Reparative funds, reparative actions

Two years ago our congregation made a commitment: As part of our annual budget, we will include a line item for reparations – funds we release to local Black and Indigenous-led organizations, to be used where most needed.  This is an outgrowth of CMC’s longtime emphasis on racial justice and our more recent studies and worship themes inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement.  As a majority-White faith community we have grappled with the ways the creation of Whiteness in our country has stolen land, lives, and wealth from Indigenous and Black Americans.  As believers in a justice that restores individuals and communities toward shalom, holistic peace and wellbeing, we have decided that part of this work includes concrete actions and financial obligations. 

Our scale is small – personal, congregational, local, spiritual – keeping in mind that all parts are connected to the whole.  And we’re just getting started in finding our way.  The vision is to voluntarily unexempt ourselves from the amount we would owe for property taxes, something we and other registered 501c3 nonprofit organizations don’t have to pay.   The plan is to build up to this amount incrementally by adding $5000 to the budgeted line item each year. 

The scale may be small, but this is a significant commitment.  And the transformation it invites goes well beyond the line item.    

This is on my mind this week for two reasons.  One is that the CMC Leadership Team is starting to gear up for our annual first fruits pledge drive.  We budget for the calendar year and the process takes time!  More to come on that, as usual, in later summer and early fall. 

The other reason is that we had the privilege of being visited these last few days by Rev. Rebecca Voelkel.  She’s a UCC minister in Minnesota gathering stories and building community among congregations answering the call of reparation.  Her presence and questions were a gift to our CMC reparative action team that continues to meet.  Some of her questions that I especially appreciated – and will keep pondering – included (and I’m paraphrasing):

How was the soil of the congregation prepared to make this decision? 

How does this go beyond the money and affect the rest of congregational life? 

How does this connect with your queer-affirming way of being church? 

Have you ever thought about the ways this counters toxic masculinity? 

I hadn’t.  But now it’s on my mind.

One of the points of convergence in our team’s comments was that although we use words like work, and commitment, and restitution, what we are participating in are acts of personal and collective liberation.  It is enriching.  It is joyful.  In exploring our own personal stories and seeing our city, our neighbors, our shared history, with new eyes, we feel all the deeper our own wounds and the gifts of healing that are possible. 

This, I believe, is how gospel works.  It’s good news because it’s good news for everyone, even if the path there is difficult.

If you’d like to know more about the Native-led organization to which we are returning funds, NAICCO (Native American Indian Center of Central Ohio) recently released THIS three minute video describing their current Land Back campaign.