All-Parish Read Digs Beyond Skin-Deep

August 02, 2018
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The parishioners of St. Tim’s examined issues of race, racism and white privilege during a spring All-Parish-Read Event of Jodi Picoult’s Small Great Things, sponsored by the parish’s Ministry of Racial Reconciliation (MORR) group.

Small Great Things, which is fiction based on an actual event, centers around the tragic, unexpected death of a newborn of white supremacist parents, who is cared for by an African American registered nurse.

“Ms. Picoult is a very popular author, who addresses contemporary issues,” says MORR member and project originator, Jan O’Neil. “I thought that based on that alone, we’d have a good turnout, but parish interest and commitment to this project went far beyond my expectations.”

The MORR Committee handed out 50 library-borrowed and donated copies of Picoult’s novel during a March ‘kick-off’ call to read during weekend services. Other parishioners purchased their own copies or borrowed from friends.

In mid-April, MORR hosted a discussion of the novel at St. Tim’s. “We had 44 parishioners, plus seven guests from St. Martin's, join us for a light supper, small group discussion of issues raised by the book, and group activities,” says All Read event leader Leslie Corey. “It was the largest turn-out for a MORR book discussion that we’ve ever had.”

She adds, “The book clearly intrigued our readers. Some of them said that they began the book assuming that they had a firm grasp on issues of race, racism and white privilege. And with each turn in the plot, their grasp on what they knew slipped a little and was reformed.”

“As you can well imagine the personal testimonies and witnessing ranged in subject matter, depth, substance and tension. And all of which was good,” says Corey. “Every conversation about race is valuable.”

The Ministry considers the All-Parish-Read of Small Great Things to be an important stepping stone for MORR. The collective reading and the enthusiastic parish response supports one of MORR’s key goals: To expand the race narrative to a broader segment of St Tim’s while respecting one of MORR’s guiding principles of doing so in a caring and loving manner; respecting and meeting people where they are.

St Tim’s Ministry of Racial Reconciliation is one of seven racial justice teams operating in the Diocese of Missouri under the guidance of the Commission on Dismantling Racism, chaired by Deacon Chester Hines, Jr.

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