Prepare to Repair: Reparations Commission preps for significant steps in Diocesan history of reconciliation and reparations

Reparations Commission members, back row L to R: Rev. Allison Moore, Dr. Nell Gibson, Rev. Trevor Babb. Front row L to R: Lynnaia Main, Diane Pollard, Carla Burns, Wendy Cañas, Cynthia Copeland (Co-Chair), Bishop Mary Glasspool, Waddell Stillman. Other members not pictured: Rev. Chuck Kramer, Rev. Astrid Storm, Rev. Richard Witt (Co-Chair).

By: Lynnaia Main, Eglise française du Saint Esprit and Reparations Commission member

With a plentiful member turnout and a full plate of opportunities, the Reparations Commission convened in July for two days for its annual summer retreat at peaceful Mariandale Center in upstate New York. On the agenda: frank discussions about marketing and communications needs, plans for workshops highlighting the Commission’s work over the years, pre-Convention rollouts and the upcoming Convention presence in November, an upcoming resolution fleshing out the workings of the Reparations Fund, and conversations about future liturgies for apology and other worship services.

One priority the Reparations Commission determined is our need and desire to share what we have learned thus far about truth-telling, reparations and reconciliation, as we continue to build from this foundation of work. We, and the Diocese, need to reflect on what we think about this process thus far, to inform why and how we should be moving forward. We need a plan for better communicating and sharing stories about our work over the years, and our work to come.

The Commission has organized many activities over the years to enable us to seize this moment: research on slavery in the Diocese; archiving workshops; pilgrimages to sites of historical significance; organized diocesan trips to view the annual Ma’afa commemoration at St. Paul Community Baptist Church in Brooklyn; a presentation on John Jay to Diocesan Convention; launch of a dedicated online blog and communal prayer space; a completely new play, A New York Lamentation, written by a member of the Reparations Commission; film screenings and book clubs; organized retreats to reflect on Apology; “Knee on My Neck” and “Voices Heard” webinar series; compilation of a liturgical toolkit containing worship resources and prayers; and ever more ideas are in the works.

We reflected that our responsiveness to unfolding current events has helped us meet the needs of the Diocese, and influence other groups doing reparations and reconciliation work, evidenced by our members’ encounters at Episcopal meetings and queries from interested groups in other dioceses.

In telling the full story of what we’ve done, we know we need to ride the waves of this hunger for action, even as we recognize the ebb and flow with the current events and needs of our times. Needs in society that we hope to point out, with dignity, for all concerned, in the hopes that the Reparations Fund will fulfill them.

The Reparations Fund and its mission, the criteria for the use of the funds, the design and architecture for its functioning, its system of administration and governance were a significant focus at the retreat and the results will inform the resolution to Diocesan Convention in November. While the resolution will fully present the proposal, we can say now that the Fund will operate according to a reparations lens, with operational principles drawing from the Apology statement, our Four Principles and core values (truth, integrity, justice, transformation), our cyclical programmatic process (Lamentation, Apology, Reparations) and past years’ diocesan resolutions.

An additional focus of our agenda was the preparation for a formal apology and accompanying worship service in future years.

Finally, the Commission watched the film Who We Are, directed by Jeffrey Robinson, and consider the possibilities of bringing screenings to the diocese in 2023.  

As we all prepare for Diocesan Convention 2022 and beyond, the Reparations Commission invites you to join us in prayers most especially for those who live daily the painful legacy of slavery and racism, for the people of the Diocese of New York as we prepare our hearts and minds for Convention, and for the Reparations Commission’s members in their roles to educate, guide and prepare the Diocese for the ongoing work of Lamentation, Apology and Reparations.

We hope you will join us for our virtual Diocesan roll-out in October, at a date to be announced as soon as it becomes available.

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