In celebration of the 50 years of the Office of Race Relations (ORR), we are featuring the stories of people in the CRC who have been actively demonstrating a passion for multicultural congregations and a commitment to antiracism. We call people who have been exemplifying these ideals, “Champions of Justice.” These “Champions” are the nominees for the Dante Venegas award that will be presented at Inspire 2022 in Chicago in August.
We are proud to introduce Sandra Williams as one of these nominees.
Here’s a little more about Sandra and her work:
Sandra Williams holds a degree in Child and Youth Counseling. She works in the school system and has been providing mental health support to students and their families for over thirty years. Sandra is passionate about promoting social justice causes, and has been actively engaged in building awareness about diversity in education, and equity and inclusive initiatives. She has presented at various conferences and is an active agent of change in her community. Outside of her professional work, Sandra has dedicated a large part of her free time to serving on various committees. She currently serves as a Governing Elder at Meadowvale CRC in Mississauga, Ontario.
Sandra shares her thoughts on her antiracism work:
I would like to start by expressing my deep gratitude to the Office of RR for my recent induction as a Champion of Justice. Serving as a Champion of Justice has been my lifetime passion, but along the way I have also come to learn that this type of advocacy has many inherent challenges, and sometimes it comes at quite a high cost. It eventually takes a toll on you, your family and friends, but it is still particularly important work that must continue to be done by our communities, especially if the church wants to experience what it truly means to be “God’s Diverse and Unified Family.”
My work in this ministry began at a rather grassroots level where the foundational work had already been laid out, many years before my arrival by several other racial justice frontline warriors. So, I am particularly honoured to accept the Champion of Justice award on behalf of the great multitude of past and present faithful Champions of Justice who have dedicated their time, and continue to give countless hours to raising awareness, challenging systemic barriers that still impact the BIPoC communities in Canada.
Those past warriors have paved the way for people like me to pick up the banner of racial justice and continue the work. I am inspired by their love for God, and the Godly examples they have set. And I am also appreciative for the commitment, dedication and perseverance they have displayed in ministry, despite the challenges they have met along the way. I am extremely grateful for these mentors and for the significant contributions they have made along my journey up to this point.
As a follower of Christ, I was drawn to take on justice causes as part of my faith journey. So, it was a privilege to both serve and provide leadership on Denominational (and Classis) committees over the past 15 years. Some of the committees that I have had the privilege to serve on include, the Diversity in Leadership planning Groups, (DLPG-1 & DLPG-2), the CRCNA Race Relations Advisory Council, and (originally) the Classis Toronto Race Relations Committee. I was blessed to meet and work with a dynamic group of diverse individuals who brought a richness and vibrancy to this work. The relationships and stories we shared created a special kind of kinship and camaraderie within the racial justice ministry. The diversity that was present at the table presented rich opportunities for both institutional (and individual) growth that was yet to be fully realized.
I came to the work encouraged by some of the knowledge of the struggles I had already gathered about the CRC. The Office of Race Relations and their historical mandate dating all the way back to 1968, and then that magnificently written document they produced in the booklet, God’s Diverse and Unified Family. And despite all these works, it was still challenging even within the church walls, to honestly and directly address the issue of diversity in leadership, especially within the CRCNA.
The call for racial justice and reconciliation is even more pressing now than ever before. We continue to be bombarded with images of pain and tragedy, especially with recent reports of discoveries of deceased Indigenous children’s bodies on the grounds of Residential Schools in Canada. We need God’s grace and mercy to navigate through these concrete reminders that all is not well for many of our brothers and sisters. We are all being called into action both individually and cooperatively. So we can no longer afford to remain complacent to the sinful and adverse effects of racism. It is now time to stand in solidarity as diverse communities, and work towards a deep renewed Spiritual vision. We must love as God loves, and we must see our brothers and sisters the way God sees them. A new way of seeing racial justice is central to the survival and advancement of the church, and it will also be critical to the way the world bears witness to the Scriptures.
God created the world rich in diversity and His ultimate mission is to reconcile the whole world to Himself, through Christ. It is said that “For Christians to be in Christ is in principle to be reconciled as a community of racially and ethnically diverse people. To ignore the calling to turn this principle into practice is sinful according to God’s Word and the Reformed confessions.” - from the Position Statement of the Office Of Race Relations.
In her book, "See No Stranger: A Memoir And Manifesto of Revolutionary Love", Valarie Kaur, beautifully describes the call of the day:
“The world is in transition and humanity is in transition. We are in the womb and about to emerge. We are experiencing birthing pains and we all need to breathe and push forward into solidarity, and if we are to survive, we each have to show up to the labour. So, we are all called to love radically. For us to experience a new life together there must be a death of the old ways to make room for new growth.”
She goes on to say, “when we wonder about people, grieve with them, choose to fight with them, choose to fight for them, we build the kind of solidarity the world needs.”
In 2 Corinthians 5:17, Paul the apostle said, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come; the old has gone, the new is here.”
The CRCNA is blessed and gifted with brothers and sisters from diverse backgrounds who add great richness and vibrancy to the church community. May God grant us the grace to continue the fight for justice.