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First Presbyterian members create Fighting Racism Together group to channel faith into action

MORGANTOWN — With the nation violently divided over issues of racism a group of members of the First Presbyterian Church in Morgantown hopes to tackle the challenge from a faith-based perspective.

About 26 people – church members and others – assembled virtually Tuesday evening under the banner “Fighting Racism Together: A collaborative group dedicated to working to root out racism in our community in pursuit of God’s justice.”

Church member John Bolt organized the effort. Two years ago, he said, the adult Sunday school class began a journey of studying and reading and they were shocked and saddened to find out what they didn’t know.

Racism, they came to understand, is embedded in the system. But simply studying the problem wasn’t enough. “What are you going to do about it?”

And while coming at it from the faith perspective, he said, they want to bring as many people to the table as possible.

The evening included a couple enlightening videos. One was “Redemption: The John M. Perkins Story.” Mississippi-born Perkins, a pastor, activist and author, was an early leader of the civil rights movement and was arrested and tortured by police.

He realized he hated those who hated him and realized he was a bigot too. True justice is rapped up in love, he learned, and set out to preach a gospel of love in order to destroy hatred.

The other, in cartoon form, aims to educate children about systemic racism. Church member George Lilley explained that systemic racism – also called structural or institutional racism – means procedures and processes built into the culture that disadvantage African Americans.

Part of systemic racism, he said, stems from implicit bias – attitudes and behaviors we carry with us that we may not even be aware of.

Small-group discussions explored the ongoing existence of racism and Perkins’ ideas of love, justice and bringing about change. One group weighed the idea that apart from implicit bias, some cling to racism as a means to cling to power and personal advantage. As one person expressed it, where people value community and embrace sharing and love the barriers evaporate.

The full group reassembled and they brainstormed some ideas about next steps. They talked about – among other things – expanding their educational efforts by approaching and teaming with African-American organizations and other social justice organizations.

No definite date was set for a next meeting, but anyone interested in learning more and perhaps participating can email to get connected.

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