Conversations can be a bridge to understanding one another. Listening is a primary step toward opening dialogue.
Short North Church, birthed out of North Broadway United Methodist Church in Columbus, has a tradition of sharing stories to see the sacredness in each other. Recently, members lived out that tradition on the social media platform, Instagram: #CourageousconversationsofInstagram.
Kathryn McCarty, a native of Hilliard and a West Ohio Conference intern assigned to both churches, created two Instagram posts: one for listening and the other for live dialogue.
Listening to Stories of Lament and Hope
People familiar to the Short North family shared their stories to help listeners gain a better understanding of what individuals of color lament over and where they see hope in this time of racial division.
“I lament over the denomination I love that has been ready to split over LBGTQ rights for clergy but is slow to make a concentrated demonstration regarding racism, sexism and classism,” said the Rev. Donnetta Peaks.
Short North Church member Chanel Ellison, 26, lamented over black mothers grieving and what it takes to maintain emotions to be strong. “It’s not easy,” she admitted.
Curtis Reed and his family shared their lament in words written on large cue cards for viewers to read. Such issues as redlining, mass incarceration and systematic racism were quietly displayed to communicate sadness.
In hurt, hope was seen. Young adults speaking out against systematic racism, people reading anti-racist material and uncomfortable conversations being initiated hinted of a better tomorrow.
Dialoguing Through Courageous Conversations
To connect with the Short North Church family, McCarty once again relied on social media. With COVID-19 limiting contact with the community, she believed that members could get to know her on Instagram.
For this project, McCarty, a white college student, partnered with Ellison, who is black. With roots in the Short North District, Ellison welcomed this opportunity as she always felt valued and appreciated by Short North Church.
Promoted in advance to get questions, the 35-minute live conversation was shared later as part of the Sunday sermon. Beginning with prayer, the two women shared moments in their lives when they felt courageous.
Ellison said she feels courageous whenever she speaks up when she would normally be quiet, fearing what others think. She recalled a time when she approached the Rev. Amy Aspey, pastor of Short North Church, about ideas to celebrate Black History Month.
Ellison’s ideas were received and implemented. “When something is constantly in your mind, you can’t escape it,” she said. “You must speak on it. It was a happy moment. I was grateful.”
McCarty told of her struggle with mental health when she felt very alone. Fearing her parents would think she was “broken” and afraid to ask for help, McCarty was encouraged by her friend to seek help anyway. She talked with her parents. “That begin my courage in caring for my mental health first,” she said.
Viewers shared their courageous moments during the live event. Their moments included getting tested for COVID-19, risking family plans being ruined, having uncomfortable conversations about race and other equality issues, and setting boundaries with family and friends with relationship changes at stake.
Short North Church modeled courage by being open to conversations that may make people uncomfortable. May the hope that springs from these conversations fuel us all to take the same risk.