Becoming an Anti-Racist Church

Learning on Your Own

Suggested readings include Dr. Ibram Kendi’s How to be an Antiracist; Layla Saad’s 28-day workbook White Supremacy and Me, with daily exercises and reflections for becoming an anti-racist.

Learning Together 

First Church members and friends first engaged each other with Sacred

Conversations on Race in 2008.  Since then, we have learned about First Church’s complicity with Northern slavery, and have continued to learn and grow in understanding of what God calls us to do to repair the damage caused by 400 years of white supremacy. See here for a chronology from the start in 2008.

Faith and life groups

In small group conversations, First Church members and friends have explored what anti-racism means (based on Dr. Ibram Kendi’s How to be an Antiracist), understanding white supremacy through a rigorous 28-day intensive process using Layla Saad’s workbook Me and White Supremacy, and committing to a practice of reparations.

400 Years of Inequality

In 2019, First Church joined a national coalition gathered to remember the first arrival of enslaved Africans in America in 1619.  We created a timeline, based on the coalition’s model but also including key dates in First Church’s own history to track inequality in America from 1619 to the present. Click here to view the First Church timeline.

Adult Formation Series

Adult Formation sessions (offered on Sunday mornings before the worship service) have included, among others:

  •     Dr. James Cone’s theological reflection on The Cross and the Lynching Tree.  Click here for notes from the sessions
  •     First Church’s history of complicity with slavery.  Click here for powerpoint presentations  Stories Impossible to Tell and Searching for Phillip Field
  •     Reparations.  Click here for a notes on What Does Reparations Mean?
  •     What does privilege mean? Click here for notes on this session.


Healing our Church Culture 

From First Church’s statement on becoming an anti-racist church: “First Church affirms that Black Lives Matter and Indigenous Lives Matter. We celebrate the gifts, presence, and leadership of persons of color within First Church and beyond. We recognize that the problem of racism is a white person’s problem and that this is white people’s work. Becoming an anti-racist church means that we are determined not merely to raise our consciousness of racism, but to actively call out and intentionally work for change. We do this work because we know our individual and collective spiritual health, transformation, and liberation depend on it. We do this work relying on God’s help and knowing that we cannot do it alone.”

Work to heal our Church culture includes:

  •     Creating a framework for assessing where we are as a church on the way to our goal.  The Beloved Community group and members of Executive Council have met to create goals or benchmarks of progress (in our governance/decision making, worship style, interpersonal relations among others) to track progress.  Guidance in the process has come from Characteristics of White Supremacy Culture from Dismantling Racism: A Workbook for Social Change Groups, by Kenneth Jones and Tema Okun. Click here to read Characteristics of White Supremacy Culture.
  •     Act to disrupt practices that perpetuate white supremacy culture at First Church.  Several committees of the church have begun thorough reviews of their own policies and procedures.
  •     Prepare to call a senior-level minister of color.  A Staff Model Working Group at First Church included this goal in a staffing plan document approved by the entire congregation.  Work done to create benchmarks will support a determination that First Church is (or is not) ready to call a senior- level minister of color who can grow and thrive at First Church.

Repairing the Breach

Recently, First Church has begun a careful and respectful effort to reach out to communities of color in Greater Boston.

  •     As part of the Public Remembrance Project (click here

for a brief description of the project), we are conducting focus groups with persons of color of all ages and classes, to solicit feedback on how best to remember First Church’s complicity with slavery and what form a program of reparations for this complicity might take.

  •     Our Senior Minister has begun to explore how we might establish relationships of trust with members of the Cambridge Black Pastors’ Alliance.
  •     A Cambridge church whose congregation is predominantly non-white has invited First Church members and friends to join a weekly prayer meeting for social justice.


First Church youth and adults have joined pilgrimages to important civil rights landmarks in the south (Memphis, Selma, Montgomery and Atlanta) and Washington, DC

  • 2017 Youth Group Civil Rights Tour (w photo gallery)

11 young people from First Church traveled to civil rights sites in the south, and shared their experiences with the whole congregation on their return.  Click here for photos of the tour.

  • 2018 Civil Rights Pilgrimages (photos gallery and videos)

23 of First Church members joined a pilgrimage, following the route taken by our youth in 2017.  A highlight of this journey was the National Memorial for Peace and Justice and the Legacy Museum of the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama.  Click here for photos and videos.

  • 2019 DC Pilgrimage (photo gallery and video)

Most recently,  34 First Church members toured the National Museum of African American History and Culture and the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, DC.  Click here for photos and video of this pilgrimage