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Spokane workshop helps people find ways to respond to hate

Jim CastroLang co-led the workshop and helped plan the Eastern Washington Legislative Conference.

Four leaders guided small group discussions on “Faithful Responses to Hate” in two sessions at the Jan. 27 Eastern Washington Legislative Conference in Spokane.  The first session was to help participants with listening and healing, and the second was about action.  Both focused on building relationships.

The first session focused on clarifying values and supporting each other to have the courage and commitment to respond faithfully to hate. The second session focused on generating ideas for responding to hate and making commitments for action.

The Rev. Jim CastroLang, pastor at First Congregational United Church of Christ in Colville and a member of the Faith Action Network Board, helped organize the legislative conference and the workshop.

Other speakers were Kristine Hoover, director of the Hate Studies Institute and professor in leadership studies at Gonzaga; the Rev. Walter Kendricks, pastor of Morning Star Baptist Church, and president of the Spokane Ministers Fellowship, and Aaron Henderson, long time civil rights professional.

To help people think about faithful responses, the workshop was experiential “because there are no experts,” Jim began.

Then Jim told a story.  He has a “Black Lives Matter” sign is his yard on the lower South Hill.  The house next door was being remodeled.  Last summer one of the workers saw me in the front yard and called me over.  He pointed at the sign.  He said, “All lives matter, don’t they.” 

“I was having a good time in my yard,” Jim said.  “I wondered what to do?  Do I engage?  My head was spinning. I made some responses, asking about him.  Being from a South Side Seattle neighborhood where whites were the minority, he said he experienced reverse racism.

“As I asked what privileges or rights did he lost because of reverse racism, he was called back to work,” Jim said.

“That’s an everyday story of the dilemma we are in and hopefully we find faithful ways to respond to hate,” Jim said.

Aaron said people are 99.9 percent the same genetically.

“Why is there a problem when we are so much alike and our differences are superficial?” he asked. “Many other things that go into who we are that transcend our genetics—our profession, being white collar/blue collar, age, gender, sexual orientation, religion and politics,” he said.  “These things and more make us unique.”

From his work in civil rights, Aaron asked:  “How will we figure how to problem solve?”

To do his job, Aaron has to listen.  So he invited participants into small groups to do an exercise on listening, using pantomime.

“Tell the group in gestures what brought you here, who you are, how you feel, what ate this morning, or what interests you,” he said.  “Be silent and listen with your eyes.”

Walter then shared the idea that changing the direction of the wind takes communication.

“Communication not just talking.  It’s listening.  When I pray, I do not just spew off list to God, but I listen to God for my direction in life, he said. “Listening is a healing way to find and honor values.”

Walter grew up in a small town in Ohio in the 1960s.  His parents—who grew up in Alabama—took his brother and him there in 1962. 

“I remember car rides going off the main highway and down back roads.  I remember feeling afraid and sensed my parents were afraid of something.  Dad, a pastor, kept saying, ‘Everything be all right.’  So one my values is faith: that everything will be all right.

“Why are we so afraid of each talking with each other?” he asked, inviting groups to discuss their core values:  What is faith? What is love, hope, empathy? 

“Values are the essence of who we are,” Walter said, quoting an earlier speaker’s observation: “I can’t be all I can be until you can be all you are meant to be.”

Walter said that “hate comes from ignorance and fear, so it’s important to be in tune with our core values to respond to it.”

Kristine concluded: “We discussed how love, listening and values are manifest, but conversations sometimes go sideways. Even if we don’t get it right, we need to engage with one another, not as experts, but as people who come together in community forming leadership.  We are all leaders.  We can look to each other, not for one individual leader.

“When we are courageous and engage with people, if a conversation goes sideways, we need to grant and receive grace, rather than avoid in uncomfortable spaces.  By entering uncomfortable spaces, learning occurs and grace.”

The Eastern Washington Legislative Conference is organized by the Faith Action Network, The Fig Tree, Catholic Charities of Spokane, NAACP Spokane, the Inland United Methodist District and Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia.

For information, call 509-535-1813 or visit


Pacific Northwest United Church of Christ News © February-March 2018


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