What We Learned from the 2023 Racial Equity Summit
By The Rev. Meghan Ryan, Leslie Corey, and Tony Corey
In early November of 2023, eight members of the Diocese of Missouri attended St. Louis’ 2023 Racial Equity Summit. The summit’s theme was "Together We Rise: The Power of Community." Organizers had three key goals for this event: Awareness of Inequity, Understanding of Why Inequity Exists, and Transforming Towards Equity. The three-day event included speeches from local and national leaders who offered important messages of challenge, accountability, and hope. Multiple curriculum tracks at workshops provided a wide range of engagement opportunities for “participants at all levels, from beginners to seasoned organizers and nonprofit leaders.”
The following are perspectives from three of the Diocesan attendees:
There were about 500 attendees from throughout the St. Louis area. The keynote speaker was poet Nikki Giovanni. Nikki spoke of the predictable endangerment of African-Americans because the environment predicts gun deaths. She spoke of the unspeakable loss of loved ones as a transition, not a death and looking to faith, and family for grounding.
We heard from Dr. Kanika Cunningham, Director of the St. Louis County Health Department, about the disparities in health for African-Americans and on her focus on Phase 1 of the When Shooting Stops campaign. We also heard from Dr. Mati Hiatshuwajo, the Director of the City of St. Louis Health Department.
Breakout sessions for white folks addressed subjects such as white supremacy and cultivating psychological safety by interrupting white supremacy, the four stages of psychological safety (inclusion, learning, contributing, and challenging). We learned that fear of conflict, either or thinking, right to comfort, individualism, and urgency are all characteristics of white supremacy. Other breakout sessions included grant making to black owned businesses, educational equity, and justice and reparations.
My biggest takeaway from the summit was a new understanding of some of the characteristics of white supremacy including things like black and white thinking, power hoarding, urgency, perfectionism, right to comfort, and individualism. Believing that I can always be neutral is a falsehood. I feel more aware of how I present when I am with people of color because of this understanding.
The summit brought people from all over the region together and gave people a chance to meet and mingle and walk away with new connections and action plans.
This summit offered me valuable new learnings and enriched some familiar concepts at several different levels. The main room speakers offered insightful, high-level perspectives while the workshops dug deeper into specific topics and issues.
The Rev. Bethany Johnson-Javois, President and CEO of Deaciness Foundation, invited us to be in covenant relationships, look to the Holy Spirit and not the will of the people. Critique systems and energize people. The future is already here, it’s just unevenly distributed!
The event’s keynote speaker, poet, author, and activist Nikki Giovanni took us down paths sacred and not so sacred. Here is one: we should have four things in life: a good friend, a hobby, a second drink, and Faith.
Day-one moderator and strategy consultant Rebecca Bennet shared with us a metaphor comparing a prairie fire and racism. If you wish to hear it, invite me for that second beer or coffee. It is worth the time.
A workshop entitled “Empowered Anti-Racist Leadership” offered a three-tier model for building a leadership “eco system” that revolves around:
This workshop offered much more depth beyond this framework. I am praying on how to apply this to my own growth, and that of our communities within the diocese.
Another workshop described the white supremacy culture that Leslie mentioned. This dominant culture lives in the white body and requires intentional actions to modify. The facilitators of this workshop used some exercises from Resmaa Menekem’s book, My Grandmother’s Hands, which is featured in a session of the Episcopal Church’s Sacred Ground program.
I am most grateful to the diocese for being a sponsor of this event. The facilitator of the white caucus session defined humility as: “I don’t know what I don’t know.” I will not lose sight of that. With God’s help.
The Rev. Meghan Ryan
The St. Louis Racial Equity Summit is a "must attend" event for me from now on. The Summit occurs every other year and gathers those involved in racial equity work in our city/county to talk, collaborate, and learn from one another. Each session I attended had something I had never heard before, something I had not been exposed to. While the Summit was certainly educational, the most heartening thing was to see the sheer number of people in our community that are committed to the work of racial justice. Our community is full of people that are marching in the light of God, using their gifts and skills in unique ways. It was a glimpse of the Kingdom. Put it on your calendar for 2025!
By Joy Rouse
In the spring of 2022, a St. Timothy's member had the inspiration that our parish could support an Afghan refugee family as they resettled in St. Louis after fleeing the chaos in Afghanistan in 2021. That inspiration blossomed into the "A-Team," which is a group of dedicated and loving volunteers who have helped a family acclimate to life in St. Louis.
