The Therefore Project
Response to racism
I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.Romans 12:1-2
What is the Therefore Project?
In September 2020, following the re-emergence of racism to a greater consciousness on our nation -- through new, prominent cases of Black people killed by police officers and by the disproportionately poor outcomes of COVID-19 borne by those of color -- the Session created The Therefore Project to lead and evaluate Westminster's past and present as a congregation concerning racial issues.
This special committee of Session and congregation members will discern, consider, and propose changes concerning any aspects of our life as a congregation that would seek to provide constructive movement toward the ideals that every human being is created "in the image of God," and that would seek to respect and perhaps strengthen the diversity of viewpoints and perspectives within the Session or congregation.
In addition, as a church, we continue to encourage and celebrate the many individuals in the congregation who seek to alleviate racial injustice in ways visible and invisible, public and private.
Westminster and the Civil Rights Movement
The Therefore Committee developed nine recommendations, which the Session adopted in full on June 23, 2021. One of the recommendations called for the church to write a history of Westminster relative to race. The report below fulfills that recommendation.
In chronicling Westminster’s history as it relates to the civil rights movement, this research project endeavors to present as honest an interpretation of these events as possible given the resources and information available. Some terms that are offensive relative to the standards and sensibilities of 2022 are used here in specific quotations in order to reflect accurately the original source material. Some statements can be jarring and painful to read today, particularly given that they were spoken from the Westminster pulpit.
Westminster Presbyterian Church and its congregation have—in some cases but not always—responded to the struggle for civil rights over the years. There is much work to do—both as a congregation and as individual members. The content of the next chapter in that journey is taking shape now.
Therefore Project Presentation Series
During the 2021-2022 program year, the Therefore Committee hosted a series of Sunday presentations. The presentations covered a range of subjects including the history of Westminster relative to race, and the legacy of inequity in education caused by housing segregation.
History of the Project
Therefore Project Committee
To ensure the Therefore Committee would be as representative as possible and well-established for success, the nominating committee for the Therefore Project - Mary Filicetti, Sue Aland, and Tim Shaw - developed a set of guidelines for its membership search. The Therefore Project nominating team selected individuals with past and/or current leadership experience at Westminster who would also represent a range of genders, ages, political beliefs, professional backgrounds, and, to the extent possible, ethnicities.
The team also consulted additional individuals who contributed valuable experience and perspectives to the committee. These people include, but are not limited to, Westminster staff and members with law enforcement ties. With this background, the members of the Therefore Project Committee are:
Whit Ayres (Co-Chair, appointed by Session)
Anne Ledyard (Co-Chair, appointed by Session)