COLUMBUS (WCMH) — In 1852, founding members of the First Congregational Church broke away from their original church because they opposed slavery. More than a century and a half later, modern members say they’re still fighting systemic racism.
“This church has a long history in the city of working for racial issues and working for issues of justice, no matter what comes around in the city,” said Associate Minister Rev. Emily Corzine.
Church leaders feel compelled to uphold that mission while civil unrest erupts across the country. During recent protests, sparked by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis Police custody, someone spray painted “peace” on the church sidewalk and stone sign and “George” on another sign.
Mark Williams, the Director of Christian Education, says they chose not to wash away the graffiti.
“When we saw that sign we thought, ‘This is profound,'” Williams said. “As a church, to be the church, we need to be with George.”
Williams has led other social justice initiatives in the past, but said the current movement demands more.
“We’ve done the book studies, we’ve done special speakers and things of that nature for 13 years,” he said. “This time we felt it was important for us to individually work on ourselves.”
It prompted Williams to roll out a 21-Day Racial Equity Challenge, adapted from a program by author and activist Eddie Moore Jr. Participants in the challenge can use Moore’s website to navigate suggested videos, articles, books, podcasts and more dedicated to creating awareness of racial injustice and white privilege.
“There are those of us who have grown up with more privilege that don’t have an opportunity anymore to relax or to wait [anymore],” Rev. Corzine said.
Along with educating oneself on a daily basis, the challenge also encourages participants to engage with others, reflect on what they’ve learned and create action.
“When you do something for 21 days, you’re creating a habit,” Williams said. “When you finish this 21 days, you’re not finished.”
Each week during the 21 days church members will meet virtually to discuss what they’re learning and how they plan to create change.
Rev. Corzine said the fight for equality goes hand-in-hand with the church’s message to “love thy neighbor.”
“That’s the command that Jesus gave us and I think it’s important that here and now, at this time, we engage in this important work,” Rev. Corzine said.
You can find a list of resources to start your own 21-day challenge here.