Racial Justice and the Church (RJC)
“The end is reconciliation; the end is redemption; the end is the creation of the Beloved Community. It is this type of spirit and this type of love that can transform opponents into friends. It is this type of understanding goodwill that will transform the deep gloom of the old age into the exuberant gladness of the new age. It is this love which will bring about miracles in the hearts of men."
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., 1957
Throughout scripture and history, God has called God’s people to participate in the creation of the Beloved Community, breaking down barriers, seeking justice, and transforming hearts and systems.
Our vision is that all members and friends of the congregation—of all racial identities—respond to the Gospel’s call to actively engage in racial justice. We endeavor to consider how race, racism, and racial justice are enacted both inside the church and within the larger society. And, in response to God’s love, to consider the ways that we, as people of faith—individually and as a collective—can “love our neighbor,” across racial lines in both interpersonal and systemic ways.
Join First Pres as we continue to explore God’s Beloved Community and our call to share in its creation in our own context and communities.
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Rev. Yolanda M. Norton is Assistant Professor of Old Testament and H. Eugene Farlough Chair of Black Church Studies at San Francisco Theological Seminary (SFTS). Her current research focuses on womanist biblical interpretation, work that prioritizes the implications of reading the text alongside Black women. Her work interrogates how various portrayals of women in the Hebrew Bible impact the vilification and/or oppression of women of color who encounter the Bible today.
Professor Norton has published chapters in I Found God in Me: A Womanist Biblical Hermeneutics Reader, Global Perspectives in the Old Testament, and Liturgical Press’ new feminist commentary on the Psalms (Books 2-3). Furthermore, she teaches courses on the book of Ruth, Beyoncé and the Hebrew Bible, and Methods of Exegesis, and does extensive work on experiential and contextual learning.
She is in the final stages of her Ph.D. work at Vanderbilt University and holds a Master of Divinity and Master of Theological Studies degree from Wesley Theological Seminary as well as a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Syracuse University. Rev. Norton has been featured in Essence, Ebony, the New York Times, and a host of other print and media platforms for her creative worship design and innovative preaching.
John Lyzenga is a worship director and composer living in the San Francisco Bay Area. Though he has directed worship for churches across the country since 2009, he had never considered writing worship music until fall of 2016 when he was asked to compose a song on Mary’s Magnificat. Sitting with Mary’s song while horrific events filled his newsfeed—white supremacy marches, police brutality, the Flint water crisis, the Dakota Access Pipeline, violence and threats against Muslims, Jews, refugees, and the LGBTQ+ community—he found himself asking, “Where is the Church in all this? What has become of prophetic worship like Mary’s in the church’s life together?
This is John’s passion, writing worship music that addresses the realities of a broken world while pointing to God’s love and Kingdom—a Kingdom of justice, flourishing, and peace for all—in light of the biblical witness. John is currently in production for his debut worship album to be released in early 2019. Follow him on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook and find out more at johnlyzengamusic.com.