call: To love one another as we have been loved. In that spirit, below you’ll find a wide range of resources we commend to you for those hoping to learn and act.

We are grateful that we get to live, learn, and love together. 

Stacy Poncelow (Moderator), Betsy Davis-Noland, Dave Peters, Erica Wharton, Kate Cooley, Caitlin Miskelly, Kyle Steffen, Gordon Thayer
Church Board

J Lundgren (Chair), Alice Austin, Don Burbank (Emeritus), Donna Greene, David Hartley, Sharon Kunze, Rachel Nelson, Patsy Nix (Emeritus), Bill Stout, Lynnette Thayer
Elders

Sarah Ballard-Ramirez (Executive Assistant), Ruth Meyers (Music Director), Erin Tyler (Children’s Ministry Coordinator), Donna Greene (Commissioned Minister), Daniel Lyvers (Pastor), Melissa St. Clair (Pastor)
Pastors & Staff

In 2001, the General Assembly of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) adopted four inter-connected mission priorities, including becoming a Pro-Reconciliation/ Anti-Racism Church. In 2007, Regions were urged to assume primary leadership in enabling congregational involvement in the work of racial reconciliation. In 2019, the Reconciliation Ministry of the Central Rocky Mountain Region was reconstituted. Donna Greene and Joann Johnson currently serve as our representatives to this ministry.

“The Central Rocky Mountain Region’s Reconciliation Ministry stands
in complete solidarity with those committed to rooting out the sin of racism. Our call to action is to express the God ordained truth that everyone’s humanity must be equally valued, honored and celebrated.  We grieve the recent murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmad Aubrey and so many others.”
Rev. Darryl Searuggs, CRMR Reconciliation Ministry Chair

RESOURCES

See our denomination’s list of resources here.

Can We Recover from Racism? (start at 25:30) // Rev. David Williams

A sermon preached May 31, 2020 to Abyssinian Christian Church, Fort Collins. The name “Abyssinian” means “Diversity of Colors,” and is derived from historical traditions found in northern Africa in the first century in the country of Ethiopia.

Talking to Kids about Racism
Most adults find topics like race, gender, and class difficult to talk about with children. If we don’t find ways to talk about it, however, children will learn whatever they can glean from unspoken messages. Here’s a compilation of resources, including podcasts, books, and toy recommendations. 

Weapons Used Against Me: Racial Inequality in Fort Collins Today // Interview with Queen Johnson, leader of New Eyes Village
New Eyes Village is a nonprofit and faith-based organization that supports marginalized families in low-income communities of color in Northern Colorado. The organization was founded by Queen (Dedria Johnson), in December of 2018. NEV meets at Heart of the Rockies Christian Church on Sunday afternoons and Tuesday evenings.

Book Recommendations

Waking Up White by Debby Irving
Irving grew up in a predominantly white, upper middle class community. For much of her life, she hadn’t given much thought to race, even though she had encountered racial tensions at work and her children’s schools. In her 40s, Irving took a graduate school course in “Race and Cultural Identity” and began to comprehend how much she had benefited over the years because she was white.

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson // Stevenson was a young lawyer when he founded the Equal Justice Initiative, a legal practice dedicated to defending those most desperate and in need: the poor, the wrongly condemned, and women and children trapped in the farthest reaches of our criminal justice system. 

Anxious to Talk About It by Carolyn Helsel // Talking about race can make us anxious. Helsel, a pastor and professor, draws on her successful experiences with white congregations to offer tools and practices to explore the anxious feelings that can come up when talking about racism. Learn how to join the hard conversations and move forward with less fear, more compassion, and more knowledge of self, others, and the important issues at stake.

So You Want To Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo // Guides readers of all races through subjects ranging from intersectionality and affirmative action to “model minorities” in an attempt to make the seemingly impossible possible: honest conversations about race and racism, and how they infect almost every aspect of American life.

ACTION

Show Your Support // Sign Here
Add your name to this statement affirming your commitment to Pro-Reconciliation and Anti-Racism as a mission priority of our denomination. Sign here by scrolling down to complete the form.

Listening Session
Fort Collins Mayor Pro Tem Kristin Stephens and Councilmember Emily Gorgol will host an online listening session with Fort Collins Police Chief Jeff Swoboda on Wednesday, June 10 from 5:30-7 p.m.  The session is intended to be a community conversation around current events, racial equity and police practices. Participants are invited to ask questions and share ideas. The listening session will be held over Zoom, and is accessible from www.fcgov.com/council.

