Given the events in the last two years that have brought into sharp relief our country's ongoing "unfinished business" in matters of race and racism, we felt called to start in our own backyard to explore more deliberately, prayerfully, questions of healing and equity.
In that spirit, Bruton Parish Church reached out to Katrina Browne, whose film, "Traces of the Trade: A Story from the Deep North", has been catalyzing powerful conversations on race in churches and other venues around the country. And Bruton reached out to First Baptist Church, whose history is bound up with theirs. To quote from their website: The First Baptist Church of Williamsburg originated in the 1700's with a quest by courageous slaves and free black worshipers who simply wanted to worship their God in their own way. In their search, they left the church of the slave owners, Bruton Parish, where worship was restrained and segregated, and built the first brush arbor at Green Spring Plantation to gather secretly in song and prayer.
With affirmative interest from First Baptist Church and Ms. Browne, what has emerged is a powerful series of events for the Martin Luther King Holiday weekend, all of which we hope that you will consider coming to!
In Traces of the Trade Browne discovers that her DeWolf ancestors from Rhode Island were the largest slave-trading family in U.S. history. The film follows her and nine relatives as they uncover the extensive hidden history of New England's complicity in slavery. They retrace the Triangle Trade from Rhode Island, to Ghana, to Cuba, and come home to grapple with questions of white privilege and how to address persistent legacies of slavery in the present day. The film, in rough cut form, helped contribute to the passage of resolutions at the 2006 General Convention of the Episcopal Church that apologized for the Church's role in slavery and called for parishes and dioceses to be "repairers of the breach." In conversation with Ms. Browne, who has an open, hopeful, inspiring way with this painful material, we hope that this will be an opportunity for members of Bruton Parish Church and First Baptist Church to engage in deeper dialogue.
On Friday, January 15, come to First Baptist Church at 6pm for "Let Freedom Ring", a play and hymn sing by the joint choirs of First Baptist and Bruton Parish Church.
On Saturday, January 16, the program will be held in Lewis Hall of the Bruton Parish House starting at 10am and ending at noon: "Next Steps: A gathering for members of both parishes who wish to go further and envision future possibilities". Katrina Browne will show her short 30-minute companion film "Repairing the Breach: The Episcopal Church and Slavery Atonement", which shares more about the Church's process of passing the resolutions and holding a service of Repentance, and includes reflections from many wonderful Church leaders. She will be joined by members of the Diocese of Southern Virginia Repairers of the Breach Committee who will show a clip from "Repairers of the Breach", a video they produced to catalyze parish dialogues. These will provide the basis for further reflection, and for us to be led by spirit to envision where we might go from here, whether in partnership as two congregations deepening our fellowship and stewardship of black/white dialogue and action, or as individual parishes called to cultivate our own gardens of racial healing and justice.
For some time the Episcopal Church has explored race and questions of equality. This year the Annual Council of the Diocese of Southern Virginia will focus on racial justice. This conversation, hosted by Bruton Parish Church, is an opportunity to consider the role of the Church in American life and what we can do to make a difference. Please plan to join us for this exciting program!
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