Our Commitment to Racial Justice
In Matthew 25, Jesus makes clear where he is to be found here on earth, and the answer is in the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick, and those in prison.
The Falls Church Episcopal’s Commitment to Racial Justice
Striving toward racial justice is one of the foundational pillars of the Episcopal Church. Indeed, the normative statement of what it means to follow Christ is imbued within the words of our baptismal covenant “Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself? Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?” (Book of Common Prayer, p 304-305). The vestry of TFCE is committed to ensuring the congregation of the Falls Church Episcopal honors our baptismal covenant by creating a Racial Justice Roadmap. This roadmap will ensure that the quest for racial justice is continuously upheld by our congregation and honors our commitment to living as Christians and serving the world as Christ’s body, with God’s help.
The vestry of the Falls Church Episcopal (TFCE) believes that racial justice is not a political or academic issue; there aren’t two sides. It is a fundamental disconnect in our society for which our faith compels us to act. We wish to be long suffering with this issue; this should be a long term, steady stream effort that becomes a part of our DNA at TFCE. The majority of our current efforts don’t address racial injustice specifically. Instead our current efforts deal with the intersectional issues of poverty, homelessness, and incarceration that disproportionally affect People of Color. We reach out locally because there is so much need but we should look to broaden our relationships beyond our own locality. Advocacy at the state and national levels will ultimately be the force that re-aligns our society toward equality for all.
We need education, discernment, listening, and marching orders. We are comforted in the fact that we are not starting from scratch; People of Color have been advocating for change for decades. We shouldn’t seek to re-invent the wheel but instead amplify the good work that has already been done. In order to do this we should find Black leadership and amplify Black voices. Additionally, we would like to work with an organization(s) that tackles the issue of racial justice using a multi-faceted approach. We need to acknowledge our Black parishioners and ensure we are providing them a safe space to fully participate in Jesus’ love. This encompasses raising up the voices of our Black parishioners as we continually strive toward a more perfect expression of Jesus’ all-encompassing love in our congregational life.
What TFCE has Done
TFCE has a long history of partnering with organizations that either directly or indirectly address racial inequality within our local region. We have either current or past relationships with:
Tinner Hill Heritage Society
Bailey’s Crossroads Shelter
Arlington Food Assistance Center
The Social Justice Committee of Falls Church
Offender Aid and Restoration
The Lazarus Center
TFCE also hosts and/or sponsors a number of events with our partnering organizations throughout the year including Tinner Hill Heritage Foundation events, The Martin Luther King day community festival, and providing hospitality for the Rally for Black Lives at Cherry Hill Park in June 2020. The church is currently participating in the bimonthly Silent Witness against Racial Justice events along Broad Street with the Falls Church Presbyterian.
TFCE sponsors educational opportunities throughout the year including topics devoted exclusively to racial justice during adult formation as well as parishioner led book groups. The enslaved workers plaque on the church property was installed in 2017 to commemorate those enslaved people who built the Falls Church Episcopal. The archives ministry within TFCE is currently working with the Falls Church vice mayor’s office to help re-write a more inclusive telling of the history of the city of Falls Church.
We acknowledge that we can do more.
What TFCE Will Do in Future
Partnerships: We will strengthen our existing partnerships with the Tinner Hill Heritage Foundation and Offender Aid and Restoration, and be alert to new partnerships and opportunities through the Episcopal Public Policy Network. We should follow on policy work being done by our partners instead of attempting to undertake de novo policy efforts. We will partner with the Consortium of Endowed Episcopal Parishes (CEEP) and take part in a pilot program for testing a new parish learning resource for Racial Justice and Reconciliation in the late fall. We will also be open to new, additional partnerships.
Education: We will commit to offering opportunities for education throughout the year for our adults, youth, and children. Clergy and lay leaders will continue to present Adult Formation topics on racial justice and extend invitations to topical speakers. We will create a fund to be used for formation activities focused on racial justice, named for the enslaved person(s) associated with TFCE. This fund could be used to support a yearly speaker event commemorating Juneteenth. We will partner with the Tinner Hill Heritage Foundation to participate in yearly Juneteenth Commemoration activities. TFCE staff and clergy will support the formation of book clubs for interested congregants. Our church will also participate in the Sacred Ground initiative of the Episcopal Church. Our archives ministry will commit to ensuring that People of Color associated with our church’s history are represented in our church tour materials and brochures.
Community: We will create and pay for a banner or series of banners to be placed on church property that makes clear our church’s stance on loving our neighbors as ourselves, striving for justice and peace among all people, and respecting the dignity of every human being. We will continue to support and actively participate in community racial justice events. We will look to strengthen our relationship with more diverse Episcopal congregations and continue to support Rock Christian leadership during this time of physical separation. We will prayerfully consider how we can broaden the diversity within our own congregation. Finally, we will expand an existing fund to offset tuition costs at the Falls Church Episcopal Day School to ensure that our children are exposed to more diversity at an early age.
Ministry/Leadership: We will establish a racial justice ministry with strong lay leadership to ensure it is sustained and successful for years to come. We will commit to identifying future vestry leaders that will be passionate about racial justice. We will commit to ensuring that our vestry reflects the diversity of our congregation and community. Additionally, the vestry and staff of TFCE will commit to yearly diversity and implicit bias training.
Images: We will commit to including images that are more diverse when promoting and advertising church programs and projects.
Prayers: And finally we will pray so that our prayers have feet and arms and eyes and hands!
The Collect for Social Justice (Book of Common Prayer, p. 260)
Almighty God, who created us in your own image: Grant us grace fearlessly to contend against evil and to make no peace with oppression; and, that we may reverently use our freedom, help us to employ it in the maintenance of justice in our communities and among the nations, to the glory of your holy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
A Prayer for the Oppressed (Book of Common Prayer, p. 826)
Look with pity, O heavenly Father, upon the people in this land who live with injustice, terror, disease, and death as their constant companions. Have mercy upon us. Help us to eliminate our cruelty to these our neighbors. Strengthen those who spend their lives establishing equal protection of the law and equal opportunities for all. And grant that every one of us may enjoy a fair portion of the riches of this land; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.