Racism and white supremacy are as pervasive as the very air we breathe. No part of life in the US is free of these twin, life-distorting, life-threatening diseases – and that includes this church. While our nation made strides with emancipation, Reconstruction and Civil Rights, it feels as if gains are slipping. Old demons are back to haunt us, dividing us, pitting one skin color against another. God help us! Old South Church, in the name of our God, aims to overcome racism by working toward equality, diversity, justice.
Old South Church is committed to exposing and overcoming racism and prejudice in all its forms – personal, relational, institutional, systemic. We understand anti-racism to be a continuous goal we never stop striving for, and thus take a multifaceted approach, urging action from all. Below you will find information on our current efforts.
- (G)RACE Speaks
(G)RACE Speaks is an evolving conversation, examination, and education on matters of race within the life and community of this church. Affirming the God-given dignity of every human person, (G)RACE Speaks promotes sacred conversations about matters of race within the life of Old South Church. (G)RACE Speaks aims to foster diversity awareness throughout the church with the goal of becoming proficient at protecting the dignity of self and others. Reliance on the Seven Gifts of the Spirit—Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel, Knowledge, Fortitude, Piety and Wonder—grounds (G)RACE Speaks in biblical and theological language and thought. This is a Christian undertaking.
We continue to expand our understanding through teachings and educational opportunities. For it is our mission and duty to bring members of our congregation and various people from all walks of life, to have an awareness of diversity, racial inequality, and economic injustice.
- Member & Minister History
Report on Members of Color at Old South Church and Members who Enslaved People of Color
This report by Old South's Archivist, Emily Ross, details members of color, enslaved and free, as well as members and ministers who enslaved people of color. The names and stories of these earliest Old South members are told, thanks to years of research collection and digging through our records and 17th and 18th century Boston newspapers.
Inside of the Columbarium we have installed a Memorial Tree. Thanks to many sponsors, it currently bears the names of seventy-three members of this church who were enslaved or of African descent who lived in the 1600s and 1700s and whom, so far as we know, were not buried in marked graves.
- Repairing Truth
Acknowledging. Recovering. Memorializing.
We are working to repair and spread the truth of our racial history and present throughout our entire congregation and staff. (G)RACE Speaks offers a curriculum on racial justice based on the Fruits of the Spirit. This work is relational, inside Old South Church, based on our commitment to being the Beloved Community. Our weekly staff meetings include a rotating leader to guide us through discussions and activities on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. We aim to project our learnings and anti-racist beliefs to the outside world by including statements and resources on our website.
We also partner with City Mission Boston to provide an immersive learning experience: A Pilgrimage to Seek Truth and Justice. Together we travel to the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama. The purpose of this journey is to acknowledge the living legacy of white supremacy in our country, learn the history of white racial violence from Reconstruction to Jim Crow, and begin to appreciate the importance of resisting modern day racism and system injustice in our lives and community.
- Repairing Power
Seeing. Bringing. Enabling.
- Jazz Worship Service (2005)
- Gospel Choir (2010)
- (G)RACE Speaks became a standing committee of Council (2018)
- Challenge to boards/committees/task forces: How can this body overcome racism?
- Hiring people of color, lay leadership, assuring visibility in worship leadership
- Support group for Old Southers of color
- Signage, posters, images (Middle Passage exhibition, Black History Month posters)
- Repairing Wealth
Building capacity. Removing obstacles. Transferring.
- Invested in Illumine Capital
- Opened an account with OneUnited; encourage members to do the same
- Seek out vendors of color; encourage members to do the same
- Partnership with Snowden High School (mentoring, school supplies, laptops)
- Annual Grants (2021 to orgs led by POC)