Poor Peoples Campaign // Virtual Moral March on Washington // June 20, 2020
Led by Disciples’ pastor, Rev. William J. Barber II. This will be the largest digital gathering of poor, dispossessed and impacted people, faith leaders, and people of conscience. “We demand that both major political parties address the interlocking injustices of systemic racism, poverty, ecological devastation, militarism and the distorted moral narrative of religious nationalism by implementing our Moral Agenda.” Watch Rev. Barber’s Pastoral Address to the Nation here.

Just Mercy Movie Discussion // Monday, June 29
Based on Bryan Stevenson’s book, Just Mercy takes us inside America’s broken criminal justice system and compels us to confront inequality and injustice. The movie tells the story of Stevenson and the case of Walter McMillian, who was convicted and sentenced to death for a crime he did not commit. In the month of June, Just Mercy is free on all streaming servicesWatch the movie on your own, then join us for a group discussion of it on Monday, June 29, at 7 p.m.

CRMR Book Study // White Fragility
Contact Joann Johnson or Donna Greene to learn more about this opportunity to study Robin DiAngelo’s White Fragility with Disciples from across the Central Rocky Mountain Region.

Town Hall Meeting with Fort Collins’ Police Services Chief and our District Attorney
Organized by Queen (Dedria Johnson) and colleagues. More information will be shared as soon as it is available. To receive updates on this opportunity as well as future information, send an email here

Standing Up for Racial Justice – Fort Collins (SURJ)
Our local chapter of SURJ–a national organization that mobilizes White people to act as part of a multi-racial majority for justice with passion and accountability–is currently inactive, but continues to share local actions. Before participating in an action, consider your risk factor for COVID-19 and the precautions that are being taken by event organizers. Also verify event organizers are people of color and/or are in relationship & conversation with local leaders who are people of color. Read more about protest etiquette here.

Donate

  • Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) Reconciliation Ministry
  • New Eyes Village
    • A nonprofit and faith-based organization that supports marginalized families in low-income communities of color in Northern Colorado. NEV meets at Heart of the Rockies Christian Church.
    • Checks may be written to Heart of the Rockies Christian Church (memo: New Eyes Village). Mail to: P.O. Box 273167, Fort Collins, CO 80527
  • Cultural Enrichment Center of Fort Collins
    • The goal of the CEC is to provide curriculum that advances a student’s readiness to explore and engage in core educational concepts through the lens of an African American.
    • Through leadership building activities, participants will have an opportunity to positively express themselves and discover their unique voice and leadership style; advocate for issues relevant to community needs; gain support from community members and create solidarity; promote positive healthy living, healthy eating, and short/long-term goal setting.
  • Black Lives Matter 5280
    • Black Lives Matter 5280 assists in building more loving and united Black communities while eliminating anti-Black violence and racism. To expose, address and eradicate structures and systems of oppression in Denver, BLM5280 uses a holistic racial justice approach that includes strengthening individual and community health and wellness, relationship-building, educational programming, and direct actions. 
    • Donations made to BLM5280 will be used for bail, legal support, and provision of direct services for Black people impacted by the current and ongoing crisis.

OUR INVITATION

Want to share your own stories of learning about race and racism?
Want a space to process what’s been happening in our nation?
Want to discuss and learn more on a particular book or topic?
Want to start your own book study or small group?
Contact: Donna GreeneJoann Johnson, Daniel Lyvers, or Melissa St. Clair

PRAYER FOR RECONCILIATION
by Padraig O’Tuama

Where there is separation,
There is pain.
And where there is pain,
There is story.

And where this is story,
There is understanding,
And misunderstanding,
Listening
And not listening 

May we – separated people, estranged strangers,
unfriended families, divided communities – 
Turn toward each other,
And turn toward our stories 
With understanding
And listening 
With argument and acceptance 
With challenge, change
And consolation

Because if God is to be found
God will be found 
In the space 
Between.

Amen.

Christ is our peace. He made both Jews and Gentiles into one group.
With his body, he broke down the barrier of hatred that divided us.
He canceled the detailed rules of the Law so that he could create
one new person out of the two groups, making peace.  
He reconciled them both as one body to God by the cross,
which ended the hostility to God.

Ephesians 2:14-16 (CEB)