Most of us know that African Americans are sometimes treated like potential shoplifters. To be honest, I didn’t think through how demoralizing that would be until I saw a friend’s reaction during an incident described below. This was my second aha! moment while reading Waking Up White by Debby Irving.
The FUPC/FPC Ministry Team has been reading Waking Up White this summer in preparation for a four-week Adult Formation series in October. We hope you’ll read the book, too.
From Waking Up White, page 71: “In her essay ‘White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack,’ Dr. (Peggy) McIntosh laid out the forty-six seemingly benign privileges she dislodged from her subconscious. I say ‘benign’ because they don’t seem like big deal until their opposites—the lack of privileges, the discrimination—are considered…I can go shopping alone most of the time, pretty well assured that I will not be followed or harassed.”
Here’s my aha! moment:
Earlier this year, I was in the Uptown Harris Teeter and ran into an African American friend.We chatted about the store and how it carried so much of what was available at larger stores.But, Grace (not her real name) lamented that this smaller store didn’t sell the bags of French green beans that she and I both enjoy.
Walking home, I remembered I had two bags of those beans from the East Boulevard Harris Teeter in my refrigerator. At home, I placed one in a Target bag, tied a knot at the top and trotted back to Harris Teeter.Grace was still in the store.
“Look, Grace!” I exclaimed. “I had an extra bag of the green beans and I brought it to you!”
Her reaction shocked me:“You can’t give that to me here.”
In a flash I realized that I was setting up Grace to carry something out of the store that she hadn’t purchased there.Instead, she gave me her car keys and I carried the beans to her car.
The idea that Grace, a pillar of her church and community, might be viewed with suspicion is ludicrous. But even such a dignified and trustworthy African American must have had enough life experiences that she’s wary.
I thought about all the times I shopped at CVS, put the receipt in the bag and then went directly to the grocery store.True, I always tied the top and showed the bag to the clerk, saying “These are items I purchased at CVS.” But never, ever have I been challenged, nor do I expect to be.
For most white Americans, being treated with respect and trust when shopping is a given.
Augustine Project Literacy Tutoring: Tutor a struggling reader and become one of more than 130 Augustine tutors in our community who are changing students’ lives, one lesson at a time. Augustine Literacy Project provides free, one-on-one instruction in reading, writing and spelling to struggling low-income students. Training is offered this fall and winter. Sign up online for training.
Success Coaching: Communities In Schools (CIS) volunteers help Westerly Hills Academy students develop skills in goal setting and navigate making decisions. CIS Success Coaches meet with a student weekly (minimum of twice a month) at an established time during the school day. Interested? Sign up for training online.
Work with one teacher all year: Spend one hour a week getting to know a Westerly Hills teacher and assisting specific students in his or her classroom. You can select the time and day that fits with your schedule.
If you can’t get to Westerly Hills during the school day, there are plenty of other ways to get involved.
Project Backpack: FPC believes no child should worry about where their next meal is coming from over the weekend. Provide a weekly food bag (individually or with a group) for a child at Westerly Hills Academy each week from October May. Four-five bags should be brought at the first of the month and placed in the grocery cart in the hallway behind the sanctuary. Sign up online.
Support a Teacher through the Apple Tree: Contribute to a classroom by purchasing items selected from the PW (Presbyterian Women) apple tree located in the historic lobby. Items are due by September 24.
Community Cleanup Day: Work with staff and parents to make Westerly Hills beautiful from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. on Saturday, October 7. The to-do list includes painting, gardening and a staff lounge makeover. If you can’t make the cleanup day, you can contribute garden soil, Keurig coffee makers (used is okay), K-cups (tea & coffee), curtains, rugs, chairs and paint for bathrooms (bright colors are great and used paint is fine). Items may be dropped off behind the sanctuary through Thursday, October 5. Sign up online.
Serve on a Ministry Team: If you have a passion for our programs but can’t get to Westerly Hills or church during the day, you can contribute by participating on a ministry team! Teams help organize and plan ministries like BELL summer camp, Camp Grier, holiday outreach and Project Backpack. Contact Heather Herring for additional information.
Contact Heather Herring if you want to know more about any of these ways to support Westerly Hills Academy.
