(read more about abolition, courageous conversations, and Cullor’s Abolitionist’s Handbook)
Throughout the testimony of the gospel narratives, we encounter a Jesus who leans into difficult conversations. In fact, the inspiration for the season of Lent – Jesus’ journey in the wilderness – is a series of courageous conversations. As followers of Jesus, we, too, are called to speak truth and listen with love so that we might build our capacities for creating and sustaining liberative communities. This Lent, partner with Join the Movement toward Racial Justice and commit to engaging in courageous conversations with yourself, with a few dear ones, or with your community. On each of the 40 days of Lent, we will offer a conversation/journaling prompt to help you explore more fully your connection to racial justice and practices of antiracism, along with a breath prayer and scripture reading. You can also access these prompts on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter. Join the conversation. Join the movement!
In order for conversations to be courageous, it is important to create a container that can hold them. In the UCC, we are a people of covenants, meaning we seek to make and hold promises with one another, guided and held by the Holy One, that help us grow, change and flourish as God’s beloved ones. So, before you delve into the provided conversation prompts, take some time to discuss why you are engaging in this practice and how you want to be in conversation with each other. Give each person a chance to give voice to their hopes for this time and their personal goals for how they want to show up. Then make some collective agreements to help you foster a brave space for your conversations. Here are some that we recommend. Once you’ve discussed these covenants, offer a sign to each other that you will hold them, with the help of God. Then use the covenants to help get conversations back on track or address moments of slippage. Don’t forget to check in with each other periodically throughout the season to see how you are doing at keeping your covenants.
In addition to using the Courageous Conversation prompts for discussion with your friends, family, and community members or as journaling/reflection prompts for yourself, you can use them as a Lenten practice for a weekly faith formation group. This practice could be meaningfully engaged by adults and/or youth (age 13+).
Download our Courageous Conversations Faith Formation Group Discussion Guide here.
Download the full season of Prompts and Prayers here.
Read: Luke 23:32-43
The other criminal hanging there rebuked the derider, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence?…Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
Inhale: Whatever the circumstance,
Exhale: help me speak up for Justice & Love.
Moving from Bystander to Racial Justice Upriser: Step 5 – Take Action
=> implement the help
=> provide support
=> when possible seek consent of the most impacted
Read: John 13:1-17
After he had washed their feet, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher, and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.”
Inhale: Prepare me, gracious God,
Exhale: to live in service to Love & Justice.
Moving from Bystander to Racial Justice Upriser
Step 4 – Know and discern how to help
=> know your local resources and how to use them
=> learn skills and strategies to intervene
=> practice responding to situations before they happen
Read: Matthew 26:69-75
When Peter went out to the porch, another female servant saw him, and she said to the bystanders, “This man was with Jesus the Nazarene.” Again he denied it with an oath, “I do not know the man.”
Inhale: God of compassion,
Exhale: keep me accountable to Love.
Moving from Bystander to Racial Justice Upriser
Step 3 – Assume personal responsibility
=> feel accountable to care for others
=> see yourself as being part of the solution
=> don’t assume someone else will take care of it
Read: Matthew 26:14-25
When it was evening, Jesus sat down with the twelve disciples and while they were eating he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.” And they became greatly distressed and began to say to him one after another, “Surely not I?”
Inhale: Spirit, tell me the truth;
Exhale: reveal all that would betray Love.
Moving from Bystander to Racial Justice Upriser
Step 2 – Interpret what’s happening as a problem
=> do some perspective taking
=> listen to your intuition
=> pay attention to power differences
=> consider bias, prejudice, and oppression
Read: Matthew 26:36-46
Then he came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and he said, “So, could you not stay awake with me one hour? Stay awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
Inhale: In flesh and in spirit,
Exhale: God, help me stay awake.
Moving from Bystander to Racial Justice Upriser
Step 1 – Notice the situation
=> be aware of your surroundings
=> pay attention to what’s happening around you
Read: Matthew 21:1-11
The crowds that went ahead of Jesus and that followed were shouting, “Hosanna…Hosanna in the highest!” When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, “Who is this?” The crowds were saying, “This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth.”
Inhale: In protest and in praise,
Exhale: let “Hosanna” be my cry.
Continue the brave work of Courageous Conversations by deepening your skills for intervening in moments of racial harm. Each day of Holy Week we will explore steps that help us move from being a bystander to a racial justice upriser.
Read: Luke 19:28-40
Some of those in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, order your disciples to stop.” He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the stone would shout out.”
Inhale: I will stay in the struggle,
Exhale: until justices comes.
Where will the movement toward racial justice go in the next 5 years? 10 years? 25 years?
Read: Mark 9:33-37
Then they came to Capernaum; and when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you arguing about along the way?” But they were silent, for on the way they had argued with one another who we the greatest.
Inhale: Not flourishing for the few;
Exhale: a just world FOR ALL.
When you hear the word “privilege,” what images come to mind? Are “blessed” and “privileged” different? How? How does privilege impact your life?
Read: Mark 10:13-16
People were bringing little children to him in order that he might bless them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them. But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the little children come to me…”
Inhale: Come celebrate with me.
Exhale: This life is a blessing.
How is your race, ethnicity or culture an asset to your life of faith?
Read: Mark 4:35-41
They woke him up and said to him, “Teacher , do you not care that we are perishing?” He woke up and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still.”
Inhale: For healing, praise.
Exhale: For harm, mercy.
What does racial harm look like in your church, community, or family? What does racial justice or healing look like in your church, community or family?
Read: Mark 14:3-9
Some were there who said to one another in anger, “Why was the ointment wasted in this way? For this ointment could have been sold…and the money give to the poor.”
Inhale: Transforming God,
Exhale: turn me around right.
How have your understandings of race, racism and racial justice changed over time? What changed you?
Read: Mark 8:31-9:1
Then he began to teach them that the Child of Humanity must undergo great suffering, be killed and after three days rise again…Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan!”
Inhale: Grateful for what serves,
Exhale: I will refuse what harms.
How does the Christian tradition/history help or hinder your work for/imagination of racial justice?
Read: John 8:1-11
They said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught committing adultery. The law commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” …He said to them, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone.”
Inhale: So much beauty, so much love.
Exhale: I celebrate it all.
What would a society that values racial, ethnic, and cultural differences look like? What hopes and fears come up for you thinking about that society?
Read: Mark 7:24-30
Jesus said to her, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” But she answered him, “Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.”
Inhale: My heart is breaking.
Exhale: Have mercy, O God, bring justice.
How have you been harmed by the myth of racial superiority? Share your laments with one another.
Read: Mark 11:15-19
He entered the temple and began to drive out those who were selling and buying in the temple…He was teaching and saying, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.”
Inhale: Send out your light and your truth.
Exhale: Let them lead me.
How have you or would you respond if someone told you that something you did was racist? What would your next steps be?
Read: Luke 4:14-30
When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage. They got up and drove him out of the town…so that they might hurl him off a cliff.”
Inhale: Whichever way I turn,
Exhale: there is the face of God.
How do you imagine Jesus’ physical appearance? How does it impact your faith journey to think about Jesus looking like you? …not like you?
Read: Luke 17:5-6
The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith.” The Lord replied, “If you had faith the size of a mustard seed you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.
Inhale: There is more love somewhere.
Exhale: I’m gonna keep on til I find it.
What hopes do you have for being antiracist? What would you like to share with others about being antiracist? How are antiracist practices part of your life of faith?
Read: Luke 10:38-42
Martha asked him, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself?…” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing.”
Inhale: Spirit of Freedom,
Exhale: loosen all that binds me.
How do racial stereotypes impact you and/or your interactions with others?
Read: Matthew 12:46-50
Someone told Jesus, “Look, your mother and brothers are outside.” Jesus replied, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”
Inhale: God in community,
Exhale: surround me with kindred spirits.
Share a memory you have connected to race, ethnicity or culture.
Read: Luke 17:11-19
When he saw he was healed, he turned back, praising God with a loud voice. He bowed at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus asked, “Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they?”
Inhale: For all that heals and teaches me,
Exhale: I am grateful.
What song or hymn has taught you something important about race?
Read: Matthew 14:22-33
But when he noticed the strong wind he became frightened and, beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”
Inhale: God who has brought us this far,
Exhale: keep us forever in the path.
Where do you think your church, your community, the UCC, the country is on the journey toward racial justice?
Read: Luke 22:47-53
When those who were around him saw what was coming, they asked, “Lord, should we strike with the sword?” Then one of them struck the slave and cut off his ear. But Jesus said, “No more of this!” And he healed him.
Inhale: Breath of Life,
Exhale: keep me breathing toward wholeness.
For BIPOC folks: How do you care for your mental, emotional, and spiritual health when harmed by racial bias, threats and microaggressions?
For non-BIPOC folks: What practices of self-regulation do you use in moments of racial stress?
Read: Luke 11:1-13
His disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray.” He said to them, “When you pray, say, “Creator, hallowed be your name. Your kindom come.”
Inhale: These dreams are holy.
Exhale: Your kindom come.
What would it look like/feel like if we were living in an accessible, antiracist, world of justice for all?
Read: Luke 8:43-48
She came up behind him and touched the fringe of his clothes, and immediately her hemorrhage stopped. Then Jesus asked, “Who touched me?”
Inhale: This body holds wisdom.
