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Repairing the Breach

A Resource for exploring our history with racism in Southern Virginia.

Visit our Racial Healing Workshop page for important information, updates, and registration.

"Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt;
   you shall raise up the foundations of many generations;
you shall be called the repairer of the breach,
   the restorer of streets to live in. "

The sin of slavery thrived in Virginia and the sin of racism continues to infect and hamper the people and parishes of the Diocese of Southern Virginia.

How do we reach a place of material and relational reconciliation and spiritual healing that will lead us to new life in Christ? This study guide, together with the accompanying video, is prepared for use in its entirety in parish communities.  The Repairers of the Breach Task Force trust that it provides a structure and resources to understand the past and present influence of slavery and racism upon us as individuals, congregations, and a broader community of faith across the Diocese.

 

The process involves sharing individual members’ stories, emphasizing how and where individual views and beliefs concerning racism were forged, challenged and/or repudiated by family, friends and culture.  We hope this method will prove invaluable in identifying and understanding how personal and institutional racism harmed each of us in the past and has served to maintain the breach.

The Repairers of the Breach Task Force will offer trained facilitators to assist parishes and/or convocations in using this material. Contact the diocesan office if you wish to avail yourself of this service.

Repairing the Breach Study Guide

A resource for exploring our history with Racism in the Diocese of Southern Virginia
PDF

diosova repairing the breach video

A collection of conversation and interviews with members of the diocese and their experiences.
Video

Celebrating Black History Month and the Afro-Latino Spirit

Afro-Latinos are part of the Latino/x community and are "characterized by their diverse views of racial identity, reflecting the complex and varied nature of race and identity among Latinos." As part of the celebration of Black History Month, Padre Mario Melendez (chaplain for the Latino/x Ministry in the Diocese of Southern Virginia) shares some thoughts about the Afro-Latino spirit.

Reflections on Juneteenth

The Repairers of the Breach have invited one of our newest members, Dr. Renee Escoffery-Torres, to offer some reflections about Juneteenth as it approaches, as well as some suggestions for how to mark and honor the day. Dr. Escoffery-Torres has been engaged in various lay leadership roles in the Diocese of Southern Virginia. She currently serves as a member of the vestry at St. Cyprian’s, is the Vice President of the Diocesan Episcopal Church Women (ECW), as well as the Parliamentarian for ECW in Province III. In addition, she is a member of The Association for the Study of African American Life and History.

"White Fragility" Book Study

When the Repairers of the Breach group originally announced plans to begin a book study of White Fragility by Robin J. DiAngelo we indicated that recordings of the Zoom gatherings would be made available. Our thought was to make the discussion experience widely available to the diocese. Unfortunately, we failed to realize that recording the gatherings might hinder meaningful discussion that the book inspires. As a result, we will not be sharing recordings of the book study discussions. We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused. If you are reading the book individually, click the link to download the reading guide to help you on your journey through the book.

Observing Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Martin Luther King Jr. Day is set aside to honor his accomplishments as a leader, minister, gifted speaker and civil rights activist. As you consider how best to mark the day to honor Dr. King - reflect on the often quoted words of Coretta Scott King that appeared in 1983 in The Washington Post as she highlighted her vision for the observance of the holiday: "The holiday must be substantive as well as symbolic. It must be more than a day of celebration...Let this holiday be a day of reflection, a day of teaching nonviolent philosophy and strategy, a day of getting involved in nonviolent action for social and economic progress." Click the link for two MLK Day videos produced by The Salt Project (www.saltproject.org).

Dear Fellow Repairers of the Breach,

On Ash Wednesday Bishop Haynes asked us to commit to becoming a church actively engaged in building a more just and peaceful world as well as a church praying for it. She was writing in the immediate aftermath of bomb threats made against Norfolk State University, Hampton University, and countless other historically Black colleges and universities, and the invasion of Ukraine, violence which has continued unabated in the weeks since. She also asked us to examine the ways we support, benefit from or turn a blind eye to oppression and violence.

In a speech at the Mall in Washington on June 19, 1968, just over ten weeks after her husband’s assassination, Coretta Scott King suggested a wider context for such self-examination and repentance. “I remind you that starving a child is violence,” she said. “Suppressing a culture is violence. Neglecting school children is violence. Punishing a mother and her child is violence. Discrimination against a working man is violence. Ghetto housing is violence. Ignoring medical needs is violence. Contempt for poverty is violence. Even the lack of willpower to help humanity is a sick and sinister form of violence.”