When I was in high school in the early ’60s my family hosted an exchange student from West Berlin, Germany—Lutz Mock. Lutz lived with us for a year, and in that time became a member of our extended family. He visited us on several occasions in the intervening years. Recently, Barbara and I had the opportunity to visit him in his home in Berlin.
A little background about Lutz. As an architect working for the city of Berlin, he was involved in the renovation of many historic buildings. After the wall came down in 1989, he was involved in revitalizing East Berlin. Lutz married and had a son, Clemens. Clemens had Down Syndrome, and Lutz was a devoted father. When Clemens needed more care than Lutz and his wife could give, Clemens went to live in a facility for people with similar challenges.
During our visit, Lutz took us to a village that I had never heard of—Lobetal, which means “Everyone praise [God].”
Lobetal was founded in 1905 by a pastor with a great German name—Friedrich von Bodelschwingh. Pastor Bodelschwingh had a special heart for those people that society pushed to the margins. He founded Lobetal as a place where all people were welcome—the unemployed, the homeless, drug and alcohol abusers, those with various mental and physical needs. All were welcomed at Lobetal.
Pastor Bodelschwingh built not dormitory-style housing, but individual rooms where each person could have a sense of belonging and a place to call his/her own. He believed in work, not alms. So he arranged for the residents of Lobetal to use whatever gifts and talents they had to create, build and contribute to the larger society.
Lobetal’s motto is “There is no one on earth that God doesn’t love.”
The reason Lutz loved Lobetal so much is that it is a sister community to the place where Clemens lived until his death at age 29.
In 1989, as it was clear that East Germany was about to collapse, Lobetal faced one of its biggest challenges. The last chancellor of East Germany was Erich Honecker. As chancellor, Mr. Honecker had been responsible for the deaths of many people carried out by the stasi (secret police). Mr. Honecker began to fear that some of the people who had been affected by his cruel regime would retaliate. He feared for his life. So he petitioned to live at Lobetal.
Many of the people living at Lobetal had family members and friends who had experienced Mr. Honecker’s cruelty. So, they had to ask themselves, “Is there really NO ONE on earth that God doesn’t love?”
This saying is easier to affirm in the abstract than when you are called to put it into practice. The people of Lobetal said, “No, God loves everyone.” And they let Mr. Honecker take up residence there.
My visit to Lobetal brought to mind two scripture passages: “God so loved THE WORLD that he gave his only son” (John 3:16) and Jesus said, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw ALL PEOPLE to myself” (John 12:32).
Parents helping out on the first day of the Habitat for Humanity build on Saturday, September 16, can drop off K-5 children at FPC, where the children will have a kid-friendly Habitat project. Cost is $5 per child and includes lunch. Frances Brown (P212) 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Register online.
Youth 15 and younger are invited to be part of the Habitat project from 11 a.m.-4 p.m.
Children are invited to bring their backpacks to worship on Sunday, August 20. During the Children’s time we will bless them all and ask for God’s guidance in our upcoming year.
We will also bless the supplies gathered for the classrooms at our partner school Westerly Hills Academy. If you are shopping for school supplies, please pick up any of the following items and drop them in the bin just beyond the Historical Lobby by Wednesday, August 16:
Training for those who work with children and youth is on Sundays, August 20 or 27, at 9 a.m. in P206. If you are a new volunteer or staff member, or if it is time for you to update your training, mark your calendars for one of these sessions.
How do the lives of families change when we help build a Habitat home? Take a few minutes to watch this powerful snapshot into the lives of several beneficiaries of Habitat homes. Their stories make it crystal clear that when we pour our hearts and souls into building homes, we’re making a lasting impact on people’s lives.
Now don’t you want to be part of that? Signups for Habitat begin on Sunday, August 20. Watch for information in the lobby and the registration link on the Now@FPC page on the website.
With choir rehearsals beginning soon, it is time to register your children who want to participate in Music Ministry. You can register online or watch for Music Ministry signup on Sundays, August 27 and September 3, in the Historical Lobby before 11 a.m. and in the driveway following worship.
Mark your calendars for Wednesday night choir rehearsals, which begin on Wednesday, September 6, with some changes to the schedule: