October 18, 2015

Dialogue Series Begins in Southwest

The Coastal Plains Area in the Christian Church in the Southwest (around Houston) gathered early this month for the first in a series of area events on racial issues. Titled "Who is My Neighbor? The _____ elephant in the room," the Oct. 4 event drew 45 to University Christian Church in Houston resourced by Dr. Alex Byrd, associate professor of history at Rice University, and a member of First Christian in Houston.

The series was first conceived in a conversation between Rev. Marilyn Fiddmont, Christian Church Foundation staff in the southwest, and Rev. Wayne Ivey of Conroe in January, when the events of Ferguson were very much on the minds of many around the country. Fiddmont recounts, "My personal angst was it didn't seem that we were discussing any of these things in wider forums. Ivey had been part of the Reconciliation team for CPA 20 years ago when we sponsored several multi-cultural awareness events. He took the idea and the discussion to the Ministry Planning Team of the area. We are charged with the assignment of creating a variety of opportunities throughout Coastal Plains Area using the Reconciliation funds that were available to us."

After several small clergy gatherings, a plan was hatched and promoted by word of mouth with clergy and laity. It was announced at the Coastal Plains Assembly in May and planning began in June. Peggy Trott, chair of the Christian Action and Outreach committee for the area, tells about the "God-wink" story that made the speaker possible.

"Marilyn spoke about this upcoming racial reconciliation event at the assembly. As she talked, there was a youngish black man sitting down the pew from me who was very engaged in what she was saying. We both noticed him - he spoke to Marilyn afterwards - but we did not know who he was. She assigned me the task of locating this individual. One week later, I visited First Christian Church, Houston to share in an event called Real Conversations whereby Pastor Michael Dunn holds a round table discussion about a current topic. As I sat at the table waiting for the event to begin, you guessed it ... in walks the gentleman I was supposed to find and he sat at my table."

But this is just the beginning of the work the Coastal Plains area will do to promote dialogue. Plans include essay and art contests for youth around the issue, books, movie nights, on-going work with Byrd, anti-racism training events, and a visit with April Johnson of Reconciliation Ministry in the spring of 2016.

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