The mission of the Racial Justice Coordinating Committee (RJCC) is to help First Parish more fully live up to the goals stated in its mission of being welcoming to all and challenging the excesses and injustices of our time.
RJCC began in 2016 as part of First Parish’ Turning Outward initiative. Our congregation’s governing body, the Parish Committee (ParCom), appointed several members to challenge our community to live out our commitment to justice more fully and boldly. Rev. Marta Flanagan suggested we use our unique location in Arlington for public witness and the first Black Lives Matter banner was erected.
While there have been several episodes of vandalism of our banners, that has not deterred us from having at least one banner visible at all times; the town of Arlington counts on First Parish to name the issues that need attention. And RJCC continues leading book group and movie discussions, webinars, and countless discussions around whiteness, white fragility, privilege, bias, microaggressions, cultural appropriations, policing, colonialism, and now slavery and reparations.
RJCC and our Social Justice Program embrace the importance of intersectionality with Indigenous rights and climate justice. Fellow First Parish members are working with Indigenous Tribes to build awareness about past atrocities over land and confront these injustices to heal and move forward toward a more just future. The disproportionate impact of climate change on vulnerable communities drives our climate action working group to take action to support global transformation to eliminate fossil fuel usage.
In January 2023, RJCC established a working group called Reckoning & Repair after Rev. Erica Richmond gave an October sermon, titled, “Knowing Our Own Backyard,” in which she shared her research into the history of what she referred to as First Parish’s “entanglement with slavery.” She told us that several of the 17 wealthier individuals —those who purchased pews to raise the money to establish First Parish in 1739—were enslavers.
We know that First Parish, as part of settler colonial West Cambridge/Arlington, played a role in slavery and in the displacement and genocide of Indigenous people. First Parish is committed to Reckoning with this past and is seeking to Repair these tragic assaults on humanity.
Reckoning & Repair is comprised of 20 First Parish volunteers dedicated to engaging the First Parish congregation in exploring how we can both reckon with our past and offer repair.