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Building the Beloved Community
Building the Beloved Community (BBC) is a group of First Church members committed to working toward a vision of a multiracial and multicultural First Church. In 2011, BBC continued the dialogues begun earlier in Sacred Conversations on Race, while looking backward (to understand race in First Church’s history) and forward (to imagine a multi-racial, multicultural First Church).
In January, BBC members visited with Laurene Beth Bowers, Pastor of the First Congregational Church of Randolph and author of Becoming a Multicultural Church, to hear about her church’s transition from a dying, largely white church to a dynamic, growing multiracial and multicultural church.
In February, as part of the celebration of First Church’s 375th Anniversary, BBC presented a Sunday morning session on First Church’s experience of race, from archival research on Northern slavery in the 17th century to oral histories of diversity at First Church in recent years.
BBC sponsored educational sessions: Dr. Bernadette Brooten, (Brandeis University) spoke on material from her book, Beyond Slavery, and Dr. Elizabeth Ammons (Tufts University) spoke on “The Importance of Multi-Culturalism in Teaching American Literature.” First Church folks also toured the exhibit on race at the Museum of Science. In addition, BBC arranged for the showing of Traces of the Trade, a film describing how members of the DeWolf family discovered and processed the knowledge that theirs was the largest slave trading family in US history.
BBC worked with the Amherst Congregational Church to sponsor a resolution on racism, adopted by the Annual Meeting of the Massachusetts Conference of the United Church of Christ in June. BBC has maintained contact with the Conference Task Force on Racism.
In June, BBC members planned and participated in a “multicultural” Sunday morning service that introduced new ways to worship.
In October, BBC sponsored a Social Justice Forum conversation on experiences of race and racism. At year’s end, BBC has been discussing ways to extend and deepen these conversations during the Lenten season.
Our 2011 First Church Annual Meeting voted to affirm its vision as follows:
To celebrate and strengthen our congregation’s commitment to be Open and Affirming, the “Building the Beloved Community” group is working towards a vision of First Church Cambridge as a “multicultural” and “multiracial” church in which people of all races, genders, ethnicities, sexual orientations, economic situations, ages, and abilities feel honored and included.
For a well-researched paper on the history of race at First Church, please see the link below. Also check out this moving video of the Chester (PA) Children's Chorus of "If I Had Known," a song written for them to grieve for the relatives and friends lost to gun violence in Chester.