Some of you may know that in the wake of the killing of young black boys like Trayvon Martin and Tamir Rice, I pulled my name from consideration in bishop search processes believing it impossible for me to raise my own young black son and serve the church in this way. That is, until I read the search profile for the Diocese of Indianapolis. There was much in the profile that stirred my heart including your desire and willingness to engage the difficult and challenging journey of racial justice and healing. Our diocese has been on that path for quite some time and it has been my privilege to join you.
The Rev. Dr. Kelly Brown Douglas has been a mentor, colleague, and friend to me for nearly 30 years. I have read all of her books but it is her most recent one that continues to haunt and challenge me. Stand Your Ground: Black Bodies and the Justice of God is not an easy book but I believe it is a necessary one. As our diocese explores what it means to go out into our neighborhoods to see what God is up to and to see the face of God in others, I think Dr. Douglas’ book is an important read. Dr. Douglas will be our plenary speaker at our diocesan convention later this fall. Reading her book and reflecting on it with me using social media and with small groups in your faith communities will help us make the most of her time with us. More importantly, it is my hope that reading this book together will help us on our path to racial healing in our congregations and communities.
Because many of the ideas Dr. Douglas presents may be new and challenging (such was the case for me) I’m providing some discussion and reflection questions to guide you through the book. I recommend these as starting places for the conversation and recognize that any one question could provoke hours of discussion. I’ve also included prayers for use before each session. These were developed by the Subcommittee on Racial Reconciliation of the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music. The collects are from our Book of Common Prayer and are recommended as prayers to center you if you are reflecting on the chapters on your own.
However you use these materials I hope you will engage this book with an open heart and mind. May God bless us as we read Stand Your Ground that we would draw ever closer to Christ and one another and that our bold witness and radical welcome would be strengthened.
The Rt. Rev. Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows