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No such thing as neutral

Young Adult Volunteers prepare to ‘do the hard work’ of dismantling white supremacy

by the Rev. Blair Moorhead | Mission Crossroads

Washington, D.C.-based Young Adult Volunteers at “Beyoncé Mass” at the Kennedy Center. The event explored the struggle, survival and spirituality of Black women. (Contributed photo)

WASHINGTON, D.C. — This is it. The hard conversation. You’re prepared to lead your church group in the difficult work of antiracism. You’ve researched the perfect book. You’ve got the webinar cued up. You have your difficult but necessary questions prepared. But have you done your own work?

Presbyterian churches, groups and mission colleagues are doing the year of service. We continue tackling white supremacy throughout the year, through lived experiences of the Young Adult Volunteers in their respective locations, through engagement in justice work, and in communal conversation as an intentional community.

At the Washington, D.C., site, this means exploring the way housing policy has shaped the racial makeup of neighborhoods in the district. It means YAVs working with organizations like Service Never Sleeps to become better allies and bring equity conversations and change to the forefront in local organizations, including National Capital Presbytery. It will mean tackling how white supremacy showed up to storm our Capitol and threaten our neighbors. And it means doing the tough personal work to identify how white supremacy has affected the YAVs’ lives.

YAVs in Washington, D.C., discuss allyship and the work of antiracism. (Photo by Blair Moorhead)

As the D.C. site coordinator and as a mission director at a local church, I help facilitate these conversations on a regular basis. And I must continually ask the question: Have I done my own work? It is very possible to hide behind the role of “neutral facilitator” to avoid having to dive into the messy and challenging waters of confronting the realities of white supremacy in my life.
Perhaps this rings true for other church leaders and members who support fellow congregants in their journey, yet who remain on the sidelines in their own work.

This year, YAV site coordinators have trained with Jessica Vazquez Torres, national program director of Crossroads Antiracism Organizing and Training, who told us: You can’t ask YAVs to do the work you don’t do yourself. We can’t partner with YAVs as they strive to dismantle white supremacy in their lives if we’re not willing to do the same in our own.

The Rev. Blair Moorhead, an alumna of the Young Adult Volunteer program (Kenya, 2007–08), serves as site coordinator for the Washington, D.C., YAV site. She is also director of mission at Clarendon Presbyterian Church in Arlington, Virginia, where she lives with her husband and child.

There’s no such thing as a neutral facilitator in these hard conversations. Do your work. Encourage one another. And step into the invitation that the YAV program continues to offer: hard work, for a lifetime of change.

Learn more about the YAV program and apply at pcusa.org/yav. Consider making an online gift to support faith in action through the YAV program.

This article is from the Spring 2021 issue of Mission Crossroads magazine, which is printed and mailed free to subscribers’ homes within the U.S. twice a year by Presbyterian World Mission. To subscribe, visit pcusa.org/missioncrossroads.


Creative_Commons-BYNCNDYou may freely reuse and distribute this article in its entirety for non-commercial purposes in any medium. Please include author attribution, photography credits, and a link to the original article. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDeratives 4.0 International License.

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