Susan and H worked very closely over the past few years. Susan served as the Moderator of our church for an extended period of time, until the very last day of 2012. She works as an accountant for a cancer center in Lincoln, and she teaches Sunday School to children in our church. Susan grew up in New York, and now is a die-hard Cornhusker fan.
1. What was your experience with race when you were growing up? What did your family teach you about people who were of a different race? What did your church teach? Your friends? Your school?
I had very little contact with people of other races as I was growing up. We lived in a community that was not integrated. My family, however, always stressed the importance of treating everyone with respect no matter their race or religion. We were not allowed to use any kind of racial slur. I didn’t learn those words until I went to college. And I was shocked. The church and school were all white and race was never talked about that I can remember.
2. From your perspective, can you tell the story of how the congregation has changed (racially, ethnically, culturally) over the past eight years? What does an African-American pastor bring to the congregation that might be unique? What things were easy to adjust to? What things have been more difficult?
The congregation has become more diverse since Harry has been the Pastor. Before, we were diverse in age and disabilities but not in race. We had 1 or 2 people of color. Having an African American Pastor has brought a different perspective just as having a Jewish Pastor (just prior to Harry) brought a different flavor to the service. Harry is much more passionate in his style and I like it. We have
had the opportunity to change the music we sing and have a more diverse selection. I like that, too. None of it was hard to adjust to. It all seemed so natural. We have more racial and ethnic diversity in the congregation and I think that is due to Harry. I love that! We have made a better connection to the Chinese congregation and we have been handed the Karen congregation. I’m not sure most people in the English congregation know what to do with either group.
3. What is the benefit of the ICU group? What have you learned about race as a result of being part of this group? What have you learned about yourself? What has surprised you the most, with regard to what you’ve learned about yourself?
I’m not sure how to answer that question. I think the group started out great. We shared and talked about what we were going to do and we really haven’t done anything. We have done things as individuals but we have made little or no impact on the congregation as a whole. That disappoints me a bit.
I have learned from you, Dee, what it was like for you growing up. The prejudices that exist within the black community that I was not aware of. And the acts of discrimination you experienced and maybe still experience made me sad and angry.
What I learned about myself, that I probably already knew, was that I am impatient for change and I am impatient with those who don’t change.
4. Can you tell the story of a turning point in your thoughts about race and the church? What about race and life in America?
I don’t think there was an ah-ha moment for me. My brother was involved in the civil rights movement in the ’60s when Dr. King was working. So I have always been aware. Since I took the IDI, I have maybe been more sensitive to cultural differences and more aware of the impact of my actions.