Deconstructing Racism at FPC: Our Past, Present, and Future

This study interweaves the histories of FPC and Greensboro with a lens toward racial justice. We will start at the beginning of FPC’s life and end by envisioning what is possible for our future. We will celebrate the points in time that our community did the right thing, but we will spend most of our sessions in lament and confession for our missteps and where we have strayed from the gospel of Jesus Christ.

FORMAT: A video presentation will be posted each Monday along with discussion questions and homework, as well as weekly pilgrimage sites and/or prayer walks and resources and readings. Gather for conversation about the week’s topics on Zoom on Sunday or Wednesday.

 

WEEK ONE: Why Are We Here?

Senior Pastor Jill Duffield and Rev. Keith Dove introduce the study with this video.

 

 

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

    •  People often argue that the church is “getting too political” when it gets involved in anti-racist work. How is our work actually rooted in our faith?
    •  After reading Matthew 25, where can we find Christ in our community? As Presbyterians, we “stand where the Lord stands.” Where is the Lord standing?
    •  What makes the church unique in its ability to address racism? What can we rely upon? What sustains this work?
    •  The Confession of 1967 was written to understand how God was at work in a particular time and place. How is God at work here and now?

HOMEWORK

CONVERSATIONS ON ZOOM

    • Sunday, April 18, at 9:30 am, OR 
    • Wednesday, April 21, at noon
    • Contact Yolanda Baxter for the link

 

WEEK TWO: Beginnings

Rev. Keith Dove and Catherine Johns discuss the early history of Greensboro and the founding of FPC by William Paisley in this week’s video. We will lament and confess that our founding is entangled with the sin of slavery, as four of our twelve founding members were enslaved by either Rev. Paisley or other members of the congregation. We will explore the relationship between Greensboro Presbyterians and Quakers (who were abolitionists). Zoom conversations April 25 & 28. 

 

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

    • The sin of slavery was part of FPC’s beginning and founding. How does that affect what we do today? What responsibilities do we have in light of our history?
    • We often use the argument that people were “products of their time” to excuse the faults of our predecessors. However, both slave owners and abolitionists were equally products of their time, and there were known abolitionists in the Greensboro area at the time of FPC’s founding. What do we make of this? What does that do to the “product of their time” argument?
    • Confession is a hallmark of our faith, but people are often wary of confessing the sins of the past. Should we confess the sins of those who came before us? Are we accountable for their sin?
    • How are you feeling in response to learning this information about our history? 

HOMEWORK

    • Watch “Another Such Victory”  video from the Guilford Courthouse National Military Park.
    • Read this text from the plaque in the Tower Room:

FPC COMMEMORATION OF HERITAGE SHARED BY FIRST PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH AND ST. JAMES PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH IN GREENSBORO, N.C. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:28 Among the twelve founding members of First Presbyterian Church of Greensboro in 1824 were these enslaved servants of Rev. Wm. D. Paisley and Robert Carson: Tony Paisley, Molly Paisley, Milly Paisley, Kezia Carson. By 1866 the number of enslaved communicants added to the church roll had grown to 37, as well as Betsy Mitchell listed as “Freed.” That some of our members from inception were enslaved persons saddens us. In 1867 all of our formerly enslaved members, with the exception of Sibby Moderwell, were moved by the Spirit to withdraw from our congregation to establish the St. James Presbyterian Church of Greensboro. On the 29th day of October 2017 as we commemorate the 150th anniversary of the founding of St. James Presbyterian Church, we rejoice in celebrating the faith, courage, strength and triumphs of those forebears in faith who were an integral part of our beginnings. By resolution of the Session of First Presbyterian Church, Greensboro,  August 27, 2017. 

CONVERSATIONS ON ZOOM

    • Sunday, April 25, at 9:30 am, OR 
    • Wednesday, April 28, at noon
    • Contact Yolanda Baxter for the link

 

WEEK THREE: Civil War and Reconstruction

Explore the split between the northern and southern Presbyterian churches over slavery (the split remained until 1983) and look at the role of FPC in the Civil War with excerpts from the diary of Mary Smith, wife of then-pastor Jacob Henry Smith. We will lament that FPC was not a safe place for newly freed slaves to worship and confess our failure to live into the kingdom of God during Reconstruction. Led by members Catherine Johns and Betty K Phipps, with Spiritual Formation Director Donna Chase. Video available starting April 26;  Zoom conversations May 2 & 5. 

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

    • We celebrate the faithful ministry, service and legacy of the Smith family to FPC and Greensboro and yet like the Paisleys, the Smiths owned slaves. How do we understand this part of our church’s pastoral leadership in terms of the sin of slavery? How do you think this may have impacted the church at the time and us now?  
    • How did Catherine’s explanation of the difference in 18th and 19th century slavery in NC impact your thinking? How might viewing another as less than justify the idea of owning another human being as property? 
    • The lynching of Eugene Hairston in Guilford County is part of a Remembrance project in Greensboro. Why is it important to remember these horrible acts of violence and injustice in our city and state? 
    • FPC committed to the Civil war effort by turning its large church space into a makeshift hospital for wounded Confederate soldiers. The church also melted its bell into bullets for the cause and Rev. Smith served as a Confederate chaplain ministering to the wounded, dying and their families. What may have been the positive and negative consequences in the community of these actions by the church? 

