Central Roanoke team launches gatherings to prepare for conversations about reparations

From the Race Education Team at Central Church of the Brethren

As part of its commitment to make local faith-based reparations to repair historical and current racist practices, a team at Central Church of the Brethren in Roanoke, Va., has launched regular gatherings with Black and white faith communities.

“We’ve learned that before identifying acts of reparation using our financial resources, we must first engage in a process to build trust and relationships across racial lines,” said Eric Anspaugh, one of four members of Central’s Race Education Team. Team member Jennie Waering finds that “the relationship building is a learning adventure requiring open minds and open hearts, and especially open ears.”

To help foster such relationships, local faith communities publicize and encourage attendance at community events where Black and white brothers and sisters can work and learn together. These activities include voter registration drives, clean up of a neglected Black cemetery, a Martin Luther King service day, attendance at Watch Night services to celebrate the Emancipation Proclamation, a webinar on Critical Race Theory, a vigil to mark the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capital, and an anti-gun violence march.

Beginning Feb. 18 and continuing through April 8 the group will meet once a week (via Zoom) to study the book Reparations: A Christian Call for Repentance and Repair.

“Starting in September 2021 we have come together two times as the larger group and one time with a smaller group for discernment,” said Anspaugh, a retired Church of the Brethren minister. “Our team is thankful for how God’s Spirit is at work within this movement of ‘Jesus in the Neighborhood.’”

Kevin Kinsey, pastor of Central Church, said a key moment on the church’s journey in exploring reparations came on April 12, 2021. That’s when the Church Council adopted a “Congregational Statement on Racism.” In brief, he said, “the statement condemns the sin of racism, a confession of our individual and collective complicity in racism, and an acknowledgement that history and present-day racial injustice reveal the role that faith communities have and continue to have in fostering racism.”

The statement concludes with eight affirmations, one of which states that the congregation will “commit to making faith-reparations locally through the use of our resources to help correct manifestations of racism, injustice, and inequality in our community. These faith-based reparations will be decided by the Church Council as the voice of God’s people.”

We are committed to this process of moving toward reparation and doing so following Jesus’ teachings.

— The Central congregation’s Race Education Team includes Eric Anspaugh, Chuck Hite, Jennie Waering, and pastor Kevin Kinsey.


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