Guest Post: "Reconciliation: The thing about white people is..." - Orion Kriegman

This post originally appeared on April 16, 2016 as a part of Food Solution's New England's "21 Day Racial Equity Challenge" daily blog posts.


Reconciliation, Reparations, and Regeneration: The thing about white people is...

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I am white, and yet I have never self-identified as “white.” When asked about my identity, I have often used the shorthand term Pizza-Bagel - that oddly appealing mixture of the Jewish bagel with the Italian tomato sauce and cheese. Yet the tomato, originally a “New World” crop, was appropriated by the Italians, while the bagel originated from Polish gastronomy and was adopted by the Jews. Indeed, I never thought much about my Scottish ancestry, until I married a Celtic lass who pointed out that I am in point of fact a deep-fried pizza bagel.  All of this highlighting a basic fact of cultural hybridity, that culture is living and always fluid and evolving, and that human societies have continuously traded ideas, cuisine, music, etc., while absorbing, blending, and innovating.

Still, in our highly unequal and stratified society, I was born at a time when an American Mutt like myself can without fear or effort pass as white with all the privileges that entails (it was not so easy for my ancestors). I was also taught that how we behaved at home was “too ethnic” to be tolerated in mainstream settings – my mom told me that Grandpa Joe decided to ditch his Italian language and extended family to become as Waspy as folks on TV.  As a swarthy Mediterranean white person, I grew up thinking the American Dream was for me because my immigrant grandparents were refugees while my parents were now professionals.

I suspect that one reason many white Americans have a hard time reconciling with their privileges is that they don’t identify their own family history with that of“white America” – even when society defines them that way. The language we use to discuss race makes it hard to reconcile with history. Without reconciliation with our history, we will not expand our solidarity and be able to come together to fight for justice. Facing into our histories requires blowing up constructed categories of black and white. In doing this we do not cast aside the first part of the discussion on the peculiar institution of race in America: we must still acknowledge America’s unique historical context and the pervasive inequality as manifested in the Racial Wealth Gap, and the many other ways of measuring and demonstrating that black and white America still exist such that we are in no way a post-racial society.

I bring this all up to help explain why I believe that transforming our identities is at the core of the work needed to transform our industrial food system to a sustainable one rooted in racial justice. The New England Food Vision suggests a dietary shift that for many of us raised in fast food nation would be radical. A serious commitment to creating a sustainable regional food system that is equitable requires the “3 Rs”: Reconciliation with our history of injustice, collectively facing the truth; Reparations that address how the past hasn’t gone anywhere, but remains with us now; and, Regeneration to heal ourselves, our communities, and the land.

If we are serious about creating an equitable planet in which future generations thrive, then Americans must change not only their lifestyles, but especially in an age of brand loyalty, we must transform our very sense of self. Confronting and transforming American privilege is something we know needs to occur, as just one example Americans constitute 5% of the world's population but consume 24% of the world's energy. All Americans, white, black, immigrant or otherwise, are implicated in this global inequality and the ongoing violence needed to maintain it. As a note of hope, if we transition to regional, agroecological food-systems, as proposed by Food Solutions New England, we will dramatically reduce American over-consumption of the world’s resources.

As we do this work, it is important to ask, when in human history have a people of privilege surrendered their privileges without confrontation and struggle? I can think of no example. Furthermore, past struggles succeeded when large numbers of people joined in solidarity against entrenched power. If we are to transform the industrial food system that is destroying the life support systems of this planet, then we need to come together and be united.

One of the fundamental challenges for joining together to transform American privilege is the reality of how race is coded in America. Race in America is actively constructed around the binary of black and white - and this construction entails political, social, and cultural dimensions, effectively assigning a “first class” and “second class” citizenship. Patently unjust and a violation of the divinity of all human beings, race is not about how we choose to identify - we are assigned our categories. 

And throughout American history race is a tool to divide people; and as Bernie Sanders notes, it is a tool still very much in use:

“The Donald Trumps of the world divide us up, [and] if we do not allow them to divide us up by race, by sexual orientation, by gender, by whether we were born in America or whether we are immigrants—when we stand together as white, black, Hispanic, gay, straight, women and men—when we stand together and demand that this country works for all of us rather than the few, we will transform America.”