Fast forward to today for an update on the team's work:
What a unique experience the St. Timothy’s Afghan Team is having as we continue to work with our refugee family of nine! The “A Team,” short for Afghan Refugee Family Support Team, is led by Karen Luecking, with group members Steve Crock, Susan Moenkhaus, LaVerne Moseley, Joy Rouse, and Mary Saggau. We have met many challenges as we’ve worked to make a difference in the lives of our family members despite the huge language barrier and significant cultural differences.
It’s been over a year now since we started working with our family. Starting in February 2022, we received training from the International Institute-STL and later the Immigrant Home English Learning Program (IHELP), with first visits to the family’s home in April 2022. The many hurdles the family members and our intrepid volunteers have faced is mind boggling.
St. Louis is not without agency support to offer, but the need is great. Navigating that bureaucratic and logistical maze is not the easiest task in the world! Gifts of money, clothes, diapers, toys, bedding, appliances, etc., demonstrate the generosity of St. Tim’s parishioners. We think some of the items we gave found their way to the homes of other Afghan refugee families.
There was also the physical work of helping them move from one house to another and making some repairs and installations along the way. And of course, there was the challenging mental work of trying to help them under-stand our banking system and the best way to pay bills that fit with how the father wanted to manage money.
Our focus now is on empowering the family to continue their growth in handling things on their own, and on helping the mother learn English. Joy and Susan visit their home in South St. Louis weekly with lessons for her and attention and toys for the little ones (ages 1 ½ and 3 years). The other five boys have been in school, and now we‘ll see what summer brings.
The mother’s task is enormous. She is illiterate in Pashto, her native language, so we can’t just show her something translated into Pashto to try to explain English content. She is very busy with cooking, cleaning, and everything it takes to care for a family of nine. She doesn’t get out much and cannot attend any classes that various local agencies offer. We continue a lot of experimenting because some of the curriculum we’ve been provided just doesn’t fit with her needs. But it does seem we’re in a bit of a groove now, and her progress in communication is showing—with understanding, speaking, reading, and writing.
Our prayers continue. At this point that includes asking for God’s gift of stamina and creativity so that the mother, in particular, keeps working on English and is always available for the lessons, and that we keep discovering new ways to encourage her efforts. The phrase “starting from square one” has never held more meaning for us!
We have our lighter moments, too, and know that laughing is a universal language. Mary, whose primary role has been to teach the father about money in the United States and how to pay for things, also ended up teaching one of the boys how to ride a bike! It happened spontaneously and was a delight to everyone. We’re grateful for all the times we’ve shared laughter and joy.
The caring we have for this family is genuine and strong. Plus, the mutual appreciation we have for each other with our varied skills and talents plays an important role in the help we’ve been able to provide. Ministry is good!
Please watch the video below to learn about our journey with this wonderful family.
I attended Murray State University and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in theatre. I am a 2011 graduate of Virginia Theological Seminary. After ordination, I served at churches in the Diocese of Kentucky. After that, I was called as the Rector of Trinity Episcopal Church in Clarksville, TN. During my six-year tenure, Trinity grew in number and in spirit, with a renewed focus on outreach and evangelism.
I served as the board president of a local nonprofit that provides mental health care to veterans and first responders, as well as serving as the vice president of the ministerial association for several years. I am also a member of Gathering of Leaders, an organization “committed to connecting young, creative, proven clergy-leaders in the Episcopal church.”
Most recently, I served as the Associate Rector of Formation and Pastoral Care at Christ Episcopal Church in Ponte Vedra Beach, FL. It was a wonderful opportunity to work in a large church setting and see authentic church growth in action.
Soon enough you’ll learn what I’m "all about”. But for now, let me say this. So much of what I know about God, Jesus, and the Church comes from being in relationship with other people. Every conversation is a new revelation of the divine, each interaction a new experience of something holy. This isn’t a coincidence. It’s God’s intention for us.
Through my interview and call process with St. Timothy’s, I knew that something wonderful was unfolding. I felt the call of the Spirit. And it didn’t come from your beautiful church building or the wonderful programs or even from the inspiring worship. The call came from being in conversation with the people of St. Timothy’s. The call came from the joy you all have just being with one another. That is special and important. I look forward to being part of many, many of your conversations in the years to come. And I especially look forward to seeing God revealed in our new relationship.
