Feb 14, 2021 - FEB 14, 2022

A Reparative Act

A step towards racial justice

We accept checks made out to Shalom Community Church with the word “Repair” in the memo line and sent to 1001 Green Road, Ann Arbor, MI 48105 as well as PayPal online donations. Since Paypal charges about 2% as a processing fee for credit cards consider using your bank account or sending a check especially for larger gifts. 

To support this reparative act

Join Us!

We are collecting money until February 14, 2022, at which time it will be given to a group of people of color who will choose where it is spent. The goal of this act is for white people to give up control of some of their money. 

a reparative act

Current Funds Collected

This Reparative Act began February 14, 2021 with a commitment from Shalom Community Church to give $30,000 to a reparative act. In the next two weeks a generous donor from Shalom offered to match individual contributions to the fund. An additional $30,750 was raised and matched bringing the initial commitment to $91,500.

0

Fund

Total amount pledged.

0

Congregations

Number of congregations involved as congregations.

0

Individuals

Number of individual gifts.

Be a part of this reparative Act

Join Us!!

We invite congregations and individuals to join us in giving money and giving up control and to be a part of this reparative act. This is not all that we need to do to pursue racial equity, but it is one thing that we can do now. To talk about what this might mean for you contact Trevor Bechtel, Pastor, Shalom Community Church. 

History

Learn more about the background and motivation behind this reparative act in the Mennonite Church and at Shalom.

In 1688 Mennonites made one of the first recorded arguments against slavery in North America. Mennonites rarely owned slaves, but in the years following 1688 further statements against slavery were also rare. During the civil rights era a group of Mennonite people of color called the larger church to recognize as a religious minority that they should be in solidarity with racial minorities. One of the central figures in this story was John Powell–now a member of Shalom Community Church–who encouraged White Mennonites to give 500,000 dollars a year to a Compassion Fund “for the purpose of developing and expanding ways of serving the urban poor and minorities in new and more meaningful ways.” John made this call at the national Mennonite Church assembly in 1969 in Turner, Oregon, and delegates agreed to “respond with a minimum of $6 per member per year”. The church did not keep this promise. Only $160,000 was raised. For more on this story read this article.

In 2020, a group from Shalom Community Church read Jennifer Harvey’s Dear White Christians. Harvey suggests that racial reconciliation has failed, “If, 50 years after Martin Luther King’s assassination we are still struggling to realize reconciliation, might it be possible that what Black Christians were saying then (and have continued to say ever since) is something that white Christians still need to hear today?”

The answer, and this is meant as an answer for white people, is a reparative framework. White people need to find a way to both learn about the history of Black oppression and white privilege and understand how these have been constructed around the concept of race. Then we need to understand the particular and local oppressions and disadvantages that people of color have endured, and find ways to reconstruct interracial relationships through addressing these histories and structures.

Two things stood out  most decisively through the process of reading this book: one was need to work at racial justice in ways that whites don’t control and the second was the ways that institutional actions have served to delay and control attempts at racial justice. We long for a way that we can lead with action, not needing to get all of our words right.

Thus we committed, as a congregation, to a reparative act, which isn’t an apology, or anything other than a beginning, after so many other beginnings. We proposed that John Powell select a group of people to spend it, who aren’t a part of the giving community. And we propose inviting anyone who wants to to join us. Our goal will be to do something, but to do it by giving up control.

We talked at length about how to be involved in reparative work as white people, and understand that it is a complex work that involves learning about the history of the racially privileged and oppressed–especially in the particular ways these are present in our particular lives, and then working against these particular moments of racism and racial constructions. We discussed the nature of reparative acts and whether small things count or what kind of larger efforts might need to be engaged.

We also talked about how white people have a tendency to want actions to be perfect, and about how our talking about things can become the enemy of actually engaging the work we say we want to do.

We know that the logistics of raising and spending money are important to people but for this act encourage people not to worry about logistics and to focus on making the action happen. We have learned about the historical inability of institutions to carry out reparative acts and so don’t plan to seek the endorsement of our conferences or denominations. We simply plan to collect money and then pass it on.

a reparative act

Disbursement Committee

The money collected through this Reparative Act will be spent by a group of people of color chosen by John Powell. As people are named to this group they will be listed here. 

