Meet: The Reparations Task Force

At the 236th Annual Convention of the Episcopal Church in Connecticut, Resolution #7 called on the bishops to create a “Reparations Task Force.” After soliciting applications from individuals in parishes across ECCT, the bishops are honored to introduce to you the members of the newly gathered “Reparations Task Force.” (In alphabetical order.)

Resolved, that this Convention direct the bishops to create a task force whose membership will consist of a majority of clergy and laity of color, with an invitation to all clergy of color canonically resident in ECCT to serve on the task force, in order to study and make specific recommendations to the 237th Convention as to reparations by ECCT and individual Parishes, Worshipping Communities, and Intentional Episcopal Communities in partial compensation for 400 years of discrimination and bias based on race.

From Resolution #7

The Rev. Whitney Altopp

Rector, St. Stephen’s, Ridgefield

The Rev. Whitney Altopp

I’m particularly cognizant of how past policies have robbed Black Americans of benefits which increase exponentially through the generations.  Ministering in a community which is predominantly white and keenly aware of the effort they’ve undertaken to reach their station of life, I’m looking forward to enlisting them in the work envisioned by our Reparations Task Force.   Intense and dedicated work is going to be required in an effort to make up for lost time.  A prosperous and fruitful future directly relates to this effort.  I look forward to serving this team with my creative thinking, my joy of breaking a big idea into actionable items, and my gift of perseverance.

The Rev. Mark Byers

Priest-in-Charge, St. Andrew’s, Meriden

Mark Byers

I’m interested in doing this work because I believe God wants for all of us to be reconciled with one another, and reconciliation can’t come without being truthful about our history and how it still affects us to this day. Scripture describes how both blessings and sin can continue to impact us across generations, and without self-examination and amendment of life, we remain in subjugation to the same evils that plagued our ancestors, including systemic racism. The power of God is at work through our church to continue this ministry of truth and reconciliation and I want to be part of it. 

The Rev. Darryl C. Burke

Priest-in-Charge, Trinity Church, Portland

The Rev. Darryl C. Burke

I am a retired educator who has spent many years helping young people in successfully navigating the precarious path of being Black in America.  I am also a trained facilitator in the National Church’s Anti-Racism curriculum, training and workshops.  Consequently, I have served on teams conducting such trainings throughout the state. I have a moral commitment to serving as a vehicle for promoting racial equity.  I recognize the primary role that reconciliation must serve in these efforts, and I pray that the Reparations Task Force will permit me to continue these efforts.  I look forward to discerning where the Holy Spirit will guide us in these efforts.

The Rev. Dr. Donald L. Hamer

Retired, Chaplain to Retired Clergy and Spouses
Co-convener, Practical Action Steps Task Force for Racial Justice

Donald Hamer

I feel called to serve because my life experience teaches me that this work is crucial to our life together as the Body of Christ. As a member of Nativity Church in Washington, D.C. for more than 10 years, and as Rector of Trinity Hartford for 15, I know what it is to have 11 a.m. Sunday morning NOT be the most segregated time of the week, and it is a beautiful thing. Those experiences have also opened my heart and mind to the legacy of 400 years of white supremacy, racism and anti-Black bias and the unspeakable pain and suffering they have caused directly to people of color, and in a broader sense to society and the church. A focus on reconciliation, justice and healing should be a part of our work together.

The Rev. Shancia Jarrett

Curate, Christ Church, Greenwich

As a newly ordained priest, I am interested in the church’s initiatives for reparations and outreach ministries. Through prior experiences in government and religious settings, I discovered that reparations without educational awareness transpire into outlandish debates which further intensify racial tensions and obstruct economic interests. Therefore, my contributions seek to support functional languages, such as providing statistical research and practical facts in the economics of racism and to develop practical approaches toward reparations.

The Rev. Rowena Kemp

Rector, Grace, Hartford
Co-convener, ECCT’s Racial Healing, Justice & Reconciliation (RHJR) Ministry Network

Rowena Kemp

“May their memory be a blessing.  This is a customary phrase shared by Jews when someone dies.  It implies it is up to those who bear their memory to keep their goodness alive. We do this by remembering them.  We do this by speaking their names and we do this by carrying on their legacy.”  For those who have been victims of the Transatlantic Slave Trade, Jim Crow laws,  systemic racism, white supremacy, and anti-black bias, we say, “May their memory be a blessing.”  We can not put a price on past suffering and oppression.  However, what we can do is tell their stories, tell the whole truth of their stories and our complicity in it, and find intentional ways to lament, repent and seek forgiveness.  Only then, can we in some way restore the humanity of those we have all deemed less than human and give them their dignity.  For me, this is reparation and this is the work, I feel called to in this season of my life and faith!

