Saturday, 20 July 2024

A new anti-racism handbook has been produced by the Irish Council of Churches

A Handbook for a congregation's journey from welcome to belonging

How did this book come about?

In partnership with VOX Magazine and with the active support of Evangelical Alliance in both Ireland and Northern Ireland, the Irish Council of Churches conducted a survey in 2021 on the experiences of people from ethnic minorities in Irish churches and the attitudes of the majority ethnic group to increasing diversity in their churches and communities. Over 1,000 responses were collected. Stories and examples ranged from the painful...

Being Black in Northern Ireland is traumatic: On a daily basis, racist acts such as name-calling, people waving banana skins from cars, people crossing the road to avoid you, are common experiences. The five Black young adult men I know are reluctant to leave their homes and struggle to stay in (all-White) workplaces.

To the aspirational...

We worship in a congregation that has recently welcomed refugee families ... but I am sure we can do better in welcoming them...

90% of respondents believed it was important for churches to engage in conversations about race and racism but 55% of clergy interviewed said that whilst talking about race is not a taboo subject, 'we don't talk about it much'.
This book emerges from the compelling realisation that by the time Jesus was of school age, he had already experienced the slur of being an immigrant as part of a minority culture in a foreign land. Jesus would have faced daily choices of what was the appropriate language to speak, according to which cultural group he was present with.

Who is this book for?

You may think this anti-racism handbook is for congregations that are multicultural. However, this book is as much for monocultural congregations as multicultural ones. Whether you belong to a congregation that reflects one culture or many, becoming a church that is anti-racist should be important. Think of the football team your child or grandchild supports and the diversity present there. Consider how we all seamlessly traverse racial barriers on social media. Reflect on how young people are plunged into global villages through university experiences. We may not see this diversity present in the one hour of worship on a Sunday morning, yet by cultivating greater awareness of our attitudes towards others, we step into God's ultimate plan of seeing a kingdom of disciples who worship from all nations. Sometimes when we hear or see examples of racism, our antenna goes up but if it does not directly affect us, we switch off again. The purpose of this book is to raise awareness in such a way that we are not just light switches to racism, that easily switch on and off, but rather smoke detectors, constantly alert to how others experience or do not experience God's love in the world.

How to use this book

It can be all too easy to feel guilty that we are not doing more in terms of welcoming others. However, this book intentionally starts with God's vision for creation at the beginning and end of time as a means of showing that this book is not intended to guilt you towards action but invite you towards wholeness. The book is divided into ten short sections. This is so that small groups may read and reflect on manageable portions together. The handbook helps identify places where congregations can often get stuck on the anti-racist journey, like when unity gets confused with uniformity or when there's a tendency to deny or minimise difference. It also provides biblical examples of how early Christians navigated cross cultural differences like at the council of Jerusalem in Acts 15, or when Jonah had to overcome his bias against Nineveh. At the end of each section are 'arc' questions e.g. A = awareness: how are you becoming more aware of issues to do with race, R = relationships, are there ways you might be able to continue cultivating cross-cultural relationships, and C = commitment: What commitment might your church be able to make that helps take the next step on becoming an anti-racist congregation.

In Luke 4 when Jesus entered the synagogue on the Sabbath day to pronounce his fulfillment of the Jubilee vision, he quickly transitioned to describing the widow of Zarephath. This widow lacked capacity because she was a foreigner who had no land rights and yet Jesus was making the point that through faith in God, she now not only belonged but had a kingdom inheritance. In a society which impetuously demands we choose single identities and competitive sides; this jubilee vision is welcome. When we embrace and live into this multicultural vision of church, we are truly living the upside-down kingdom where kingdom birthright may be claimed by people from every nation tribe and tongue.

It is too tempting to live diminishing lives of scarcity where we blinker ourselves to deep connections with the stranger. It is our calling to live out a different vision for society. The beauty of the Christian faith is that it resurrects and makes visible some of the eternal connections of kingdom family that transcend the deeper conflicts of this age.

If you are interested in getting a handbook, please contact: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

You can also download a copy at: https://www.irishchurches.org/cmsfiles/From-Every-Nation-.pdf

For anyone interested in learning more about how to use the book in your congregation and to hear stories of transformation from other local congregations please sign up to the webinar on 26th June at 12 pm by sending an email to: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Karen Campbell
Irish Council of Churches

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