Guest contributor Abbi Heimach is a second-year student at McCormick who took advantage of outside-campus work-study opportunities to expand upon her seminary experience.
“Nobody’s free until everybody’s free.”-Fannie Lou Hamer
This quote impacted my faith development and call to antiracism work when I first learned about Fannie Lou Hamer through the National Network of Presbyterian College Women (NNPCW). Now in seminary about seven years later at McCormick, I’m looking for ministry tools that will impact my leadership in the church—working towards a world that Christ envisions where everyone can be free. It’s kindom building work. I wanted to gain more field experience outside of the traditional field ed in a church, therefore when I entered my first year at McCormick, I pursued a work study internship with a nonprofit. McCormick had federal work study funds that allowed me to gain ministry skills outside of the church and work at the same time—a perfect fit for a full-time seminarian. Because of my passion for racial justice, I reached out to an organization called Crossroads Antiracism Organizing and Training. Now, almost a year later, my internship is ending and I reflect upon an amazing experience that will continue to impact me as a person and the leader I become.
Crossroads’ mission “is to dismantle systemic racism and build antiracist multicultural diversity within institutions and communities implemented primarily by training institutional transformation teams.” They lead various antiracism trainings and work with regional bodies centered on institutional antiracism organizing. One regional body with which I worked closely was Chicago Regional Organizing for Antiracism (Chicago ROAR). As its name explains, they work with teams and groups interested in building their capacity for antiracism transformation within their institution. Crossroads works with bodies like Chicago ROAR with resourcing and training because, as a phrase I heard a lot with Crossroads, we’re stronger together.
What does this have to do with the church? Well, speaking as a candidate for ministry in a predominantly white denomination called the Presbyterian Church, we have a lot of antiracist work to do. Throughout my internship, I attended many antiracism trainings, participated in planning events, heard people’s personal stories of racial identity development and call to action, built organizing skills and had many opportunities to reflect upon how the dominant white structure in the United States has shaped me individually. This is not isolated but interwoven with my identity as a Christian. Crossroads began as a ministry of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA) and grew into a larger organization working with religious institutions, city governments, and nonprofits. Witnessing the impact of their initial work, I met many church people part of antiracism teams at the congregational, regional, and national level. Their work (particularly in the church) inspired me and showed me how to be part of change, while also owning our institution’s history of marginalizing people.
When looking back at my internship, I have learned a tremendous amount and met amazing antiracist leaders. I’ve also learned how to begin the internal work of living more fully into my humanity as a white person, reconciling the ways I’ve been shaped to perpetuate racism, and working to reflect and interrupt these behaviors. I’m leaving my internship at the end of the summer feeling affirmed and energized that antiracism organizing is the type of ministry of which I am called. Antiracism work is community work and as Christians, we know that we are called into community by building genuine and honest relationships with one another to recognize the Spirit moving in each of us. Community work however, is hard work. It requires of us to be in tune with ourselves intimately so that we can enter the community more holistically. We must be willing to forgive and reconcile, love and hurt, challenge and learn. White supremacy’s power has created such brokenness in us that in order to prevent or stop its impact, we need one another deeply. The honesty and trust that I’ve witnessed from Crossroads’ staff and participants gives me hope for our world and has shown me areas of the church where we can grow and better live out the beloved community we strive to be.
Similar to when I learned about the antiracist activism of Fannie Lou Hamer, my internship with Crossroads has taught me much about the faith leader the Spirit is shaping me into and the antiracism work that is so vital to our church communities and wider world. Working for racial justice is work of the church and must be the work of the church if we are to more fully follow Christ and hope for the kindom.
If you would like to learn more about Crossroads, check out its blog Applying the Analysis. Also, on August 7th there will be a day-long Critical Cultural Competency training put on by Chicago ROAR. Click here to learn more and register.