Sacred Ground – A Journey of Learning and Healing
Bishop Susan Brown Snook shares: “This Sacred Ground work is holy work – it is how we do the important work of reconciliation that we are all called to experience in Christ and with each other. I have found the experience to be eye-opening, vulnerable, and personally transformative. I hope that all Episcopalians will have a chance to engage in this holy ministry of reconciliation.”
This year our Diocese has joined with other Episcopal dioceses and churches around the United States to participate in Sacred Ground, a film- and readings-based dialogue series on race, grounded in faith. The format invites small groups to walk through chapters of America’s history of race and racism, while weaving in threads of family story, economic class, and political and regional identity. The 10-session series is built around a powerful curriculum of documentary films and readings that focus on Indigenous, Black, Latino, and Asian/Pacific American histories as they intersect with European American histories.
Sacred Ground is part of Becoming Beloved Community, The Episcopal Church’s long-term commitment to racial healing, reconciliation, and justice in our personal lives, our ministries, and our society. This series is open to all. It is especially helpful for whites who often struggle with how to think and talk about race, but people of many different races and backgrounds are finding it to be a rich and valuable experience. Participants are invited to peel away the layers that have contributed to the challenges and divides of the present day – all while grounded in our call to faith, hope, and love.
Current and Recent Diocesan Engagement with Sacred Ground
*Good Samaritan Episcopal Church (San Diego) – The Rev. Janine Schenone, the Rector of Good Samaritan, planned to pilot Sacred Ground at Good Sam and shared the following about their experience so far: “When I invited church members to participate in Sacred Ground, I thought maybe we would have enough interest for one group of 8 to 10 people. I was astounded when over 40 people signed up! We created five groups that are now halfway through the 10-session course, and without exception, people of all ages tell me how important, inspiring and life-changing it has been for them. They already are asking me what we will do together as a church to work on racial reconciliation when the course is done.” Amy Lajiness, Vestry member and Sacred Ground group facilitator shared, “Several members have identified their participation in Sacred Ground as ‘the most impactful study we’ve done as a church,’ and I fully agree. Not only have our eyes, ears, and hearts been opened, but our way of conversing with and listening to one another has been transformed.”
*Diocesan Advocacy Committee – Members from the Advocacy Committee formed another 11-person dialogue circle with a mix of priests and lay people from six different congregations and a variety of racial and cultural backgrounds. The Committee seeks to roll out the Sacred Ground curriculum to churches throughout the Diocese and wanted to be able to share it based on their own experience as a group. Participants are very much appreciating the safe space Sacred Ground creates to do this deep and challenging work of learning, growing, and processing important content and emotions together.
*Diocesan Leadership Academy – Sacred Ground enjoyed a significant focus at this annual event in February which was attended by 180 priests, lay leaders, and church members. Two veterans of this work within our national church used the opening plenary to introduce all attendees to the Sacred Ground curriculum, and workshops were offered in the morning and afternoon which allowed participants to get a feel for the content and being part of a dialogue circle. Most of the Academy attendees took part in one of the workshops and were thoroughly engaged. This proved to be a powerful way to share Sacred Ground with our Diocesan community.
*St. Peter’s Episcopal Church (Del Mar) – Last fall St. Peter’s utilized a series called “Living Room Conversations” to help groups hold respectful conversations about difficult topics. This year they decided to “try on” their new skills around the topic of racial reconciliation and started a book study during their Sunday morning adult education hour on one of Sacred Ground’s core texts, Waking Up White: And Finding Myself in the Story of Race, by Debby Irving. The Rev. Martha O. Anderson shared, “The results have been beyond our imagining. The Sunday morning adult education hour has been attended by at least 50 parishioners, and folks do not want to leave after 50 minutes. They are fully engaged in the spiritual work. We are now ready to launch the full Sacred Ground curriculum.”
Sacred Ground is highly accessible AND free! A group of committed individuals from any church or group can begin this journey by following the guidelines shared on the website of our national church. Each group designates a facilitator who does not need to be an expert on race and racism. An easy-to-follow facilitator guide is part of the curriculum, and groups already in process are happy to share tips for success. All assigned materials – except two books – are available on-line, including links to videos.
A number of churches plan to start groups in the near future. If you would like to be part of a group and haven’t heard about plans for one at your church yet, contact Deann Rios at firstname.lastname@example.org to share your interest with the Advocacy Committee. This group is available to help you take the next step!
To learn more about Sacred Ground, please visit www.episcopalchurch.org/sacred-ground.