Grace UMC Sherman Shares Its Congregational Journey Toward Racial Justice

Frank Drenner

Rev. Frank Drenner: "We must learn to not fear people who are different and be able to work together for positive change."

When the founding members of Grace UMC Sherman started the church in 1972, they were interested in an “alternative” church – a very open, welcoming church, with a less formal form of worship. They wanted a strong emphasis on involving children, youth and all laity in the work and worship. 

Mission and outreach to those in need has long been important components of the ministry of Grace UMC Sherman. All members are a vital part of the mission and outreach to community, country and world.

I am passionate about justice and following our calling of what does the Lord require of us … "To act justly and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God." Shortly after the murder of George Floyd, the Church Council was challenged about what we could do about injustices that were occurring in our community and country. This initiated the our Justice Ministry. 

Being a pilot church in the North Texas Conference's Congregational Journey Toward Racial Justice has helped us to form our justice ministry and move forward with racial justice as our initial focus. The Journey Toward Racial Justice has shaped a framework for us with its workbook as a foundation with the flexibility to tailor our efforts to the needs of our congregation and community.

Our JTRJ team participated in the Cultural Competency training conducted by Rev. April Johnson Bristow and Rev. Adam Young. We recommend it to other churches participating in the pilot. The SELFIE model is important for the work of racial justice efforts.

Our team is preparing for the congregational survey and also taking a look at the conversations we will have within our congregation based on the survey results.  

We plan to widen our congregational understanding of biblical justice and the importance of what and why God is calling us to do. Our JTRJ team continues to practice having difficult conversations on topics of racial justice and how important spoken words can be. 

Our team has learned that the process involves more “baby steps” than expected — the time for our team to develop rapport and to collaborate effectively, finding a direction and laying a foundation for this work in a congregation.

We continue to learn how to talk with others who don’t agree with our perspective. We also would like to emphasize how important it is for all cultures to be acknowledged and appreciated. 

We are excited to be planning for conversations with leaders in our community and with agencies, and to, potentially, get partners (churches, organizations, etc.) to join this effort. We look forward to this journey of communicating and spreading these efforts for racial justice throughout our congregation and  community. 

Our JTRJ team is involved with supporting Sherman's effort to place a historical commemorative marker on the grounds at the county courthouse. 

There are many people in our community that do not know about the 1930 lynching of George Hughes, the white mobs that stormed the Grayson County courthouse, and burned it to the ground to get to Hughes. They hanged him in the black business district, which they destroyed along with many black-owned homes. Racism isn’t overt in Grayson County. It is here, but it is "hidden." We have much work to do!

Ultimately, we need to listen with our heart, mind and with the power of God’s Holy Spirit enabling us to see beyond what appears on the surface to see what truly is.

Rev. Frank Drenner is the senior pastor at Grace UMC Sherman.

Published: Wednesday, June 16, 2021