Reparations at First Church

Many of us at First Church have come to see reparations as a daily spiritual practice. This grows in part of our wrestling in 2019 with this Truth-telling and Reparations Pledge from our friends at the Grassroots Reparations Campaign. This framework has been especially helpful to us because we know reparations can mean many things to different people and that can and needs to happen at many levels. When our racial justice leaders have spoken about reparations efforts, we tend to be as inclusive as possible and encourage learning and support and advocacy at every level.

National Reparations 

In 1989, U.S Representative John Conyers introduced US House Resolution 40 (H.R. 40) to establish a federal commission to examine the impacts of the legacy of slavery and recommend proposals to provide reparations at a national level. Rep Sheila Jackson Lee has sponsored the current iteration of this bill to create a Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African-Americans Act. In January 2023, Senator Cory Booker introduced a Senate companion to this resolution (S.40). In May 2023, Congresswoman Cori Bush (MO-01) introduced the Reparations Now Resolution which seeks to advance federal reparations, support existing reparatory justice efforts such as H.R. 40 and H. Con. Res. 44, and to provide further momentum to reparations efforts at the state and local levels. Please learn more and take action here. 

Statewide and Local Reparations

In MA, state Senator Liz Miranda introduced An Act establishing a commission to study reparations in Massachusetts in February 2023.  First Church member have testified in support and are doing legislative advocacy for these and similar measures. We are following this work in part through statewide convenings hosted by the Boston Foundation and Embrace Boston Both Boston and Cambridge have passed resolutions to study reparations. Learn more and take action here.

Grassroots Efforts and Movement Building 

Calls for reparations are far from new and yet energy and momentum is growing now! Locally, we are in conversation with several Harvard Square churches and a new Reparations Interfaith Coalition connected with the Grassroots Reparations Campaign to deepen and extend the public conversation about reparations.


Reparations at First Church

The Spirit called us to create the Reparations Fund in 2021 to engage in a process of wealth redistribution and the spiritual practice of repair and relinquishment (vs. charitable giving). The First Church Reparations Fund encourages both one-time and periodic donations from individuals; the Missions & Social Justice Committee has also made donations from their budget.

As of January, 2024, First Church has donated $103,000 to the non-profit that acts as the fiscal agent for a group we call “The Collective,” people of African descent engaged in activism and anti-racist work convened by Rev. Karlene Griffiths Sekou. They make decisions as to how the money is spent, and during the past 3 years have supported small business ventures, college education funds, aid to people to catch up on rent, and immigration needs. In one case, a member of the Collective was in Haiti when the earthquake struck. With money from the Collective, they were able to get aid into the mountains to villages that had not received any aid.

At its April 22 meeting, First Church’s Executive Council voted to approve a new and broader definition of the church’s Reparation Fund.

Moving forward, the Reparations Fund will be distributed in three equal portions across three different domains: 

  • 1/3 to “The Collective” (as described in Executive Council’s original measure),
  • 1/3 to the Lloyd family’s Slave Legacy History Coalition [the Lloyds are direct descendants of enslaved people in First Church’s records], and 
  • 1/3 to further reparative efforts, including ongoing outreach to Indigenous communities, to be determined by a small subcommittee of majority POC First Church members.

We will continue to review this structure (annually) as our learning continues and while honoring existing commitments and relationships.


Learn about our Summer 2024 Matching Grant Opportunity.