A devotion was composed by Terri Bays for the August 4, 2022 Zoom meeting of the Dismantling Racism Network, a ministry of Province V of the Episcopal Church. The context is the quarterly “Strength for the Journey” session, in which we explore spiritual practices that sustain us in the work of dismantling racism.
Our discussions of privilege tend to focus on the need for acknowledgement—there is good reason for this. First, there are so many people who either struggle to admit their privilege or resist the discussion altogether. Second, there is so much history to lift up as an illustration of how such privilege has come to be. As a factor of time management, therefore, we end up underplaying the emotional work needed to turn our recognition of privilege into a resolve for action.
An initial draft had the effect of simply overwhelming a solo reviewer with how much work there is to be done. Since this was not the intention at all, the next version put more emphasis on taking time for thanksgiving and for identifying something to be done rather than trying to do everything. We also found that involving multiple voices increased the sense that we are working together from many different angles.
Preparation for this devotion involved reflecting on some of the main categories of privilege and the types of work that might repair the breach opened between those who have received that privilege and those who have not. This devotion is not intended to be used in isolation. Rather it presumes at least some historical understanding of privilege, whether because the devotion is used as a closing to a session on privilege or because it is being used in a community that is already well-versed in the idea of privilege. Either way, the understanding of privilege is here the pre-existing foundation upon which to do the next stage of emotional work God has given us to do.
Members of the Province V Dismantling Racism Network provided both a first gathering for this devotion and valuable feedback. Because that gathering was online, there were no costs involved.
The Main Event
Here was the initial invitation
The main event was a PowerPoint slide presentation screenshared over Zoom. here is the slide deck .
Oral feedback from the group was very positive. A few suggestions were made for additions: adding criminalization to the reflection on being taken at one’s word and paya and retention to the reflection on honorable labor. People appreciated the recognition that we all have some privilege and that we in the US have privilege over other regions.
Ideas for Adaptation
This devotion focuses on only a few areas of privilege. Other areas may seem more relevant to a particular gathering, and the same patter could be used to create reflections on those areas. Or, an event might bring a particular area of privilege into sharper focus, so adaptation might involve creating several reflections out of what here appears as only one. For example, the privilege of being taken at one’s word might be broken up into reflections on being trusted to give legal testimony, being trusted to honestly register for voting, and being trusted to accurately describe physical symptoms.
Rev. Cn. Terri L. Bays
Diocese of Northern Indiana
Terri Bays is the Missioner for Transitions and Formation in the Episcopal Diocese of Northern Indiana, a position which includes serving as staff liaison to the diocesan Becoming Beloved Community Commission. Terri has served as a priest at the Cathedral of St. James and at the Church of the Holy Trinity, both in South Bend, Indiana.