Different aspects of identity are evoked under varying social and political pressures and a person can simultaneously identify with their local sports team, their undergraduate alma mater, their gender, their religion, their ethnic group, their generation, etc. As the scholar John Wood points out in an essay we wrote together, humans are not reducible to either the universal or the particular, we are dynamically multi-dimensional. In the United States, the fluidity of identity is often observed. After centuries of migration, many people hyphenate their identities: African-American, Italian-American, Jewish-American, Indian-American, etc. Some might feel most loyal to their hometown, then their state, then their geographic region, and finally identify as American, while others might see themselves primarily as American, not invested in any specific locale. Recently, due to popularization by the mass media, some Americans identify as part of the Democratic "blue-states" or Republican “red-states” illustrating how quickly identity can be constructed and deconstructed.

Reconciliation, though, requires moving beyond frameworks that reinforce our division in order to uphold the status quo. Reconciliation requires that we engage in the very personal and uncomfortable process of examining our story of self, of relearning who we are as we open to the truth and mourn. A nuanced discussion about why European-Americans are systematically privileged relative to Asian-, African-, Indian-, Hispanic-Americans requires that we connect our conversation to world history and an ongoing discussion of global inequality, using language that helps us all understand how my liberation is caught up with yours. This enlargement of identity, to recognize ourselves as brothers and sisters, is crucial for creating the power to build the new systems we want, systems that will repair injustice and regenerate life.

 

Orion Kriegman is the Director of Boston Food Forest Coalition, a non-profit community land trust for neighborhood “forest gardens”.  These edible public parks engage hundreds of volunteers; host annual harvest festivals and community events; and grow relationships among neighbors, land and food.

Photo credit: Ann Hermes/© 2015 The Christian Science Monitor

BOSTON PRIDE 2016!!!

WE LOVE PRIDE!!!!

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Seriously!

Dont believe us?

Well check out this hilarious photo of Pastor Sara (OWC), Rev. Jay (Union) and Rev. Herb behind them (Harvard-Epworth)! Yes, we realize the best part of the photo is Herb!

2016 was a great year!

It was our second year marching as a district wide body! Our DS, Rev. Latrelle Miller-Easterling led us in our opening prayer and marched with us. 

2016 also marked out second year partnering with The Crossing and the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts for Ecumenical Pride Communion after the parade.

This year we were joined with our siblings in Christ from the LDS community, First Baptist in Worcester, Old Cambridge Baptist Church and two Federated Churches (UCC + UMC)!

Check out our photos below!

 

Véronique-Anne Epiter sharing her artwork at Old West Church

          Art and Church have a long history together. There is a strong affinity between them.

But not all art is invited to the Church. If the art is self-sufficient and has not other goals than to absorb all the thoughts and adoration of the viewer it doesn’t go along with the purposes of the Church.

          Church looks for the art that is built on the spiritual foundation of the artist. Church is in search of the art that not only invites viewers to appreciate the beauty of the artifact, but also calls the audience for contemplation and spiritual reflection.

         The Church is looking for the art that suggests God’s presence as an invisible part of the creation.  If we’re able to see and feel in the artist’s work God’s continued presence in the world, Church welcomes the artist and that artist’s work.

 

            At the beginning of Lent, Old West is welcoming artist and painter Véronique Epiter. Véronique brings to Old West her talent, spirituality, and wisdom. In her paintings Véronique contemplates the mystery of God’s involvement in our lives and Christ’s continued love amidst the people.  We also note the special attention Véronique gives to those who suffer and are oppressed.

            With each of the presented works, Véronique provides a description that contextualizes her painting into spiritual dimensions of contemporary life. The descriptions help us to attune spiritually to the artist’s idea and at the same time call us to develop our own perspective on the presented painting.