HOMEWORK

CONVERSATIONS ON ZOOM

    • NEW TIME BECAUSE OF BALLPARK SERVICE: Sunday, May 2, at 5:30 pm, OR 
    • Wednesday, May 5, at noon
    • Contact Yolanda Baxter for the link

 

WEEK FOUR:  Jim Crow and Civil Rights

The history of Jim Crow, both at large and in Greensboro, lamenting the lynchings which would regularly occur after Sunday worship services across the South. FPC’s responses to Brown v. Board of Education and the Sit-In Movement. Led by member Mary Eagle with Rev. Keith Dove and Donna Chase. Video here; Zoom conversations Sunday at 9:30 am and Wednesday, May 12, at noon.  If you missed the conversation about week three, there is another opportunity Wednesday at noon on Zoom. Contact Yolanda Baxter for Zoom links.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

    • During the Civil Rights Movement, FPC was known for having great potential, but remaining silent and avoiding conflict. Why do you think that was the case? Do we see any of those tendencies today?
    • Martin Luther King, Jr., wrote that the greatest stumbling block to the Civil Rights Movement was the white moderate. Why was this true? Is it still true?
    • Why is it important to confront the atrocities of the past, such as lynching? How can we ensure that such things never happen again?
    • The Greensboro Sit-in was not the first sit-in, but why was it the first to spark a larger youth-led movement throughout the south?
    • As Presbyterians, we are reformed and always reforming. How can we find hope in the changes of conviction that occurred at FPC? Where do we see need for change today?

HOMEWORK

CONVERSATIONS ON ZOOM

    • Sunday, May 9, at 9:30 am, OR 
    • Wednesday, May 12, at noon
    • Contact Yolanda Baxter for  links

 

WEEK FIVE: The Greensboro Massacre, Black Lives Matter, and the Future

The Greensboro Massacre and the controversy it holds in the community today; the BLM movement and the continuation of police brutality here and across the nation; street art of the summer of 2020 after the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery; and our Service of Reconciliation with Saint James Presbyterian in 2020. Led by members Victoria Alexander, Catherine Johns, and Margaret Arbuckle with Donna Chase. Video available beginning May 10;  Zoom conversations May 16 & 19. 

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

    • Nelson Johnson mentions that one of the most important things we can learn to do in conflict is to “see the humanity in the other”. How do we practice this as part of our faith? What are ways we see the humanity in others in our advocacy work?
    • The 1985 civil suit was the first time ever in our nation’s history the KKK and Nazi Party, the Greensboro Police Department, the FBI, and the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms were found liable for providing firearms and failing to act on prior knowledge they had about violent attacks planned by the Klan and the American Nazi Party, as well as information provided by a GPD and FBI informant. The Greensboro City Council took 41 years to apologize for the role city police and other city personnel played in failing to act on prior knowledge. How does this differ from what we’ve discussed about the Wilmington massacre? How does this reflect previous discussions we’ve had in this course about the importance of admitting when a wrong occurs, no matter how long it’s been? 
    • How do you feel after listening to Gina Franco describe her experience during the Black Lives Matter protest movement of 2020? What do you remember about the protest movement throughout much of the summer last year? How have you seen this work continue into this year?
    • What connections do you see within our community between the Greensboro Massacre, the formation of the Truth and Reconciliation Committee, and the Black Lives Matter protest movement during 2020? What are ways our community and our church have grown? Where do we still see areas we need to work on?

HOMEWORK

    • Take a virtual tour of the Pieces of Now exhibit the Greensboro History Museum has put together.
    • Readings:
      • Death to the Klan march
      • Article on PCUSA Stated Clerk Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson’s sermon at the interfaith service held to commemorate the 40thanniversary of the Greensboro Massacre
      • Greensboro, NC issues historic apology for police complicity in 1979 massacre
      • The Massacre That Spawned the Alt-Right
      • Greensboro Truth and Reconciliation Commission
      • Marcus Smith and City Council resolution
    • Pilgrimage: Greensboro Massacre Commemorative Plaque, Pieces of Now Exhibit at Greensboro History Museum (in-person with COVID guidelines or virtually) 

CONVERSATIONS ON ZOOM

    • Sunday, May 16, at 9:30 am, OR 
    • Wednesday, May 10, at noon
    • Contact Yolanda Baxter for  links

 

WEEK SIX: A Future of Racial Justice

Imagine a future of racial justice for our congregation, our town, our state, our nation, and our world, and actions we at FPC can take to work toward that vision.