Surprised by Joy

A Report from the Board of Directors

The word “joy” is not often found in a report of three long days of board meetings. As you can see, however, it’s in the title of this summary of the fall meeting of the Alliance Board of directors.

The board met at Baptist Church of the Covenant in Birmingham, Ala., September 26-28 to further the work of the Alliance, focusing primarily on our shared goal of becoming an anti-racist organization. “It was a critical moment for the Board of Directors,” said president Michael-Ray Mathews. “We deepened our commitment to pointing the Alliance in the direction of becoming an anti-racist organization devoted to racial equity and healing in every aspect of our shared life and ministry.”

Since the board's announcement of this work in the spring of 2018, the arc has included in-depth training on antiracism through Crossroads and the development of a Racial Justice Task Force - led by Malu Fairley-Collins and April Baker - to develop a multi-year strategy for the Alliance. At this meeting, our deliberations and commitment were shaped by prophetic calls from staff and board members, a moving immersion experience into the historic civil rights struggle in Birmingham, and our collective workshopping with the Racial Justice Task Force co-conveners.

“It seems that each board engagement since our 2018 announcement has been an opportunity to go deeper and clarify the ‘we’ and the ‘calling’ of this moment. I think we turned a corner together,” reflected Michael-Ray. “I think it is clear that every aspect of our life will be shaped by our collective ‘yes’ to the calling. How we conduct board business. How we shape the budget. How we plan Alliance events and programs. How we make decisions at annual meetings. How we nominate leadership to the board. How we hire staff. How we tell our story to a new generation.”

The board’s time together included a moving report from Michael-Ray, who recently visited our partners in Brazil with an Alliance delegation. His reflection on their time in Brazil deepened this conversation as he invited each board member to reimagine a Novo Aliança - a new Alliance, living into a new covenantal life together. This Novo Aliança we envision is a vibrant, inclusive and prophetic community, where young Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) and white leaders can find a home, opportunity and a shared purpose/mission.

Honest conversations about race are not easy. We wrestled with hard, emotional issues as we tried to articulate our individual and collective sense of calling to the work of becoming a truly anti-racist organization. We also named our vulnerabilities and where we expect to need support from fellow board members, staff, and the Alliance body as we walk this path together. It was hard, but life-giving work, which prompted board member Christine Wiley to reflect that, in the words of C.S. Lewis, she was “surprised by joy” in our time together.

As we focus on this critical anti-racism work in the days ahead, the board will also continue our efforts to strengthen the Alliance and ensure its sustainability. We will soon approve the 2020 budget as we support the Annual Gathering planning team, our many partners, and the Racial Justice Task Force, who will retreat together in early October. We give thanks for the good people of Baptist Church of the Covenant who hosted us, board members who gave their heart to the work of the Alliance in these days, and each individual and congregation who finds joy in doing the holy work of justice. 

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