Véronique-Anne Epiter crystallized her understanding of the role of the artist in the following statement:  

 

<< The World Is in Need of Art (Today)

I believe in Art as a healing force, in our society ever-searching for answers to the challenges

of its perpetual motion. The image of the struggling artist is not a cliché. Securing the time and

space needed to channel inner-visions, and to voice profound messages, is every artist’s concern.

Suppressing these time and space is directly threatening to the inspiration and total commitment needed for the artist’s act of creation, as intense as birth-giving, both vulnerable and powerful.

There has not been a place in the world where artists have not been the messengers, the healers,

the historians, picking up spirits in times of conflict and adversity, bringing together the most

unlikely to walk hand in hand.

Whether a target or the object of worship, art is the pure medium that quenches the thirst of our society for its “other” dimension, beyond the daily material ties. While “walking through the fire”,

artists are responsible for bringing our world the breath of fresh air without which it could not

survive –a vivid expression of its deep emotional entity, a celebration of its inner child. >>

The following  paintings are some of Véronique’s exhibit at Old West Church that will last

until the time of Easter. 

ICONE ~ ICON Ink & Watercolor, 2004                            “ICONE” is dedicated to all Indigenous people around the world who have been disrespected, oppressed, mistreated, regarded as sub-humans by so called civilized people. Their suffering is similar to that of Christ, whose message is a message of peace and respect.  They hold the keys to the future of this world if only their wisdom was given due consideration. Just like Christ’s, their spirit never stopped shining through the adversity they have withstood. The image of this dignified person, so in tune with nature, yet bearing a crown of thorns is in remembrance of Christ’s words: “Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me”.                     Véronique-Anne Epite

ICONE ~ ICON

Ink & Watercolor, 2004                           

“ICONE” is dedicated to all Indigenous people around the world who have been disrespected,

oppressed, mistreated, regarded as sub-humans by so called civilized people.

Their suffering is similar to that of Christ, whose message is a message of peace and respect. 

They hold the keys to the future of this world if only their wisdom was given due consideration.

Just like Christ’s, their spirit never stopped shining through the adversity they have withstood.

The image of this dignified person, so in tune with nature, yet bearing a crown of thorns is in

remembrance of Christ’s words: “Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one

of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me”.                     Véronique-Anne Epite

nuSERVES at OWC

LAWSON THE CHURCH DOG AND BRIGETTE HAD A GREAT TIME HELPING WITH THE GARDEN!

LAWSON THE CHURCH DOG AND BRIGETTE HAD A GREAT TIME HELPING WITH THE GARDEN!

On Sept 2- 4, over 40 students from Northeastern University volunteered at OWC. Alongside volunteers from the Boston Food Forest Coalition, we put in over 150 labor hours, working to transform the left side of our yard into a burgeoning food forest! We still have  a long way to go to fully transform our yard but we are excited to engage in food justice for the Boston community. 

Check out the pictures below!

Thanks to Dan & Orion from the Boston Food Forest for their leadership, vision and hard work, our very own Ladonna for coming out each day (what a trooper) and all the incredible students from Northeastern! What a great couple of days!

 

Guest Post: "Sanctuary Seating at OWC" - Elsa Bengel

Sanctuary Seating at OWC

The congregation of Old West Church in downtown Boston worships on a site that has been home to pioneering, progressive churches since 1737. We honor our history as we journey as a 21st century faith community.


Our pews which were installed in 1964 are in terrible condition. We have decided to purchase new sanctuary seating that is solid wood, upholstered chairs which can be arranged in a variety of ways. This will support imaginative seating to serve our size worshipping community as well as special small group settings.

Our goal is to purchase the first 100 chairs now. At $200/chair this means $20,000. The good news is that we have raised the funds for 74 chairs. Stepping out in faith, we have placed our order for 100 chairs. We are asking Friends of Old West to sponsor one or more chairs. Donors will be acknowledged with a small engraved plate on the back of chairs. We need your help for the last 26 chairs. And we hope that you will enjoy our new seating as you join us for our musically rich, spirit-led Sunday worship at 11 every week.

