Episcopalian “white privledge” — alive and well at St. John’s in Aptos? Are there ways to address it? Yes to both!
An important issue to think about: how does the structure of the church — intentionally or unintentionally — leave out voices that are not part of the governing structure? Voices of color for example. And what can the church do about it?
One issue is wealth.
Similar to the city of Santa Cruz CA, St. John’s Episcopal in Aptos is all white and — rich.
That ALL ARE WELCOME — certainly said often at many churches including St. John’s — is visibly more apparent at some nearby Catholic churches. Just look at the makeup of who is in the pews and that’s obvious.
Per the new rules passed by St. John’s episcopal board of directors, there’s numerous steps (i.e.. 11) to meet in order to be eligible to serve on the board of directors (vestry).
All of the persons currently serving on St. John’s vestry are white.
And — per a casual inspection of the church registrar — all potential vestry persons who could be eligible to serve — are also white.
Persons who attend services have a “voice” and may “speak”. But, all decisions at St. John’s concerning the management of the corporate body of the church are made by white folk.
There are many ways that St. John’s can make ‘All are Welcome’ more of a reality. Here’s just a few easy to implement ways:
1) Connect on a daily basis with the numerous youth who come every afternoon to play basketball and skateboard on the St. John campus. How? Cabrillo College is very close. Hire a Black basketball player connected with Cabrillo — a young man age 18 – 22 who wants to spread the Good News of God’s love. Have him out there 2 hours a day Monday through Friday in the afternoons. A nice part time job for a up and coming black athlete at Cabrillo. Hire someone who can be a role model for youth. And, encourage movement from playing basketball to participating in youth group activities available through the church. And connect that program with the youth program at nearby Resurrection Catholic Community.
2) Advertise the ‘basket ball’ program with a large sign next to the Services on Sunday sign. Put up something in bright colors that says PIZZA & Basketball from 4 to 5 PM!. That will draw more youth.
3) Put a new picnic table over near the basket ball hoop. A table where a family member could sit and share a bite to eat as they watch the youth play. That makes it easy for parents to watch their children. This will be an easy way for St. John people to connect and say ‘hello’. Welcome! Come back on Sunday and other days …
4) Take down the scary blue handicapped parking signs that say $250 fine if you park in a handicapped spot. Replace with more friendly Reserved for Persons with Limited Mobility signs. The mere possibility of a $250 fine is not a friendly act.
5) Directly in front of the ENTRANCE area, put up a 8 foot metal bench. Put the bench by the back entrance to the Cafe. Sitting on it one can look out towards the park and the ocean. A lovely spot for a bench. People with mobility issues can sit and wait for a ride. There are lots of older people who might need to sit there. People needing to drop off supplies can put supplies on the bench. There are no benches around St. John’s. Take a look around nearby churches (Coastlands, Resurrection, Christ Lutheran). They all have benches. Benches are one more way to be more welcoming to the Stranger and to the Newcomer.
6) Schedule various outside music groups to sing during the Coffee hour time. The Threshold Singers for example. They sing in small groups of three for persons needing healing or at their bedsides. Deliberately bring in outside singing groups right at the end of Sunday services. Welcome the Singing Community of Santa Cruz county.
7) Make the music sung at the beginning more welcoming. For example,
A song to paste in the back of the hymnal at St. John’s — and sing — is ALL ARE WELCOME by MartyHaugen:
“Let us build a house where hands will reach beyond the wood and stone, to heal and strengthen, serve and teach, and live the Word they’ve known.
“Let us build a house where all are named, their songs and visions heard and loved and treasured, taught and claimed as word within the Word.
“Built of tears and cries and laughter, prayers of faith and songs of grace, let this house proclaim from floor to rafter. All are welcome, all are welcome, all are welcome in this place.”
And — perhaps in the front of the hymnal at St. John’s — paste another good song to sing:
THE GOD OF SECOND CHANGES
“Come now, O God of second chances; open our lives to heal. Remove our hate, and melt our rage. Save us from ourselves.
“Come now, O God of second chances; may we forgive ourselves, may we become your living sign: Children of God’s love.” [wrjitten by David Haas]
Yes — there are lots of ways for churches such as St. John’s to be deliberately more welcoming to all people. Above are just a few ways.
Akin to throwing pebbles into still waters and seeing the those ripples go out — small changes in how a church welcomes the Stranger and Newcomer may over time change the composition of the Membership and the Board of Directors.
written by Cameron Jackson