Racial Justice Commission begins new year with new leaders, renewed focus

The diocesan Racial Justice Commission begins the new year with a welcome to new members in leadership roles and a renewed focus on objectives for 2023 that are aimed at helping the diocesan community move closer to the ideal of Beloved Community.

New and continuing commission and subcommittee co-chairs gathered with Bishop Alan M. Gates and facilitators on Jan. 7 at St. Mary's Church in Newton Lower Falls for a work retreat to launch the new year.  It was their first in-person meeting, and included, the Rev. H. Mark Smith said in an interview, "important work around developing relationships and looking at how the Racial Justice Commission as a whole can best support the work of its subcommittees and vice versa."

The Rev. H. Mark Smith and The Rev. Will Mebane Courtesy photos The Rev. H. Mark Smith and The Rev. Will Mebane, 2023 Racial Justice Commission co-chairs

Smith, a deacon, is the commission's continuing co-chair and is joined this year by new co-chair the Rev. Will Mebane of St. Barnabas's Church in Falmouth.  It is the commission's practice to annually put new co-chairs in place to serve alongside continuing ones, for the commission itself and its five subcommittees.

Objectives for the year ahead, Smith said, include implementing next steps toward creating the diocesan Reparations Fund approved by the October 2022 Diocesan Convention, and working with the Commission on Ministry on adding new cross-cultural learning, practice and peer support components to the formation process for postulants and candidates for ordination, also called for by the Diocesan Convention.  

Additionally, subcommittees will be "developing and recommending an antiracism basics course for those in the ordination process and others in leadership roles, and the continued work of auditing financial and other systems and structures," Smith said, "all the while continuing to develop and provide activities to support people of color, lay and ordained, across the diocese."

Mebane characterized the work ahead as both challenging and sacred.

"The diocese through the Racial Justice Commission has embarked on a challenging, and some might even say daunting task," he said by e-mail. "However, this sacred work is a response to the baptismal vows that are a central tenet of our faith in God and as followers of Jesus Christ. So, I am confident the ambitious agenda before us will move forward with God's help though the power of the Holy Spirit."

Visit www.diomass.org/racial-justice-commission for the 2023 Racial Justice Commission roster and more details.