The Rev. Tracy Johnson Russell

Rector, St. Monica’s, Hartford
Member, RHJR Ministry Network
Convener of the ECCT Clergy of Color Caucus

The Rev. Tracy Johnson Russell

The Episcopal Church in Connecticut has been the setting of my participation in God’s mission for 39 years.  My versatile involvement in our diocesan community has given me a robust understanding of our common life together.   This understanding, and my experience in racial justice and advocacy work, has compelled me to get involved in our efforts to dismantle systemic racism, white supremacy and anti-Black bias in our organization, our state and in the world.   I feel called to this holy work because I believe it is important that as ECCT endeavors to live into the spirit of Resolution #7, we must examine the history of our congregations and their complicity with systemic oppression.   Repent of the harm done to communities that have suffered because of systemic racism, while actively participating in efforts of repair, restoration, and reconciliation that will lead us to fully live into being the “Beloved Community.” 

Cheryl Sharp

Member, St. Peter’s, Cheshire

Cheryl Sharp

I am a lifelong Episcopalian and a member of St. Peter’s Episcopal church.  I served on the vestry at St. Peter’s church for three years.  I am also a civil right attorney, activist and advocate.  I have been called to do this work because equity and equality is so crucial at this time in our history.  People of faith will be the trailblazers that will lead our nation, with swift action and kind deeds.  I am honored to serve with a group of spiritual leaders who aim to tackle centuries of systemic wrongdoings that have stained our nation. I believe this journey will be transformative.

Dick Shriver

Member, St. Ann’s, Old Lyme

Dick Shriver

When I read about the Reparations Task Force, I was engaged in an effort to bring capital to worthwhile projects to the 1,000 members of Connecticut’s Black Business Alliance; these businesses are demonstrably not getting a fair share of capital from existing financial institutions. One approach to this problem could offer the key benefits of reparations without divisive negatives. 

The United States helped bring capital and wealth to 500 million people emerging from the darkness of communism where, prior to USSR’s collapse, it had been against the law not to be poor.  That program, of which I was a part, offers powerful lessons for today.  It was politically defensible, economically justified and, importantly, sustainable.  I believe the compassionate and generous people of Connecticut, of all colors, with leadership from ECCT, can begin to accomplish the same for its underserved, deserving Black citizens … soon. I look forward to learning much.

Valarie Stanley

Member, St. Luke’s, New Haven
Core Team member, RHJR Ministry Network

Valarie Stanley

I moved to Connecticut many years ago and was hired by Yale University. Months later I moved to the Office that was to do Affirmative Action. All I knew was it had something to do with righting the wrongs that had been done to women and people of color in employment. Today I am Senior Director of the Office of Institutional Equity and Access in phased retirement. While on the Mission Council, I became involved in racial, healing, justice, and reconciliation work. As part of the Ministry Network Core team, serving on this Task Force seems like the logical next step!

The Rev. Deacon Ronald Steed

Deacon, most recently at St. James’, Preston and Grace, Yantic

Ronald Steed

I serve full time at the New London Homeless Hospitality Center, one of the most innovative homeless shelters in New England, and recently completed my first Deacon assignment at St. James, Preston, and Grace Church, Yantic.  From my view, there is a deep need for storytelling (our own and our communities), for healing of intergenerational trauma, for the healing of the Spirits of organizations (such as Parishes) who, as created beings, also carry the trauma of their history into the hearts of their members.  I feel a call to be a midwife… to help ECCT give birth to reparation approaches that help us to heal the trauma of racism and form beloved communities where we can flourish with one another.  When our collective gifts are interwoven and actualized with those of others who are called to this work, mighty things are possible!  

Lisa Yarbor

Member, St. Luke’s, New Haven
Core Team member, RHJR Ministry Network

I believe that reparations are an important step towards not just the United States as a whole, but also the Episcopal Church claiming/owning up to their complicity in the oppression of African Americans for 400+ years, not only for financial gain, but for personal advantage as well. I believe reparations should come in the form of wealth-building opportunities that address racial disparities in health, education, housing, and business ownership, and look forward to the opportunity of bringing my thoughts/ideas to the table.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Pam Strobel says:

    Terrific! Prayers for success beyond measure!

  2. John Tuthill says:

    “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin,
    but by the content of their character.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

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