Tools for Tolerance. Downers Grove church strives to foster conversations on racism, healing

First United Methodist Church of Downers Grove (FUMCDG)  Pastor Claude King talks to an attendee during Pride in the Parking Lot hosted by Equality Downers Grove and the FUMCDG at the First United Methodist Church of Downers Grove on Sunday, June 11, 2023. The celebration was moved inside the church due to weather.

As part of one local church’s ongoing efforts to foster conversations centered on racism and interracial healing, a discussion open to the community is set for this weekend.

Downers Grove First United Methodist Church will host the In Solidarity anti-racist workshop from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Sept. 22 and from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Sept. 23 at the church, 1032 Maple Ave.

Presented by the Rev. Joan Crawford, a spiritual director, deacon and Benedictine oblate, the workshop will address issues such as some of the ways Black people experience and cope with racism daily.

Crawford received a master of theology from Northern Baptist Theological Seminary in Lombard and a certificate in spiritual guidance from the Siena Dominican Center in Racine, Wisconsin. Her ministry includes workshops to promote interracial healing and dialogue.

Joy Doran, who co-leads the church’s Mission, Justice and Community team, is excited about the initiative.

“We’re going to be looking at insightful material and why there’s possibly a misunderstanding between white and Black folks,” Doran said. “Who couldn’t benefit from attending this?”

According to the church’s website, the workshop will address questions such as: Is racism really the issue or is it a matter of economics? What is the meaning of critical race theory and why is it so controversial? Are people responsible for addressing racism when members of their family were not enslavers? What can individuals and churches do to promote racial justice?

“This area is a very white community and in the aftermath of George Floyd, we realize the issues we have dealt with are no less important today than they were three years ago,” Doran said. “The interracial dialog between white Americans and Black Americans is an issue that continues to be with us, so we decided that within our church and as an extension of the community, this would be a great topic to address.”

The Rev Claude King, senior pastor at Downers Grove First United Methodist Church, said he is grateful the church is able to foster this type of dialogue.

“That’s what is most important to me,” King said. “That openness of conversation is what we just don’t get enough of nowadays. There are lots of opinions and they’re very sharp. And since the pandemic and the killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and Ahmad Aubrey, sometimes we can get even more separated through those unfortunate and horrific events that make talking less able to be done. So this is an attempt and an open door for that to occur.”

King is hoping for a large community turnout.

“I would love to have as many people in this area, and anywhere, to join and have a time to dialogue and hear one another and listen to one another and ask questions,” he said. “And hopefully then we can gain some ground and begin to do more about healing and ending racism through some connections with each other and not just fighting.”

Workshop registrants can attend both Friday and Saturday or only Friday or part of the Saturday sessions. Cost is $25 and includes lunch Saturday. Registration is available at

The suggested reading before the workshop is “The Warmth of Other Suns” by Isabel Wilkerson. The book is available on audiobook, at the Downers Grove Library, Anderson’s Bookshop, Amazon or at the MJC table after worship Sundays.