CART sponsors anti-racism prayer time

By Christian Bell

News Editor

Students and faculty may have noticed announcements in the campus-wide listservs recently about a new anti-racism prayer time. CART, the Calvin Anti-Racism Team, has brought back to campus a time of prayer and reflection on the topic of racism.

Two years ago, CART had set up a time for people to get together and pray. But there was no definite plan to keep that in place in subsequent years, and as a result, it feel off the team's agenda.

``We talk about anti-racism, one of the things we say in our training it isn't going to politely bow and step aside after we name it,'' said Dean of Student Development Bob Crow. ``One of the key strands of our training in anti-racism is that it's beyond a personal issue - it moves into systems and institutions. So we said, `We need to stay on our knees on this issue.''

Come fall, the team began to talk about it again and decided that the prayer time is both necessary and beneficial to dealing with the topic of racism on campus.

The prayer time was ``a need to pump some energy into our CART efforts and feeling like we needed to stay connected to our purpose in this thing,'' said Jacque Rhodes, Assistant Dean of Multicultural Student Development. ``How can you stay connected to God if you're not talking to him all the time?''

``Maybe one of the things we don't do as well is to pray and spend time getting together,'' said Crow, ``so that's what the design is: let's be purposeful about setting time aside and inviting anyone who's interested to come and remember that we're on our knees before God on this issue.''

Since CART's focus since the beginning of the year has been unlearning racism and attacking its roots, it felt that a central way in which it could address this is through prayerful consideration of the matter. By doing so, CART hopes it is addressing the larger problem.

``If we think that racism is sin, then how do we handle the other sins in our lives? We often pray about them,'' Rhodes said. ``But we don't pray often about this.''

``It demands that we have to be humble and keep seeking God in this regard, both in confession and supplication,'' said Crow.

So far, the response hasn't been overwhelming, but CART is hopeful that it will build momentum as the semester moves along.

``It's been slow, but we've just gotten started,'' Crow said. ``My perspective on it is it doesn't matter how many people show up. I know that people are committed to it - if they're not there with us, they're praying at other times.''

``It's still been fairly meager,'' said Rhodes. ``I'd like to see it grow. I'm going to pump it in my AHANA community on KnightVision and hopefully to get some of those people to commit to coming.''

Turnout so far has been equal split between students and faculty members.

``It's people who probably have a concern in some way in the issue,'' said Crow. ``[but] I think some are curious and just wondering what it's about.''

The prayer time is one of several ways that CART is addressing the topic of racism, and it has attempted in its programs this year to make the recognition and awareness of racism an institution-wide concern. Even so, some people on campus have been concerned that the efforts aren't working as fluidly as they should be.

``I think Student Life could do a lot more,'' said Rhodes. ``I think [they] should buy into the whole idea. Initially in the beginning of the semester, it's on the radar screen, but as time goes on, you get drawn in so many directions that this quickly disappears. This is something we need to have in front of us.

For instance, Rhodes said, ``If we can't at least get the RDs to come, how can we expect their students to come? I think they need to be modeling that behavior.''

Even so, the prayer time will continue on a weekly basis this semester to allow all interested and concerned members of the Calvin community to gather together. The prayer time is on Monday afternoon at 4:00 in the Chapel Undercroft, and CART invites all students to come and pray.

``It's nice to get together and pray about things collectively,'' Rhodes said.