Widening the Circle: Dance of Racial Reconciliation
Like many churches, the Christian Reformed Church (CRC) of North America, struggles to be a fully inclusive church. Although historically it is a church made up of Dutch immigrants, today it strives to have a new identity: to be a welcoming church for anyone who loves God. As the CRC connect with their surrounding communities, they are also finding that there are opportunities for outreach, and that racism poses a stumbling block to engaging those communities.
In addition, the Christian Reformed denomination committed itself to becoming an anti-racist, multi-cultural church.
To assist the CRCNA to reach its goals, Global Learning Partners, (GLP) Inc. worked with a variety of creative teams in Canada and USA to execute the following phases of work:
- Design and field-test an anti-racism training program for use in churches with interested members of all ages. The Canadian training program is called “Widening the Circle” and the American training program is called “Dance of Racial Reconciliation”. It was imperative that the curriculum for the two countries take into account the unique histories as well as the current issues of each country – what is needed in Canada may not be needed in the USA. Each curriculum package included interactive training modules, a selection of relevant prayers, liturgies, and songs, as well as a selection of relevant and country-specific CRC articles for additional reading.
- Design and field-test of a training-the-trainer program, for each country. Since both countries relied fully on volunteer trainers for these anti-racism training programs, training them in the content as well as how to train was critical to the success of the programs. Multiple training weekends were organized and facilitated in collaboration with GLP, and over time each country had strong cadres of Dialogue Education™ practitioners to facilitate workshops in churches across the two countries.
- Several years of teaching Widening the Circle and Dance of Racial Reconciliation, the Office of Race Relations recognized the need for a second level of training: Part II. For this designing, field-testing, training, and planning, GLP was again contracted to do the work.
Over the years the CRC has seen a change in its identity, pro-active effects at cultivating multi-cultural leadership experiences and healing. Churches across Canada and American have studied how racism explored the brokenness of their church and society, described the cycles of trauma and violence, experienced communal reconciliation and personal healing, and witnessed the richness of diversity in the church.