Monticello Room, Westminster Canterbury
Present: Peter Weatherly, Bob McAdams, Hal Horan, Ed Murray, Diane Murray, Burnie Davis, Jim Hassmer, Bill Gray, Dave Warren
Guest: Deborah Rabia Povich, Vice President of the Charlottesville Clergy Collective
Ed Murray opened with prayer and presided, reminding members of the continued need of prayers for member John Peale and Co-Chair Chip Sanders, and suggesting telephone visitations.
The Minutes of the April 9 meeting prepared by Horan were approved with the correction noting Hassmer’s membership at that time.
Treasurer’s Report: Since the April 9 balance of 2,731.85, Beard, in a letter, reported a an addition of 120.00 in dues paid by Warren and Horan, resulting and a balance as of May 14 of 2,851.85.
McAdams reminded members of the upcoming June 11primaries and suggested 947 wpv.org the Progressive Voice of Charlottesville as a good means of securing information on each candidates positions on the issues facing city, county and state.
Deborah Rabia Povich invited the members to an event sponsored by the Charlottesville Collective on May 23, 6 to 8 pm at the Jefferson School—“A Conversation Toward Reconciliation,” encouraging clergy and congregants to look deeply into the church history of which they are members.
Program: From March 5 through April 9, the Rev. Bates taught a course for Ollie, Christianity and Race: An Investigation.
Lehman Bates is Pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Charlottesville. Pastor Bates has over thirty years in ministry, international travel, and local outreach as Pastor, Certified Counselor, and spiritual advisor to local decision makers. He is also a leading member of the Charlottesville Collective.
The course description, in his own words, follows:
Of the world’s recognized religions, Christianity remains the preeminent religious architecture in the world. With its ‘absolute’ power to control, influence, and manipulate thought, action, and behavior, no societal construct is immune to its effects. Veritable written and oral accounts continuously show how Christianity’s ‘handlers’ have manipulated it’s doctrines to justify oppression, appropriate lands, legalize violence, and subjugate peoples, especially peoples of color.
As a Faith Leader who lives daily with the contradiction of ‘promoting the ‘ideal,’ while simultaneously ‘confronting the ‘reality,’ I will seek to present (through handouts, slide presentations, articles and in-class discussion) this perspective in order to understand how Christianity is still used to promote and manipulate racial thought, biases, and behavior.
Bates described the purpose of the course in three key words: to give information, cause introspection, and create inspiration.
The first, information, lots of information: colorful handouts, slide presentations, and articles covering pre-Christian religions, the birth of Christianity, the formation of the Bible, the papal church, the Holy Roman empire.
And in America: the indigenous populations, the ‘control’ mechanisms, and the resultant backlash.
And more specifically Virginia: indigenous folks, race, religion, law, and eugenics. The 6 weeks of 90 minute Ollie evenings ended with a look at the happenings in Charlottesville, August 11 and 12, 2017.
The information, being a veritable profusion of technicolor prints featuring various images of the KKK, exaggerated features of a person of color next to a white male profile that looks like an arrow shirt ad, was designed to cause a great deal of introspection (the act or process of looking into oneself) among the class members, showing how tolerance of more subtle racist practices, believing we are a “Post-Racial” society, fearing people of color (the “other”) can lead to demonstrations of an overt white supremacy that had hitherto been considered socially unacceptable before those two days in August.
For example, one of the pages Bates distributed shows the familiar white Jesus created by Warner Sallman contrasted with six older icons, paintings and statues depicting Jesus as he was, a person of color, including a black Madonna in a monastery in Poland and one in Montserrat Spain. A written question was asked of each participant if seeing a black Jesus bothered them or not and to explain why or why not.
To be introspective can make one feel vulnerable. It means seeing the same subject from a new and another perspective. It means letting go of seeing whiteness as the racial default. It means really seeing Jesus as he is, not as Christianity’s ‘handlers’ havemanipulated him with its doctrines to justify oppression, especially oppression of peoples of color.
Introspection when confronted by other information can be painful, causing one to retreat into defensiveness. The goal, however, is finding the courage to see the rich diversity of what it means to be human. In religious terms, it is to see a God whose creation is infinitely greater than a paint-by-numbers set. And that is inspiration, deep and integral inspiration.
In the discussion that followed, Bates was impressed by 10 white visitors who came to worship in his church, born at the turn of this century, who felt that something was lacking in their own worship and who may not have been quite so “carefully taught” as the song in South Pacific puts it.
The meeting adjourned at 2:10 pm.
Hal Horan, Recording Secretary