John Powell, Chair
Pastor and Civil Rights Activist
John Powell has pastored Mennonite and United Church of Christ congregations in Detroit, Michigan, Wichita, Kansas and Buffalo, New York. He has served as an administrator for Mennonite Mission Network, the mission agency of Mennonite Church USA and as a Regional Pastor for the Indiana-Michigan Mennonite Conference. John was an Associate Professor and Director of the Pastoral and Church Ministries Program at Houghton College, Buffalo, New York. His column, ‘A Voice from the Center’ in the Mennonite World Review, was a call for justice marginalized people and communities. John has been active in civil rights for more than 50 years. He was the firsts person of color to serve as an administrator at the national level in the Mennonite Church. His civil rights activity has extended to national and international human rights coalitions building among disenfranchised communities. He has been given the name “Sebsebe Samantar” which mean ‘the gatherer and peacemaker’ John and his wife, Shirley, attend Shalom Community Church.
Regina Shands Stotlzfus
Educator and Trainer
Dr. Regina Shands Stoltzfus serves as chair of the Peace, Justice Conflict Studies (PJCS) and Bible, Religion and Philosophy (BRP) departments at Goshen College. She has worked in peace education with Ohio Conference of the Mennonite Church, Mennonite Central Committee, and Mennonite Mission Network.   Regina is co-founder of the Roots of Justice Anti-Oppression program (formerly Damascus Road Anti-Racism Program) and continues as a core trainer with Roots of Justice.  She has worked in peace education with Ohio Conference of the Mennonite Church, Mennonite Central Committee, and Mennonite Mission Network.  She holds a Master of Arts degree in Biblical Studies from Ashland Theological Seminary, and a PhD in Theology and Ethics from Chicago Theological Seminary.   Regina is the recipient of the state of Indiana’s 2016 Spirit of Justice Award, the highest award conferred by Indiana’s Civil Rights Commission.  
Leonard Dow
Business Leader
Leonard M. Dow is Vice President of Community and Church Development for Everence® - leading the effort to serve emerging diverse communities and churches that historically have been underserved. Dow also leads the Everence team in Philadelphia. He is a member of the Everence Senior Leadership Team, as well as President of Everence Community Investments, LLC. Leonard joined Everence in April 2017 after nearly 20 years as pastor of Oxford Circle Mennonite Church in Philadelphia. He was a founder of Oxford Circle Christian Community Development Association, which launched many programs to benefit children and adults. Dow also worked in the retail banking field for 12 years. He currently serves on the board of directors for The City School, Missio Seminary, The Brooklyn Peace Center and The Common Place. Leonard earned a bachelor’s degree from Eastern Mennonite University, Harrisonburg, Virginia and was recognized with EMU’s Distinguished Service Award for 2017. Dow lives in Northwest Philadelphia with his wife, Rosalie, and three adult children.
Michelle Armster
Non-profit Leader and Storyteller
Michelle E. Armster is the Executive Director for Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) Central States. During her employment with MCC US, she was the director of Mennonite Conciliation Service (MCS) and co- director for the Office on Justice and Peacebuilding (OJP). In her positions, she provided resourcing, consulting, and training for churches, agencies, and communities on conflict transformation and restorative justice. She has many years of extensive training and experience in meditation, facilitation, conciliation, restorative justice, arbitration, victim/offender mediation, anti-racism, and alternatives to violence. Michelle has served on various community boards, such as the YWCA, The SpiritHouse Project, Inc., Lancaster Mediation Center, and NAACP. She graduated from Lancaster Theological Seminary’s M.Div. program in 2007. She served as associate pastor for community outreach at Blossom Hill Mennonite Church, Lancaster, PA and was co-pastor of St. Andrew United Church of Christ, Lancaster, PA. Michelle resides in Wichita, KS and is active with Wichita Griots, an African American Storytellers organization, and a member of NABS (National Association of Black Storytellers), member of the African American Council of Elders- Wichita/South Central Kansas, Inc., and an adjunct professor at Bethel College in North Newton, KS.
Jim Williams
Entrepreneur and Organizer
Jim Williams is the former executive director of ASSETS Montco, a micro-enterprise training program for Montgomery County (PA) residents. He is a leader and community organizer in his native Norristown, serving as past president of the Rotary Club of Norristown, chair of the board for Crossroad Gift and Thrift Store, and a member of the County Seat Revitalization Committee. Jim’s church-related leadership roles include past vice chair of the Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary Board, Elkhart, Indiana, and Stewardship chair for his congregation, Nueva Vida Norristown New Life Mennonite Church. He also served 12 years on the board of Liberty Ministries, seven years as president. Jim enjoyed a successful high school, college, and professional basketball career, evidenced by his induction into Temple University and the Big Five Hall of Fame in 1983, and Norristown Area High School Hall of Champions in 1998. Jim played with a professional Italian team for six years. He holds a Temple University degree in Business Administration. Jim became an entrepreneur in Italy, shipping Italian products to the Middle East. Back home, he gained extensive knowledge and experience in the area of sales, marketing and training with American Frozen Foods. Today he and his wife, Sharon, reside in Norristown, Pennsylvania.

