Young adults work for racial reconciliation
General church grant supports vision for 4 partner groupsNASHVILLE, Tenn. — An Oklahoma group is among the first recipients of grants for United Methodist young adults who have a passion for racial justice to initiate projects that can impact their churches, communities, and world.
OKC DiRECtion received a project grant of $2,500 awarded through Young People’s Ministries, part of the denomination’s Discipleship Ministries, based in Nashville.
The group is composed of college students and young adults from Edmond-First UMC, the Wesley Foundations at the University of Central Oklahoma and at Langston University, and OKC-Quayle UMC.
Participants from the four communities — two primarily African-American and two primarily Caucasian — seek to discern how they can partner together and work toward racial reconciliation.
Trey Witzel said they gather monthly, with questions meant to guide discussions on racial experiences, and a shared meal.
They are working to build trust.
They learn one another’s stories, about similarities and differences in their lives as they grew up, and about how race in America has affected them personally.
For Spring Break 2018, they will travel to The Center in Baltimore, Maryland, and to Washington, D.C., during a week-long immersion experience.
They want to become more educated in critical race theory. The overall goal is to learn how to partner in racial justice work.
The group wants “to develop a concrete plan to bring back to Oklahoma, to bring people together to bring about healing,” Rev. Witzel said.
3 clergy collaborate
Giving leadership alongside Witzel, who is an associate pastor at Edmond-First, is Kevin “Tank” Tankerson, an associate pastor at OKC-Quayle and director of the Wesley at Langston; and Matt Borum, director of the Wesley at UCO.
Witzel recently completed seminary in Boston. He said the Black Lives Matter movement and mainstream public conversation about racism shaped his experience during that time and informed his reading and class discussion.
He said he returned to Oklahoma with a desire to bring college students and young adults together for conversation about race in Oklahoma.
In summer, the three leaders drafted and submitted the grant application, but they didn’t wait to convene monthly. OKC DiRECtion began at the start of the academic year.
Witzel said in early December that about 16 people participate. The dinner and discussion rotate among the Wesley centers and the two churches.
The Spring Break trip can accommodate 28 people, he said. UCO and Langston University have scheduled the same break. “We’re not asking anyone to miss any extra school,” he said.
The Project Review Committee of Young People’s Ministries awarded two grants in this first round. The second went to a group in the Philippines.
“We’re very grateful for Young People’s Ministries to be supporting us like this,” Witzel said. “The Philippines and Oklahoma — this is global and local. That’s exciting.”
A total of $65,000 has been allocated for grants to support young adult racial justice projects. Seed money, up to $2,500 per project, is available to support efforts that can be leveraged by others to inspire and resource young people across the denomination. The grants are set up on a rolling, monthly basis. To apply, go to http://bit.ly/2xUreBy.
Ideas for other groups
Charlie Ludden of Oklahoma is a member of the Project Review Committee. He is the Oklahoma Conference’s associate director of Project Transformation and of Young Adult Mission and Service. Because of the Oklahoma application, he recused himself from that first grant round but is serving going forward.
Ludden said he appreciates the collaborative effort by the churches and campus ministries. He said Young People’s Ministries will receive outcome reports and pass on results to benefit the wider United Methodist community.