Exhale: I listen for God’s voice here.
How does your body feel when you talk about or hear someone else talk about race? What information do those feelings give you about your practices of antiracism?
Read: Mark 6:30-44
The disciples said to him, “Send the crowds away so that they may buy something to eat.” Jesus answered them, “You give them something to eat.” They said, “Are we to go off and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread?”
Inhale: Fearfully and wonderfully made
Exhale: I will praise you.
What is your favorite part of your culture? How is your culture a blessing in your life?
Read: Mark 12:41-44
Then he called his disciples and said to them, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury.”
Inhale: Open my heart, God
Exhale: help me to love like you.
What is a racial bias you hold or have held? Where did you learn it?
Read: John 11:(1-16)17-44
Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” …Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”
Inhale: My freedom is our freedom.
Exhale: Our freedom is my freedom.
What is your stake in the movement toward racial justice? Why are you committed to this work?
Read: Luke 13:10-17
The leader-indignant because Jesus had healed on the sabbath-kept saying, “There are 6 days for work-come on those days and be cured.” Jesus said, “You hypocrites, ought not this woman bound for 18 long years be set free on this sabbath day?”
Inhale: My way, my truth, my life
Exhale: show me my true self.
When you read the bible, listen to sermons, or attend bible studies what people groups do you identify with the most? Why?
Read: Luke 10:25-37
But wanting to justify himself, the lawyer asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
Inhale: Teach me, Liberator,
Exhale: love is the practice of freedom.
Describe your understanding of racism.
Read: Matthew 20:1-16
“These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.” But he replied, “Friend, I am doing you no wrong…are you envious because I am generous?”
Inhale: You are important to me
Exhale: I need you to survive.
How have you been taught to make sense of human difference? Are there spiritual resources that have shaped your understanding of human difference?
Read: Luke 4:1-13
The adversary said to him, “If you are the Child of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.” Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone.’”
Inhale: There is healing and power
Exhale: in your holy Word.
What is your favorite bible verse or bible story about racial justice? Why?
Read: Luke 20:20-26
In order to trap him, they asked, “Teacher we know that you are right in what you say and you teach the way of God in accordance with truth. Is it lawful for us to pay taxes to the emperor or not?” But he perceived their craftiness…
Inhale: From the grip of all that is evil
Exhale: free us, Holy One.
Where do you see structural or systemic racism showing up in your church or community?
Read: John 4:1-42
Jesus said, “If you knew who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked and he would have given you living water.” The woman said, “Sir, you have no bucket and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water?”
Inhale: Blessed are those who thirst for justice
Exhale: for we shall be filled.
Share a story about how your perceived race has impacted your daily life today or this week. What spiritual resources help you navigate these impacts?
Read: Matthew 25:31-46
Then the righteous will answer, “Sovereign, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food…?” And the Sovereign will answer, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these…you did it to me.”
Inhale: I am determined
Exhale: to follow Jesus.
What specific racial justice issue has captured your heart? What connection does it have to your faith journey?
Read: Luke 5:27-39
They were complaining to Jesus’ disciples saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”
Inhale: Hear the voice of God saying
Exhale: This is my child, my beloved one.
Describe a moment when you first remember being identified with a race? What did it reveal to you about yourself? What messages did it give you about race?
Read: Luke 19:1-10
Zacchaeus said to Jesus, “Look, half of my possessions I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.” Then Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house.”
Inhale: This is holy ground.
Exhale: In reverence, I take off my shoes.
What do you know about the indigenous stewards of the land you now occupy? What are you curious to know? How does what you know and don’t know impact your relationship to the land and its indigenous stewards?
Read: Luke 18:18-27
A certain ruler asked him, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus said, “You know the commandments.” He replied, “I have kept all these.” Jesus said to him, “Sell all that you own and distribute the money to the poor.”
Inhale: Root me, O God
Exhale: in your love.
What core values ground your passion for racial justice?
Read: Mark 6:1-6
Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary?” …and they took offense at him. Then Jesus said to them, “Prophets are not without honor except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house.
Inhale: Where two or three are gathered
Exhale: Spirit, you are here.
Were conversations about race or culture part of your upbringing? your church? If yes, what were those conversations like? If no, what were non-verbal ways that race or culture were addressed?
Read: Mark 8:27-30
Jesus asked them, “Who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Messiah.”
Inhale: Created in the image of God
Exhale: this body is sacred.
How do you self-identify racially, ethnically, and/or culturally? What do the words you use to describe your race mean to you? Why did you choose them? How do these labels impact your identity as a person of faith?
Read: John 9:1-34
As he walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents?” Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned.”
Inhale: From generation to generation
Exhale: you are God.
Describe your ancestral lineage. What do you know about where your ancestors are from?