Elsa acts the Old West Lay Leader and member of the Old West SPRC. She also sings in the choir and is an active part of the OWC community garden.

Boston Pride 2015

This past Saturday, OWC joined Methodists from around the metro Boston area to march in the Pride Parade. 

Elsa, the OWC lay leader, holding up our banner!

Elsa, the OWC lay leader, holding up our banner!

After the parade, the Boston Methodists were joined by the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts for Ecumenical Outdoor Eucharist on the front lawn of OWC. It was truly an incredible day and we are #wickedproud to be a part of the justice work here in Boston! 

Rev. Sara getting ready to march!

Rev. Sara getting ready to march!

 

The Episcopal Bishop of Massachusetts, Alan Gates, led the communion service. Gifted musicians from The Crossing led us in song.

 

 

                                           Passing the communion elements

                                           Passing the communion elements

                                               Ecumenical Outdoor Eucharist!

                                               Ecumenical Outdoor Eucharist!

Guest Blog: "In A Downtown Church Yard, A Food Forest Sets Root"

What does it mean to strengthen our local food system? How do we care for each other and our children amid deepening economic and environmental stress? A couple Saturdays ago, an excited group of curious and committed parishioners and volunteers decided to answer these questions through joint action.

On this delightfully warm and sunny afternoon, we gathered on the front steps of Old West Church, United Methodist on Cambridge Street, Boston’s Government Center, not far from city hall. Reverend Sara Garrard and church leaders had been envisioning how to better demonstrate the church’s commitment to food and social justice. It was time to actively participate in the food movement that has been inspiring more and more of us to re-vision our own spaces to grow more nutritious food in the name of food justice and care for Earth.

In a collaboration with a local organization, the Boston Food Forest Coalition, the members of the historic Old West Church are creating the first small feature in a beautiful food production space called an “edible forest garden”. This approach to gardening is low maintenance as it mimics existing woodland ecosystems to create a tranquil park in which primarily perennial herbs, veggies, berries, and trees set the foundational layer of a harvestable bounty that will produce for decades without replanting.

That cheery Saturday, it all began with the placement of potted herbs spiraling up the steps to the church. Volunteers transplanted and seeded some of the most widely appreciated of our spice rack selections into a swirl of terracotta: Basil, Lemon Balm, Rosemary, Thyme, Oregano, and Mint. Organized by Boston Food Forest Coalition with a special thanks to Allandale Farm for its donations, this workshop taught attendees everything from how to assemble well-drained pots, to what potting mixes work well for herbs, to how to plant and tend to them and, most importantly, where to pick them from and some of the many medicinal and nutritional values to harvesting and using them together.

Along with the countless tasty and health-related benefits to growing and eating more varieties of fresh foods, is the community we build together as we laugh, learn, and share our cultures and our bounty. Although the steps are small, small steps such as these fill us with gratitude to be part of a societal shift, one that has begun to look both more inward to what we can do as a community, and outward to the entire web of life and those who are to follow after us.
 

Dan Schenk and Orion Kriegman are founding members of the Boston Food Forest Coalition, which is building a network of edible forest gardens throughout the city. We would love to hear from you!
 

Mission Statement!

We have finally decided on an updated Mission Statement at OWC!

Check it out below or see it here. Many thanks to Marchelle and Patrick for spending a lot of time outside of church prayerfully constructing this statement and to the leadership team for voting on it!

 

MISSION STATEMENT

Old West Church is a joyful, inclusive community of faith which serves Christ and the community through radical witness and relevant worship.

Dental Hygiene Kit Drive at ISBCC

On Sunday, March 8, a few of us from the OWC community visited ISBCC to help in their Dental Hygiene Kit Drive.

This drive honored the memory and legacy of Deah Barakat, Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha and Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha. 

Only a few days before he was murdered, Deah handed out similar kits among the homeless around Chapel Hill. 

 

It is our hope that we can better serve our communities and the world by demonstrating the people of faith working together. Thank you for ISBCC for letting us come to this event! We loved it!

We at OWC look forward to spending more time with our sisters and brothers at ISBCC. 

