Blog Post by

Rev. Dr. Craig M. Howard
Presbytery of Giddings-Lovejoy
Transitional Leader

Sunday marked Advent, the beginning of the Christian year. Advent is a season of waiting, watching, and as Jesus said in Mark 13:37, a time to be awake. Each Advent and Lent, I take the opportunity to read a book a week. Reading for these two seasons is a discipline I picked up while serving as Executive Director of the presbytery of Milwaukee. Pastor Deborah Block gave me the idea through a sermon she preached.
This Advent season, I have chosen four books on a topic which has been front and center since my time as your Transitional Presbytery Leader. The topic is race. It is a topic that will not disappear if we look the other way. It will not just go away if we ignore it. It is relevant to every area of Giddings-Lovejoy, including all of St. Louis County, eastern Illinois, small city, rural and country areas of southern Missouri, and the city of St. Louis itself.
Racism is especially present where people of color are absent.
It is important that we continue to have conversations that lead to actions to dismantle systemic racism and white privilege. My work is to prepare Giddings-Lovejoy for a prosperous future; a future that will involve more people of color in leadership, and as members of our congregations. Getting to that future means learning and growing together.
Recently, Susan Andrews connected me with Elizabeth Zwoyer-McDonald, a member at Second Presbyterian church. Second has done several adult studies around race. Elizabeth pulled together an amazing collection of books. As a result, the Resource Center of the presbytery purchased over 60 books which we are now cataloging, and will be available to borrow soon.
Next year we will have a presbytery wide anti-racism training. It will be an exciting time of learning and growing together. The training is only a start. What is needed is a commitment from each leader and member of Giddings-Lovejoy to continue to read, attend seminars and workshops on race, and commit to ongoing conversations with people who are different that we are. Only through ongoing activity we will honor the words of Jesus and stay awake.
Here are my four books for Advent with Elizabeth Zwoyer-McDonald’s reviews:
Under Our Skin: Getting Real about Race–Getting Free from the Fears and Frustrations that Divide Us by Benjamin Watson
An NFL tight end for the New Orleans Saints and a widely read and followed commentator on social media, Watson has taken the Internet by storm with his remarkable insights about some of the most sensitive and charged topics of our day. Now, in Under Our Skin, Watson draws from his own life, his family legacy, and his role as a husband and father to sensitively and honestly examine both sides of the race debate and appeal to the power and possibility of faith as a step toward healing.
Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge
Exploring issues from eradicated black history to the political purpose of white dominance, whitewashed feminism to the inextricable link between class and race, Reni Eddo-Lodge offers a timely and essential new framework for how to see, acknowledge and counter racism. It is a searing, illuminating, absolutely necessary exploration of what it is to be a person of colour in Britain today.
Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West by Dee Brown
In the 1880s, after the U. S. Army’s defeat at the Battle of the Little Bighorn, the government continues to push Sioux Indians off their land. In Washington, D.C., Senator Henry Dee Brown’s Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee was first published in the United States in 1970. This account of how Native Americans were treated and how they were pushed off their land is based on eyewitness accounts and official records-with a focus on the thirty-year span from 1860 to 1890 The book is the first account told from the Native-American point of view.
Ferguson and Faith: Sparking Leadership and Awakening Community by Leah Gunning Francis & Jim Wallis
The shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, reignited a long-smoldering movement for justice, with many St. Louis-area clergy stepping up to support the emerging young leaders of today’s Civil Rights Movement. Seminary professor Leah Gunning Francis was among the activists, and her interviews with more than two dozen faith leaders and with the new movement’s organizers take us behind the scenes of the continuing protests. Ferguson and Faith demonstrates that being called to lead a faithful life can take us to places we never expected to go, with people who never expected us to join hands with them.
Rev. Craig M. Howard


  • Posted December 5, 2017 3:43 pm
    Will Mason

    Pastor Howard, thank you for this excellent reading list. The Presbytery of Seattle has begun to offer anti-racism training and I am taking this list to people interested in starting a small group on this life issue.
    Blessings to you and your family throughout this Christmas season,

  • Posted December 5, 2017 3:58 pm
    Charles Pfeifer

    Once again Craig, Thankyou

  • Posted December 5, 2017 4:44 pm
    Susan Andrews

    Thanks, Craig for this. I will let Elizabeth know how you are using her list!

  • Posted December 5, 2017 4:57 pm
    Diane McCullough

    Thank you for this list, Craig. I’ve read Ferguson and Faith and it is illuminating. Another book to add to the list is Rev. F. Willis Johnson’s book, “Holding Up Your Corner”. It is a follow up on events in Ferguson and how we can make progress in our thinking as well as our actions. Webster Groves Presbyterian Church is hosting a course by the YWCA based on the book, “Witnessing Whiteness” by Shelly Tochluk. This starts in January. In March our Women’s Disciple Bible Study class will study the Presbyterian work on Racism that is a six lesson, biblically based study on white racism and facing its remifications as a Christian.
    Prayers are with all who are working on this and are committed to justice for all.

  • Posted December 6, 2017 11:07 am
    Eldon McKie

    Craig…. You are a blessing to our Presbytery. Thanks for the bibliography. I can manage 2 of the 4 and will get busy on them. Where I live, I need concepts and constructive reference persons. Benjamin Watson will be my first read. Christmas greetings!

  • Posted December 8, 2017 3:48 pm
    John Harrison

    Craig, thank you for your reflective guidance and narrative leadership. I read and appreciated Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee this fall. It’s vivid use of each Chief’s words, it’s dramatic chase scenes and diplomatic stand-offs revealed by contrast how uninteresting my history books made the Indian Wars seem, and how many powerful stories, cultures, and charismatic leaders were whited-out of the story of our culture’s march west.
    What we choose to read is inseparable from the Messiah we prepare to receive. The axiom that “history is written by the victors” feels painfully true in my education thus far, and I believe we are called to be engaged students of history through the lens of Jesus Christ, our ultimate victor. The history of his vulnerable birth, his status as a fugitive throughout his ministry, and his execution by the state with the blessing of the crowds are all realities we continue to impose on God’s people today. By seeking out the voices of people who live that history, we prepare ourselves for a victory that nothing in all creation can take away.
    In the context of reading about race, we tend to think of “repentance” as wallowing in guilt, but it simply means turning in a new direction, and the start of a new chapter. May we all turn to hear what these voices can tell us, and may our church start a new chapter of history written in the name of our one true victor, champion and Lord, Jesus Christ.

  • Posted December 12, 2017 8:44 pm
    Paul Reiter, HR

    Craig, Thank you for your excellent leadership in the presbytery. I continue to give thanks to God for you and the ways you are challenging the presbytery. Thank yo for the reading list! It will be welcomed here in Sarasota where i am now worshipping. When we adopted Dismantling Racism and Privilege in the life of the presbytery structure years ago, there were a few cohorts. Now is the time to move forward. May you and the good folk of Giddings-Lovejoy have a blessed Christmas!

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