Nine Divinity School students traveled to Mississippi--historically the site of some of the nation's worst racial segregation, despair, and violence--for a ten-week field-education experience this summer. Their goal: to participate in the work of racial reconciliation growing in churches and communities across the state.
The project developed from numerous connections among Duke Divinity School and Mississippi clergy already working toward reconciliation. For example, the divinity school's co-directors of field education, Connie and Joey Shelton, recently worked in that state (Joey as pastor of Court Street UMC in Hattiesburg and Connie as executive director and preacher of The United Methodist Hour, a television program in Hattiesburg).
The goal was for students to become immersed in the struggle, surrounded by those who faithfully pursue racial reconciliation and those who have suffered from racial division. Organizers say they believe students can contribute a fresh perspective along with openness, energy, and creativity to groups working in reconciling ministry.
"Many of our students were born in the early Eighties, hundreds of miles from talk of the civil-rights struggle and issues of race," Connie Shelton says. "Going to Mississippi will afford them an up-close-and-personal experience, which will hopefully lead to conversations about justice, hope, and healing."