 

 

Lenten Practice - Stations of the Cross: Mental Illness

Old West is thrilled to be one of the first two churches in the States to have Mary Button's Stations of the Cross: Mental Illness.  Mary is an incredibly talented  artist who challenges our society's perceptions and stigmas surrounding mental illness with 14 spectacular pieces. 

They stations will be displayed around the sanctuary as means of reflection and meditation throughout the Lenten season. You can view all of the stations here

 

Guest blog: "Father to us all, father in us all" - Sara

"FATHER TO US ALL, FATHER IN US ALL"

A few months ago I preached a sermon focusing on Isaiah’s title for the coming Messiah: Everlasting Father. Father. God is always talked about as “Father.” Lord Man God. God just as “Father” is about as silly as “Redhead God” or “American God.” To lift up one title so prominently  means we idealize or even divinize something that isn’t God. In addition, many people have negative images and memories associated with the idea/person/title of “father” for their father was not one. So what harm do we do when we only talk about God in the masculine? Father as God cannot be our only recourse. 

However, I do believe tacking on the title “father” to God is useful in the same way tacking on “mother” for the community of faith.  These titles  describe roles in our community, in our nation and in our world that are unlike any other because they aren't just roles, they are relationships. Relationships, that ideally, are rooted in care, nurture and love. If we want to use “father” than we must use “mother.”

And what does that do, then, to the community of faith, to talk about God as Father and Mother both? Well, Christians are called to follow Jesus, to imitate Jesus.  And what does that look like besides being mother (and father) to the world, to be Christ to the world?

We are called to protect the orphans, feed the hungry, clothe the naked and speak up for the voiceless. That is who a mother is, what a father is – one who protects, loves and endures all for the sake of her/his own.

We are called to put our bodies on the line – that is what Christ did in coming for us in the form of a helpless babe. That is who Christ is and that is who we are called to be. The call of all persons of faith is to care for each other, to care for the world – to be father and mother to the global community.

Human imperfections and our personal histories should not push us to reject “Father” as a title for God but rather seek to redeem it for others. In sensing the hurt and the pain that “Father” brings to so many, do not abandon the title, but rather redeem it.

I recognize that I do not fully comprehend the lived experience of struggling with the title “father” as many do. This is why it takes all of us, as the people of God and the community of faith, to come together as healers and reconciler. Each member of the church community brings their unique value and experience to others in the community allowing us to bring healing and reconciliation to each other and to the world.

Reconciliation challenges us. It comes slowly. It contains complexity. And it can even get ugly. But we can say this about Christ’s birth too. A story of hardship, turmoil, grit, pain, and rejection surrounds Christ’s coming as the everlasting father, mighty God, prince of peace and wonderful counselor. But it is a story that must be told just as our journey of reconciliation is one that must be taken.

We are called to be Father and Mother, not as reflections of our own earthly parents, but as reflections of the Divine parent – the perfect Father and the perfect Mother to us all. WE are called to love like Christ, live like Christ, sacrifice like Christ. In that we become the new understanding of Father. We redeem something that for many, is covered by the pain, hurt, loss and suffering of this world and show it in a new, glorious light of redemption.

 

 

Stations of the Cross: Mental Illness

We are excited to announce at OWC that we were one of the first two congregations to order Mary Elizabeth Button's Stations of the Cross: Mental Illness

Button describes this year's stations: "Stations of the Cross: Mental Illness addresses the cross-cutting theological implications of the treatment of people with mental illness. Individual stations address both the special gifts and insight of people living with mental illness as well as social justice issues such as race, gender, homelessness, and stigma."

These stations will go up during Holy Week at OWC. To view all the stations, please follow this link.

Advent at Old West

Diversity is one of the biggest strengths at Old West. 

During Advent, we truly got to embrace and celebrate our community's diversity and the beautiful diversity of God's great creation. 

Micah took up the role of Little Drummer Boy with gusto. 

 

 

 

 

 

Younghwa Kim and Hanna Song lit our Advent candles on the fourth Sunday.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Milan even got baptized!