MLK Day — Racial Justice Progress Report


Published: Jan. 15, 2021

Dear Asbury First Community,
Martin Luther King Jr. Day provides us with an opportunity to celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. King, while reflecting on his commitment to racial equality, and considering the work that still needs to be done. As we honor Dr. King today, let us also revisit our own commitment to racial justice, the progress made, and the work that lies ahead. And let us do so, while echoing his sentiment, that “we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.”
2020 was an interesting year, to say the least. In addition to the ways we have been personally and communally affected by the pandemic, we have also been forced to confront the realities of a race epidemic that has bruised our nation and our country. Over the last several months, we have had to confront the fact that issues of racism are not simply reminders of our distant past, but are sinful realities that stare us in the face, today.
On June 15, the Pastoral Staff of Asbury First wrote to you, first acknowledging the moment, but also taking the lead in lamenting the losses of life, livelihood and liberty; repenting of our own racism and silence; and committing to speak truth to power and work for a better world. We invited you to join us in our commitment and we promised to take tangible steps towards humbly engaging in the fight for racial justice. While we wish there was no longer a race epidemic to fight, we are happy to share that over the last six months, we have made some progress towards what we know will be a longer journey towards justice.
As a staff, we have continued to engage one another in conversations about racism and inequality, read together White Fragility, participated alongside many of you in the 21-Day Racial Equity Challenge coordinated by United Way of Rochester, and continue to read and educate ourselves individually.
As a church, we have successfully developed a Racial Justice Advocacy Group, which seeks to understand the racial justice work already happening within our community and provide direction to the church on where to best focus our efforts. This group meets monthly as a larger group, and several times a month in smaller work-groups to help direct our efforts. Our work-groups on Housing, Education, Policing & Criminal Justice Reform, Public Health & Healthcare, and Voting & Elections, are comprised of members of our congregation, who have volunteered their time to dig a little deeper into these subject areas, establish relationships with organizations throughout Rochester, and begin to help us as a congregation identify initiatives and advocacy work with which we can connect. While the last six months have been devoted to planning and initial conversations, we are happy to report that we are working and hope to have some initiatives for you to join in the first part of 2021.
In addition to the work of the staff and our racial justice advocacy group, we continue to update our website with different resources, guides, films, and more that can assist you on the journey toward racial justice. We have also created a specially designated fund called the Racial Justice Advocacy Fund to which any may contribute, as we look to distribute funds to local organizations, and to the racial justice group at Asbury First.
As we all continue to deepen our understanding of and willingness to confront racism, bias, and social inequity; we hope to continue to offer trainings, opportunities for group and individual reading, and other educational tools that might support us on this journey. If you are still interested in joining the Racial Justice Advocacy Group, we invite you to do so. We also invite you to continue to do what you can from where you are to confront the realities of racism, and help Asbury First become an anti-racist church.
With love,
—The Asbury First Staff