Metropolitan Congregations United
In the middle of a very hot summer, “Ferguson” suddenly became shorthand for racial intolerance. Protests and civil unrest erupted after the August 2014 fatal shooting of a young black man by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri.
One long-established interfaith, multi-racial group in the St. Louis area was determined to address the issues as its members have always done: openly, together, and with a focus on creating systemic change.
Metropolitan Congregations United (MCU) is an organization of religious congregations that work together to create a better life for all residents. MCU helps citizens, especially lower income families, develop a greater voice in public policy decisions and the allocation of resources.
MCU responded to the explosive situation in Ferguson by organizing Sacred Conversations on Race (+Action), an innovative parish-based program that challenged participants to examine the uncomfortable topic of racism.
Kim, a parishioner at St. Margaret of Scotland in St. Louis, was one of the facilitators. “After what happened in Ferguson, we were all wringing our hands, but talking about racism honestly with others is a starting point for change. It doesn’t have to be the elephant in the room,” she says.
“Systemic racism is an issue,” Kim says. “At my predominantly white parish in an integrated city neighborhood, we all think we’re open-minded and informed, but the Sacred Conversations helped us identify ‘micro-aggressions’, those simple things we say without realizing they’re hurtful, offensive, and based on old assumptions.”
“The conversation participants came away understanding we’re part of a larger system that condones racism, but we can do something about it,” she says. “If we have one conversation and speak candidly, it can be fruitful and lead to others. People have been silent or ignorant for so long, I think we didn’t realize how much anger was associated with the issue. And if we not addressing racism, it will continue.”
“Overall, the experience helped me move from a place where I felt powerless to where I feel I can have an impact. Talking about it with my husband has opened our eyes to other things and changed us both,” Kim says.
Kim and other Sacred Conversations participants will join MCU efforts to address fairness in local policing and bias in municipal courts.
The Catholic Campaign for Human Development funds Metropolitan Congregations United projects to create a better life for all residents by helping them become aware of issues that affect them, identify solutions, and develop relationships with policy makers to effect change.