St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Hebron and CoDE collaborated to host an intensive, 11-session series called Sacred Ground: Building Racial Reconciliation through Education and Understanding from November 2021 to April 2022.
Over 40 participants stuck with the program, completing homework prior to each session, and engaging in open, difficult and often emotional discussions in small groups.
The leadership team, composed of Father Ron Kolanowski, Rector of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Hebron, and leaders from CoDE, were pleased with the response, the level of active participation over the 5 months, and participants’ feedback. We believe that eyes were opened, minds expanded and hearts changed. As one person said, “It was transformative.”
The goal was to help people expand their understanding of systemic racism and its effect on every community, including one such as ours, which is 97 percent White. We believe that, through this program, our community will benefit from understanding the issues underlying structural racism and how it hurts all of us, hopefully paving the way to a more compassionate, equitable and just society.
When asked how they feel about their experience in the Sacred Ground program, participants said:
- I realize how much I still don’t know and have a deeper desire to know more.
- A very supportive environment to explore challenging racial histories and current realities in an honest and open manner.
- Truth & reconciliation starts with truth. I did not know the truth.
- This series has been so informative and has encouraged me to look deeper at my own attitudes and beliefs about what it means to be an inclusive and diverse community where I live, pray and work.
- Profoundly grateful
When asked how their behavior might change in the future because of what they learned during Sacred Ground, here are a few responses:
- I hope I will be more curious and welcoming toward others. I will strive to not be judgmental. I will work to change policies and practices so as to support equity.
- I will be more involved in local government asking for change.
- I will more confidently speak out about racism, with a greater knowledge of the full (and mostly hidden) history.
- I will engage in real practical ways to advance justice such as affordable housing
- This journey is not over by long shot!!
Many thanks to Dr. Walton Brown Foster, Dr. Benjamin Foster Jr., John Baron, Father Ron Kolanowski and the leadership team: Sue Smallidge, Carol Geyer, Althea Carr, Amy D’Amaddio and Donna Jolly, and to the Hebron Greater Together Community Fund at the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, for making this series possible.