by The Rev. Dr. Vicki L. Smith
St. David’s Church hosted a neighborhood Lenten program built around the Sacred Ground curriculum and brought together three churches from Topeka’s west side. Joining with Westminster Presbyterian and St. John’s A.M.E. churches, parishioners gathered in St. David’s parish hall to enjoy a light supper and to discuss topics from the Sacred Ground curriculum from the Episcopal Church. The group discussed the history and continued legacy of red-lining in Topeka, the embedded racism in federal and local housing programs, Critical Race Theory, the impact of cultural changes on Indigenous communities, and the history of St. Simon’s Episcopal Church, an African-American parish that flourished for more than 80 years before closing in the 1960s.
The shared program grew out of St. David’s year-long study of “Sacred Ground,” and has included presenters Carole Cadue-Blackwood, an enrolled member of the Potawatomie Nation, Susan Byler, a diaconal student at the Bishop Kemper School for Ministry, Reverend K.O. Noonoo, pastor at Westminster Presbyterian Church, Deborah Dandridge, a former member at St. Simon’s, and Meredith Williard, a parishioner and Sacred Ground participant from St. David’s who has done extensive research on red-lining.
The opportunity for these three parishes to come together for fellowship and learning has generated stimulating discussions and lasting connections. Conversations about shared outreach have focused on St. John’s vigorous ministry with the homeless in Topeka. All who have participated look forward to continuing the relationships that have been formed.