Justice work and reflection
Justice work is an important part of Christ Church, as we seek to build God's kingdom in the world through addressing chronic issues that underpin our society, including racism, sexism, poverty, heterosexism, and educational inequity. At the same time, we seek to continue that work inside ourselves, growing in our own self-awareness.
Read the border diary of member and immigration attorney Ayo Gansallo, from her January 2019 trip to the Southern border to volunteer. And stay tuned for more stories of faith and service.
The Antiracism and Social Justice Committee of the Vestry
Here's a Summer 2022 update on our anti-racism work and telling the truth about our own history:
The congregation of Christ Church has been working to understand exactly how our church has historically contributed to, and benefited from, the systems of racism. Such work is necessary for making good on our commitment that “no matter who you are, you are welcome here.”
Even as Christ Church has been a place of welcome and refuge, and has sponsored many efforts across its history to tend to those who suffer and address injustice, so too have we –like any predominantly white community, especially those with deep roots in American history –been involved with systems of racism, and have failed to resist them or to remove ourselves from them. Like many other institutions, we are working towards a more precise accounting of that history as the first step in transformational change.
A few of our ongoing efforts are:
Acknowledging the Weeping Time (see also the webinar info below)
The Weeping Time is the largest single sale of humans on U.S. soil, held in Savannah on March 2 and 3, 1859. 426 people, all part of the longstanding community of rice and cotton farmers, were authorized for sale by Pierce Mease Butler in order to pay his gambling debts. Butler is buried in the Butler family tomb in our North Garden, and the Butler family has historically been revered for their involvement in the founding of the U.S., even as Pierce Mease Butler’s actions were seen as reprehensible even in his own time.
We are working on how to properly remember the victims of the Weeping Time within the space of our North garden. Because it is a memorial garden, the work is closely tied to our theology that all of us are God’s children. We are working towards an artistic response that respects the dead, acknowledges our collective guilt for the sin of racism, and honors those who were enslaved on the Butler estates.
Efforts so far have included a series of parish study groups in 2020-2022 to research and discern next steps. Professor Anne Bailey, researcher of the Weeplng Time and public memory, is working with us through the Christ Church Preservation Trust.
We held a reading of the names of the 426 people sold in the Weeping Time auction on its anniversary, in March 2022. The reading marked our first public acknowledgment that the presence of the Butler tomb is hurtful to African Americans who should find a refuge from racism at Christ Church, rather than a reminder of it.
In Summer 2022, we are installing a temporary sign in the garden, to be replaced with an artistic installation at some point in the future.
Becoming Beloved Community Grant
We are working with The Episcopal Church at the national level with the awarding of a grant in the Becoming Beloved Community initiative, which will fund further research on our shared history with sibling parishes St. Peter’s Philadelphia and African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas.
Absalom Jones Memorial
We are supporting the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas in an effort to install a statue and memorial to Absalom Jones, the first Black minister in the Episcopal Church, who was ordained at Christ Church by Bishop William White in 1802.
There are many other stories to tell, involving historic figures, sacramental records, church initiatives, and financial stewardship. The educators of Christ Church Preservation Trust, who help us welcome our many visitors, are also working hard on producing new research and educational materials. Watch this space.
Given the importance of this election year, POWER is gearing up for some serious voter engagement plans for the fall. Stay tuned for ways Christ Church will be involved!
The Christ Church Preservation Trust, which oversees our education program, recently sponsored a special presentation via Zoom of Anne Bailey, who spoke on the legacies of Pierce Butler and Pierce Mease Butler (both buried at and sometime members at Christ Church). That family presided at "The Weeping Time," the single largest slave sale in United States history. Her presentation is titled, "Why Memory Matters."
Christ Church supports an ongoing partnership with Episcopal Community Services to meet the needs of families in transition from homelessness to permanent housing through specific identified projects throughout the year, including Fill the Bus (school supplies in summer), Christmas presents for those in need, and a spring-cleaning drive for cleaning supplies. We also partner with Philabundance in late January to help fill cupboards empty during the lull after Christmas.
Contact: the Rev. Susan Richardson
Meals for those struggling with homelessness
We gather monthly during the colder months to shop for, prepare, and share a meal with men in the Bethesda Project program, in the nearby facility at Old First Reformed Church. Join in for a delicious meal and company; it's fine if you can only stay an hour or take on one task.
Contact: the Rev. Susan Richardson