Reconciliation recommendations for worship

February 4, 2021
Megan Ramer and Beth Peachey | Special to Canadian Mennonite

(Photo by Daniel Tseng/Unsplash)

(Photo by Daniel Tseng/Unsplash)

In an Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary course for worship leaders engaging the new Voices Together hymnal, we were asked to consider the following question for an assignment:

How can our congregaton's worship focus more on justice and racial reconciliation?
We found some resonance in our respective responses and collaborated to share them more broadly. We offer these suggestions not as a comprehensive list, but as a starting point for congregations who are considering this very same question.

We are two white women, writing from the context of majority-white congregations, with white pastoral leadership. This blog post is written both from and for that specific context.

1. Amplify the voices of Black people, Indigenous people and people of colour (BIPOC) in our worship: choose songs, images and prayers written by BIPOC siblings in faith.

  • commit to this practice throughout the year, not just for occasions such as World Communion Sunday or Black History Month
  • be aware of including race when describing an author or composer — if we include race when talking about BIPOC authors/composers, we should include race when talking about white authors/composers — this is important for interrupting the pattern of treating whiteness and white people as the 'norm'
  • avoid tokenizing and appropriation

2. Cede the pulpit to BIPOC preachers (Zoom church has made this even more accessible!); be sure to follow up with collective discernment about how their preaching calls us white folks and majority-white communities to action. Do not only ask BIPOC preachers to preach on racial justice. Instead, explicitly affirm that your community wants to hear whatever word they are called to preach. 

3. Preach informed by theologies that emerge from marginalized communities: womanist and feminist theology, queer theology, Black liberation theology, Latinx liberation theology, Palestinian liberation theology, and other liberation theologies of many and varied stripes!

4. Use expansive language and images in worship (in essence, don't teach white Jesus)

  • share books with children that show a wide variety of characters, including race, gender, ability, etc. — be explicit in noticing and naming differences with children
  • help children (and adults!) to imagine the many beautiful faces of God
  • use songs and worship resources that name and celebrate diverse images of God and humans
  • feature art that uses racially diverse images of Jesus and other people in the Bible

5. Honour the Indigenous peoples on whose unceded land we live and gather

  • in word:
    • speak land acknowledgements in worship and other gatherings
      • this is a way to honour the generations of Indigenous stewardship of the land, name the violence of colonialism, and offer opportunities to live in repaird relationship with the local Indigenous community
      • this map can help you identify your local tribes, and this article could be a helpful resource in your planning
    • pray for your local first peoples
  • in deed:
    • commit to ongoing relationships with your local tribe(s)
    • provide regular opportunities for reparative action and/or engagement with their events, efforts and requests of allies
    • invite households and/or your congregation to contribute financially to the first peoples of your land (for example Real Rent Duwamish in Seattle, Wash.)

6. Support BIPOC-led movements in your local community

  • in word:
    • post signs
    • resist white silence by speaking out in support of your local BIPOC-led movements, and against racism in its many forms
    • incorporate prayers for these movements into worship
  • in deed:
    • contribute offerings and designate church funds to the Movement for Black Lives and other BIPOC-led organizations organizing for justice, including those led by immigrants and refugees in our communities
    • look for opportunities to be in meaningful relationships with BIPOC neighbours and churches, by following the lead of these communities

7. Examine the whiteness and internalized white supremacy of your church community

  • do an anti-racism audit of the church
    • there are many organizations that facilitate these types of processes
    • this list compiled by Mennonite Church USA is a great place to start
  • have a series of discussions about the implications of the audit for worship
  • create an action plan
  • watch out for "white saviour complex" in worship, especially in how we talk about communities of colour in North America and people around the world

8. Learn from our mistakes

  • listen carefully when corrected or called out
  • seek to repair harm done
  • take the opportunity to learn more 
  • change our actions in the future

Megan Ramer is the lead pastor at Seattle Mennonite Church in Seattle, Wash. Beth Peachey is a teacher who participates in worship and music leading at Chicago Community Mennonite Church in Chicago, Ill. This article originally appeared at


(Photo by Daniel Tseng/Unsplash)

Author Name: 
Megan Ramer and Beth Peachey
Title / Organization: 
Special to Canadian Mennonite
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