Donors

The following have donated to this act:

Shalom Community Church, Ann Arbor, MI

First Mennonite Church, Bluffton, OH

Common Spirit Church of the Brethren, Wyoming, MI

Anonymous (20)
Shelly and Curtis Weaverdyck, Ann Arbor, MI
Mary and Bryan Miller, Ypsilanti, MI
Joyce Penner, Ann Arbor, MI
Scott and Michelle Webster-Hein, Grass Lake, MI
Priscilla Chamberlain and Danny Hollander, Ann Arbor, MI
Anita Toews, Ann Arbor, MI
Paul Loewen, Winnipeg, MB

more information

Frequently Asked Questions

What are reparations?

The word “reparation” is frequently used in relation to money given as compensation for an abuse or injury or a type of apology or acknowledgement that something was wrong or unfair.

What about reconciliation?

The “reconciliation paradigm” holds out a beautiful vision of interracial togetherness, but it too often ignores the actual, material reality of racism and the history of racism in America and in the church. A universalist ethic that emphasizes our shared humanity or otherwise posits white American identity as a moral, political, social, or spiritual parallel to, for example, Native or Black identity, attempts to cover over power imbalances, white privilege, and unjust structures that make such togetherness difficult. Reconciliation is thus a relevant but inadequate paradigm as a first step for moving forward.

Why a reparative framework?

For white people and white Christians, a “reparations paradigm” (out of which come specific actions like the one described above) insists on a particularist ethic for approaching race that acknowledges real differences in order to begin to understand and reconfigure our relationships to one another. It insists on a repentant posture of repair and redress on the part of the oppressor and recognizes that brokenness comes from specific harms done. As beneficiaries of white supremacy, it is work for which white people are differently responsible.

Where can I learn more?

At Shalom, we’ve found the following books to be especially helpful:

Jennifer Harvey’s Dear White Christians: For Those Still Longing for Racial Reconciliation

Robin DiAngelo’s White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism

Drew G. I. Hart’s Trouble I’ve Seen: Changing the Way the Church Views Racism

Ibram X. Kendi’s How to Be an Antiracist

Willie Jennings. Acts Commentary

The writings of Tobin Miller Shearer at Anabaptist Historians are also useful. 

I'm not Mennonite. Does it make sense for me to give to this fund?

This act was begun by Shalom Community Church which is affiliated with both the Mennonite Church USA and the Church of the Brethren, but it responds to the particular history of the Compassion Fund initiated by John Powell in the Mennonite Church.  However, if this act seems meaningful to you, you are welcome to contribute. 

The Minority Ministries Council

Is my gift tax deductible?

Yes. Shalom Community Church is receiving all gifts for this fund and will issue tax receipts at the end of each calendar year to those who include address information when making a donation. 

Blogs and Sermons

Read more from Shalom about these questions. These are sermons and blog posts from people at Shalom. Audio links are included for sermons shared during our services. 

To hear the sermon and reflections from the Book Group that proposed this Reparative Act click on A Reparative Act. 

Screen Shot 2021-01-16 at 10.40.33 AM

A Reparative Act

(Note: The audio version of this sermon includes sharing from the Dear White Christians book group: Ruth Shantz, Shelly Weaverdyck, Max Eckard, Laura Brubacher and Terri Friedline). There are many beginnings to this sermon, but no endings.  Perhaps much of the Christian life is like this.  We come into our […]
rs101119_usa_2005-01-207_pj-lpr

Good Trouble in the Land

by: John Powell My mother was a ‘no non-sense’ kind of person. So, when I would her saying loudly, “John Hayes, you git in here now!”, I knew I was in trouble! During my civil rights activity years, I was sure that I would get summoned before her again. But […]
Screen-Shot-2018-09-17-at-1.03.53-PM

What will you put in your vessel for the future?

Note the top podcast includes just the sermon; the bottom includes the poem 38 by Layli Long Soldier read by Elena Tsai and Trevor Bechtel’s pastoral prayer In March, I walked down the street and planted snap peas on the trellis at the preschool where no one went to preschool […]