Looking forward in joy and anticipation,
The Rev. Meghan Ryan
Dear Friends of Saint Timothy:
I invite you all to the celebration of a holy Christmas. We are still in Advent, but we are already greeting one another with “Merry Christmas” and carols fill the air reminding us to be jolly. I take great delight in this and my heart swells with sweet memories of Christmases past. As sweet as these are there is something more. Christmas is far greater than merriment, joviality, or an easy joy. There is a deeper and more sober joy to be found here. In this holy feast we open ourselves to what is happening within us: in virtue of our baptism, Jesus continues to be born and grow us. In our flesh we participate in God’s life when we embrace the gift that was given in the Incarnation. Christ within us gives us power to patiently and courageously live God’s life in the world. Each one of us, in the varying, and sometimes difficult circumstances of our lives, embody the gospel we share.
Are you surprised at this? After all, the birth of Jesus did not take place under easy circumstances, but in difficulty and uncertainty. This was not what Mary might have hoped for. She was far from home, without the support and nurture of her extended family. She had heard the strange promise and welcomed it, but until she heard the angels' song pierce the night, she might have felt very much afraid. There in the darkness of the night, her child came to transform the moment. With Jesus' birth the love and all-embracing compassion of God became real, intimate and concrete as a human life.
This is what made the angels sing! This is God’s glory! This is what it is all about!
The schedule of the season is enclosed and as it is one of the holiest of seasons, I encourage all to be present to share this profound joy with us. The heart of our religion is present in these liturgies.
The seasons of Advent, Christmas and Epiphany complete the great cycle of the Incarnation. Through God's great love the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. The whole plan beginning with the creation of all things came to unfold in a human life. That life was and is pure love. It was love that brought that saving life to us. It is love that gives us the ability to hope all things and to endure all things. It was Love was that stretched his arms on the Cross. And the love of God is poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, as the Incarnation continues to unfold in and through our lives. In us the Word who is Jesus becomes flesh and blood. This is the root and ground of our joy. This is the deeper joy and truth of Christmas.
As we celebrate our Savior's birth may we be bearers, as Mary was, of this Christmas Word. We are to live as signs of God's love to our anxious and divided world. Let us give thanks that Christ, the morning star that knows no setting, continues to pierce the darkness and bring healing in his wings.
Turn. Learn. Pray. Worship. Bless. Go. Rest. These seven pillars of the Episcopal Church’s Way of Love are so appropriate to apply to this beautiful and hopeful season of Advent.
The church calendar naturally invites us to stop and turn to face the nativity in the season of Advent. We turn slowly as we follow Mary on her journey—from the archangel’s announcement to the journey to Bethlehem, to the birth of the incarnate Christ in the stable. And we are called to direct the attention of others to this scene as well, to announce this most wondrous arrival to others; to be angels swooping down on a field of shepherds. It is in the manger that we see the face of hope, the face of love, the face of God. It is a face that looks like ours, wholly human, and still wholly holy. Unparalleled to behold, and yet, still so familiar.
This is the time where our opportunities for learning and prayer can focus themselves on the world and issues at hand. Advent invites us to hold what we know about this world and what we have yet to discover in the same space. To anticipate the birth of a baby whose death and resurrection have already set us free from death and the grave, and whose return keeps us ever gazing on the horizon. We pray for an end to violence, an end to hunger, an end to suffering, for God to usher in God’s final and finest hour—for the Advent of the Kingdom Come.
Worship is a steady and reliable pillar of the Way of Love, because the main reason we show up to church every Sunday is to participate in worship. The way the church is used by the people under the leadership of the clergy should always point to the cross. It is, of course, impossible for the church to point to the cross without first pointing to the manger, to the moment of incarnation; the moment the world would cease to be what it was.
We bless one another any time we have the opportunity to serve or be served. Some of the best advice I’ve ever received was the insistence that I allow another person to serve me or offer a gift or blessing to me, because in giving that permission, I was returning the blessing immediately. The holidays are made up of moments for these such opportunities. When you put your dollars in red buckets or give your time to serve the underfed, doesn’t that blessing return back to you in your sense of peace and good work? Advent is a season built for the abundance of blessing, and I encourage you to recognize those moments as they happen.
It is in the blessing that we also find our calling as Christians to “go and do likewise.” Jesus calls us again and again to follow him. We are commissioned every Sunday to exit the church and enter the mission field, and in Advent, we find ourselves called to work and service for those whose lives are lived outside, for those who go without food or other life-sustaining necessities. There are many ways in which you can get involved this season, from the Angel Tree that supports Episcopal City Mission, to Circle of Concern, or Trinity Food Pantry. A season of gift-giving must also be a season of selfless giving.
Rest seems almost futile in all of our going and doing, but this also is a season in which we must find time in our lives to just be still and rest in the peace of God that surpasses all human understanding. The best tool we have in our self-care bag is a ready-to-use plan for rest. It is in our rest that we make room for God to come in and do God’s best work: restoration, revitalization, reunification. This is why God came down in the first place.
