During the summer of 2020, our nation watched the news footage of the brutal killing of George Floyd on the streets of Minneapolis. First Pres joined the worldwide outcry of disbelief and horror about the event, and as a church, we felt strongly that God was calling us to respond. It was then that First Pres’ Racial Justice Task Force was formed under the leadership of Pastor Jeff Lehn.
The group began the work of learning more about racial injustices and inequities while simultaneously making a commitment to help dismantle the structures and systems that have allowed them to exist since the founding of this country. This group, which has now become one of our permanent committees, meets regularly, working to build awareness, develop relationships, and make a commitment to dismantling racist structures, laws, and policies. A recap of our work during 2021 is summarized here.
Our inspiration for this work comes from the very first words of Scripture which teach us that we are all created in the image of God, male and female, of every race and people, to live as one community (Genesis 1:26-27). In the ministry of Jesus, in word and deed, we see him embodying the ways of love, breaking down the dividing walls of hostility between people, and letting the kingdom of God emerge in the most unlikely places. In our baptismal identity, too, we are reminded that the core of our identity is that we are all children of God and called to love our neighbor. The task force (which has recently become an official church committee) developed the following mission statement that outlines what we hope our work will achieve:
Given the history of the Presbyterian Church and Chicago’s North Shore communities, the Racial Justice Committee is committed to thoroughly, intentionally, and continuously leading the First Presbyterian Church of Wilmette and the surrounding communities to root out and dismantle the evils of racism and white supremacy embedded in our social structures. Further, we aspire to have First Pres and the surrounding communities become models for inclusive, anti-racist, and multicultural places of worship and living. Nothing is more central to Christian beliefs than the sharing of Christ’s love among all people regardless of their backgrounds or circumstances. Love, in turn, seeks justice for all of God’s children.
If you would like to know more about the work we are doing within the RJC and the upcoming programs, please contact Pastor Jeff Lehn.