What does it mean to be “a repairer of the breach”? Our committee was created by Diocesan Council in 2010 to enable the people of the Diocese of Southern Virginia to live into Isaiah’s call. Since then many individuals and parishes have undertaken the journey of spiritual formation to acknowledge and begin to heal the injustice in ourselves and in our communities. Many of us have participated in Sacred Ground circles, book studies, pilgrimages and partnerships with local organizations working for a safer, kinder, more equitable and more just world.

We want to hear the stories of how you and your congregation have been seeking to become the beloved community, in large and small ways. We’re also working with Dr. Catherine Meeks of the Absalom Jones Center for Racial Healing to develop our own diocesan racial healing workshop, and with the Office of Indigenous Ministries to honor and strengthen our relationships with our Native siblings. Stay tuned for announcements about the launch of these new initiatives in coming months.

Meanwhile, we can notice and honor and tend what Coretta Scott King calls the “undergirding fabric of love, understanding, justice, and peace,” the fabric that violence, and the threat of violence, seeks to destroy. If we see something, we can say something. We can remember that as Gwendolyn Brooks writes, “we are each other’s harvest: we are each other’s business: we are each other’s magnitude and bond.” May we all be repairers of the breach.

-Repairers of the Breach Task Force

April 11, 2022

Additional Resources

SPEAKER SERIES - Repair & Restore: Uncovering the Racist Past of Your Church and Finding a Path Forward

Presented March 23, 2021. Imagine working at church only to find out via genealogical research that the family of the man who founded the church had enslaved your family’s ancestors! During this program the Rev. Natalie Conway, shares her story as well as the work that she and the Rev Grey Maggiano have been engaged in over the past five years, as Memorial Episcopal Church in Baltimore Maryland, has sought to uncover and process its racist past, and move forward as a community that seeks atonement, reconciliation and resurrection.

The Rev. Grey Maggiano, rector, and The Rev. Natalie Conway, deacon, briefly summarize the work Memorial has done, and more importantly provide a path for your congregation/community to process its past in a healthy, holistic and sacred manner that can lead to real change. Click here to watch the recording.

SPEAKER SERIES - “Unlawful for Any Christian”? Slave-owning Anglican and Episcopal Churches in Early Virginia

Presented September 29, 2020. A talk by Dr. Jennifer Oast, professor of history at Bloomsburg University and author of Institutional Slavery: Slaveholding Churches, Schools, Colleges, and Businesses in Virginia, 1680-1860 (Cambridge, 2016), entitled her talk “Unlawful for Any Christian”? Slave-owning Anglican and Episcopal Churches in Early Virginia.”  Anglican parishes were the first institutions in Virginia to own slaves, which were acquired initially through donations and later through deliberate purchase.

 

The parishes became the masters of slaves with little hesitation; while one eighteenth-century minister declared he thought it was “unlawful for any Christian and in particular for a clergyman” to employ slaves, his view was the minority one in the early eighteenth century, when few Englishmen, either in the colonies or back in England, questioned the existence or morality of slavery. The Anglicans’ success with institutional slaveholding sent Virginians the message that not only was slaveholding not “unlawful” for a Christian, but that it could be of great benefit to them.

 

This talk explores how slavery was used and thought about in Anglican and Episcopal parishes. It also examines the lives of individual African Americans who were enslaved to the churches. Click here to watch a recording.

A Reconciliation Resource for November Liturgies on Healing the Sin of Racism

Repentance, Reconciliation and Healing: A liturgical resource for congregations” – Following the format of Holy Women, Holy Men, this booklet offers several options for readings and psalms.

Annual Council Resolution R-1 resolved that “November 2, 2014, All Souls Day will be designated as the ‘Day of Repentance and Reconciliation’ in the Diocese of Southern Virginia and parishes will annually hold this observance during the octave of All Saints.”

If you need further assistance or have questions, please contact Canon Lynn Farlin, lfarlin@diosova.org or 757-213-3377.

Service of Repentance, Reconciliation & Healing

A diocesan service was held November 2, 2013 at Christ & St. Luke’s, Norfolk.

Click here to watch video of the service.

Click here for the Order of Service.

Click here to read Bishop Hollerith’s Formal Apology on Behalf of the Diocese of Southern Virginia.