It is my deepest hope that this season of Advent marks the beginning of a fruitful and Spirit filled church year at St. Timothy’s. I am honored that this important calendar year in my life will come to a close with you all, and that we will begin together the next year of love and ministry that is so unique to this parish and to these people. I invite you to attend all of the wonderful things that St. Tim’s is doing this season, and to find opportunities to remember the seven pillars of the Way of Love, and to also actively seek opportunities for invitation, to welcome those you haven’t met with charity and interest, and to make connections between people and their gifts and the fields of ministry for which laborers are few. May the peace of God enter your homes and your hearts as we welcome the new church year and say goodbye to the decade.
With gratitude and joy,
The Reverend Camie Dewey
St. Timothy's 2019 trip to Family Camp at the YMCA Trout Lodge provided a weekend of fellowship among family and friends, growing our relationships with one another, and experiencing the love of Christ for each other in God's Creation. Campfires, archery, stargazing, horseback riding, zipline courses, and numerous other activities provided opportunities for building friendships while a Sunday morning service overlooking the lake gave us an opportunity not only to share in worship but to thank God for the communion we share. We are grateful to all who give their time, effort, and donations that make Family Camp possible and encourage others to join us in the future!
We had a wonderful evening together at Friends, Families & Faves on Saturday, September 28! There was beautiful music in the prayer garden during dinner by Mac Connelly. The kids had a blast watching the Way Cool Balloon artist work his magic and create amazing balloon art. The evening finished with a lively performance by the Gateway City Big Band. Thank you to Karen and Rick Sharp and the rest of the FFF committee for organizing a great event! We can't wait for next year!
On Sunday, September 15, 2019 we held a parish wide Invite Welcome Connect kick-off event. The program leaders provided us with tools to Invite, Welcome, and Connect both guests and current members to St. Timothy's family. As Presiding Bishop Michael Curry says, IWC has the potential to be a "game-changer" in our church. We learned to set aside fear and invite friends and neighbors to worship with us. In addition, we learned to be intentional, warm and friendly to all who visit us and seek to find the unique giftedness in each one of us.
Learn More: Invite Welcome Connect at St. Tim's
Nancy Emmel will be serving St. Timothy's as our 2019-2020 seminary intern. She is a third year student at Eden Seminary, in discernment for a call to Holy Orders as a Priest. She is a member of Trinity Episcopal church in the Central West End and lives in the Tower Grove South area. In addition to her Eden studies, Nancy is a full-time attorney for the City of St. Louis, City Counselor's Office at St. Louis Lambert Airport. Nancy is particularly interested in preaching and pastoral care. During her year at St. Tim's she will be serving at the altar, will be licensed as a Eucharistic Minister, and will be preaching and helping out with the Sunday School from time to time. Nancy has thee grown daughters and two dogs. She enjoys cooking and loves the St. Louis Cardinals. Nancy is thrilled to begin her internship at St. Tim's and looks forward to meeting and getting to know the St. Tim's community.
After a lengthy search and much discernment, St. Timothy’s has called The Rev. Camie Dewey to be our new Assistant Rector of Mission and Formation. We are very excited to share this news and to welcome her into our church family! She just finished her Masters of Divinity degree at Seminary of the Southwest in Austin, TX in May 2019. She was ordained to the priesthood in Denver, CO on June 22. She then started at St. Timothy’s on July 1.
Here’s a little background on The Rev. Camie Marie Dewey:
One of the things seminarians do when they begin looking for their first call is to complete the extensive Ministry Portfolio for the national Episcopal Diocese. The Rev. Camie answered all of these questions eloquently. This was one of the questions and her response: How do you practice incorporating others in ministry?
“Empowering lay involvement is something I am passionate about, and I currently have a mentor who does this very well. I believe that it is the laity who do the most and best work in stewarding the church and in taking her into the world. The parish where I serve as Seminarian Intern has a three-level service model: serving the parish, serving the community, serving the world. Service of the parish makes it possible for the parish to serve the community. Once those community ministries are realized, reach can be extended into the world. Stewardship and care for the parish itself is highly emphasized and many members find themselves serving in a variety of ways: on the vestry, as Eucharistic visitors, lay readers, ushers, on altar guild, and in children’s ministries. I have been very lucky to have been part of some of these trainings and to see how much energy there is for the work. It is my hope that as a parish priest, I will be able to generate the same energy and excitement by effectively articulating the importance of the work and the joy to be found therein.”
Let us all thank God for allowing us to find and hire Camie Dewey as our new Associate Rector!