This past weekend, 35 students and six staff members from Westmont College attended the Student Congress on Racial Reconciliation (SCORR) at Biola University, an annual event with the mission to “empower attendees to become catalysts for change through transformational learning and growth as they engage the diversity of the Kingdom of God.”
Westmont represented only one of over 22 different Christian colleges and universities across the nation, all wanting to be transformed by this year’s theme: “No Fear, Know Hope,” which centers around the verse 1 John 4:18. Attendees were all welcomed by worship music performed by several people of color (POC) and engaged in learning more about the importance of social justice — specifically racial justice — within the church.
This year’s keynote speaker was Adam Edgerly, the current lead pastor of Newsong Los Angeles Covenant Church, a multicultural community committed to reconciliation in Christ. Sophomore Kay Sanchez says: “I really loved the keynote speaker Adam Edgerly … he sparked a fire within all of us through his reminder that social and racial justice is a biblical concept and that Christian faith should not and cannot be separated from the work of social and racial justice … [People at SCORR] empathized with what it’s like being a student of color in a white evangelical institution. It felt like home.” Edgerly emphasized the love he believed was needed within the church: “Gospel-driven diversity is love-driven diversity … [and] we need to give up our freedom for the sake of someone else’s inclusion.”
Each attendee was also given the chance to attend four different workshops throughout the weekend. Two of the various workshops were run by several Westmont students, who were invited to spotlight their own experiences and educate other attendees on racial justice throughout history: juniors Tori Davis and Chisondi Warioba led “Break The Silence: 1619 Remembered” and junior Brendan Fong and senior Emily Mata explored student activism with “Having Our Say: Student Voice Advocating for Justice and Inclusion on Christian campuses.”
Many of these workshops at SCORR encouraged attendees to self-reflect and explore more of their own identity. Fourth-year student Alesha Bond mentions that “a highlight for me was attending a breakout session on the topic of navigating predominantly white spaces as a woman of color … it became a safe space for all these women of color to express their frustrations and exhaustions but also uplift and encourage each other. SCORR gave me the push I needed to recommit to the hard, treacherous, and long journey of reconciling the narrative of Jesus.” She continues by stating that she was affirmed by all the stories and perspectives she heard at SCORR, even though she knows that she is “lamented at the amount of progress that still had not been made.”
Likewise, sophomore James Lopez expresses that “[SCORR] reminded of not just my pain, but that of my family, not just of my immediate family, but that of my extended family as well, not just of my blood family, but that of my Latin community wherever they are all located. Yes, a harsh reality … but also a desire for a new dependence on God. A greater appreciation and love for my family/friends of color. I’ve never been happier to carry ‘Orgullo Latino.’”
Each day ended with poets and storytellers expressing how their racial background shaped their lived realities. Brendan Fong shared his story of the exhaustion he feels as a multi-ethnic student at Westmont.
Third-year student Lauren Petersen mentioned that “there is something about [SCORR] that felt more powerful and authentic when it wasn’t a predominantly white space … I left feeling encouraged by the number of other students from schools all across the country who are opting-in to this hard work. Often in a place like Westmont, we get stuck only seeing our faith through the narrow lens of white Evangelical culture, and we miss out on the Gospel’s call for both personal godliness and social justice; it was never meant to be an either-or option.”