By Canon Christyn Perkons

Diocesan Synod marked a turning point for the Anti-Racism Working Group. Did we report that our work was finished? Quite the contrary!

A shared sense that we were ready to move from contemplation and discernment to action coalesced with the conclusion of our group reading of My Grandmother’s Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending Our Hearts and Bodies. We came to Synod ready to share where we had been on the journey and where we anticipated going next.

We tell and listen to stories of racism, and the pain of those experiences sits heavily with us. We notice the trauma those experiences create in our bodies, and we awkwardly use newly learned body and breathing practices to settle and safeguard our bodies. Our commitment to one another, to this vital work, and to our call to be catalysts in this transformation bring us together every three weeks despite busy schedules, fatigue, and the needs of our personal lives.

The past few months find many of us participating in various anti-racism training experiences to increase the group’s awareness of best practices and available resources. These training experiences require more time but we are driven by the call to make broken relationships whole.

Each time we think we have learned a lesson, something happens that reminds us that this is a journey that asks us to relearn behaviours and patterns of thinking again and again. So we recommit to continue telling, listening, feeling, and healing.

Now we find ourselves on a threshold. We are ready to move from a desire for change to creating a framework for a cultural transformation in the Diocese of Niagara. We’re excited about a renewed community that includes: a compelling narrative of hope and wholeness; an embracing of role models; leaders and elders from a wide breadth of ethnic diversity; liturgies and rituals of healing and reconciliation; practices of self-care and well-being that enhance everyone’s lives; study groups and education that raise awareness and change behaviour; and clear, equitable practices of belonging, rewarding, and restoring peace and harmony.

We will be starting with the development of an experientially-based education process rooted in our baptismal covenant, followed by the creation of a program to train facilitators to guide this process in parishes, regions and online. Hand-in-hand with this work will be a focus on human resources practices that focus on equity, diversity and inclusion. It promises to be another life-affirming and life-changing year!

Such a culture change requires a collaborative and concerted effort from all of us to acknowledge our past failures and mistakes, and our present reality—an effort rooted in an understanding that this transformation is about rights, privileges and opportunities being extended to all of God’s people equitably. This transformation means we are striving for justice and peace among all people and respecting the dignity of every human being. We are called to boldly create God’s new kingdom where people flourish, grounded in right relationships and abundance for all — to walk the way of Jesus!

I have something to ask of all of us; please pray for this work, the people undertaking it, and for the unfolding of God’s kingdom in our midst. Your prayers are critical to our mission which is nothing less than working with God to dismantle the systemic racism that cripples and breaks us all.

If you have skills and resources to offer this work or a passion for this transformation, contact Canon Christyn Perkons at The Anti-Racism Working Group welcomes new members, partners and resource sharing!

Source: Niagara Anglican Newspaper, January 21, 2022