Reformed Church Representatives Join in Sankofa Journey

Post a Comment » Written on August 18th, 2008     
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CHICAGO, IL (August 18, 2008) – Eleven members of the Reformed Church of America (RCA) participated in a Sankofa Journey last week as part of that denomination’s attempt to evaluate its own path towards racial reconciliation and becoming multiethnic.

The success of the Evangelical Covenant Church (ECC), which sponsors the Sankofa trips, in pursuing those same goals caught the attention of the RCA, which is 95 percent Anglo, says Earl James, who serves in the denomination’s newly created position of coordinator of multiracial initiatives and social justice.

“I have been searching since November 2007 for models of denominations like the RCA that transitioned from being largely Euroethnic to being multiracial. “The ECC is one of a very few that has engaged that transition with substantial measurable result.”

The RCA is serious about making the same transition, says James. “In June 2008, our highest assembly – the General Synod – voted to put the RCA on the path of becoming a “multiracial denomination freed from racism.”

RCA leaders have been talking with ECC representatives, exploring the reasons for the Covenant’s progress. James said he learned through those discussions the roles of the Sankofa Journey and Journey to Mosaic experiences. Members of the RCA will participate in the Journey to Mosaic in September.

The Covenant Department of Compassion, Mercy and Justice facilitates the Sankofa trips. Sankofa is Swahili for “Looking backward to move forward.” The 72-hour trip is a journey to various sites in the South that played prominent roles during the civil rights movement and the quest for racial righteousness.

Journey to Mosaic (J2M) is a multicultural ministry experience of the regional ECC conferences. J2M helps contextualize the Sankofa concept to explore the historical and present-day injustices related to the ethnic communities of each conference.

James says he is grateful for the Covenant’s support in the collaborative effort to fight racism. “In the family of God, partnering rather than merely reinventing the wheel can bring the kind of blessing the world needs.”

“From my perspective, we didn’t see ourselves as two different churches,” says Debbie Blue, executive minister of the ECC Department of Compassion, Mercy, and Justice. Although the trips have involved primarily Covenant members in the past, “I don’t see this as restrictive to Covenanters only,” she adds. “I see this as a kingdom effort.”

The RCA and ECC members on the trip came from across the country and included a mix of church leaders and laity, including several college students and a high school student. A member of the Vineyard Fellows also participated. The group spanned generations, with participants ranging in age from 17-72, Blue says.

Blue says she was impressed at the commitment of everyone to listen to one another’s stories across ethnic and generational lines without judgment. She recalled that a student entering the traditionally black Howard University in Washington D.C. was grateful to hear the story of an older African-American and her struggles, because it helped put her own journey into a new context.

Blue added that the older participants also were eager to learn from those who were younger. “Everyone valued each other’s perspective.”

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