This research project explores the problem of a predominantly white, affluent Episcopal congregation confessing racial justice as a shared value while struggling to embody that conviction. The project pursues the following research question: How might a congregation of the most historically powerful, prominent, and affluent church in the U.S. imagine its life in the Jackson, MI community in light of Luke 14 and encounters with people who experience racial injustice? In the theological chapter, the Tower of Babel narrative in Genesis 11 and the Pentecost narrative in Acts 2 serve as interpretive bookends for Luke 14. In the literature review, the researcher makes the distinction between racial reconciliation and racial justice and hypothesizes that the communal struggle to participate in racial justice stems from an overemphasis on racial identity and insufficient emphasis on the exploitative realities of racial capitalism. Additionally, the literature review explores the Episcopal Church’s antiracism initiative of “Becoming Beloved Community,” highlights the practice of communal listening, and identifies and critiques a common antiracism approach—the individual as an image bearer of God.
Through various practices of listening, the project was designed to stimulate the congregation to confront the troubling relationship between greed and racism. Each Sunday for seven weeks, the congregation practiced Dwelling in the Word with Luke 14. During the same timeframe, three Black leaders from the community hosted conversations called Listening Opportunities. Data was collected through field notes, three sets of post-Listening Opportunity surveys, and two focus group interviews of seven participants at the end of the seven weeks. After coding and comparing the data from all responses, eight major themes were identified and are presented in Chapter Five. The final chapter concludes by identifying areas of strength and growth for the congregation while considering possible next steps.
Magnusson, Natalie, "Table of Belonging: Exploring Social Reversal at St. Paul's Episcopal Church" (2023). DMin Project Theses. 5.