This series of posts (see below) is the journal of Pastor Dave Denoon, as he reflects on a process of renewal for himself in our Year of Renewal 2017. An accompanying series by church members may be of interest to you as well, and is available for reading (link).

West Africa (Source:

West Africa (Source:

Pastor Dave and First Church have been presented a Renewal Grant from the Lilly Endowment, for him to be able to do professional development and sabbatical that would not have been possible otherwise, and for the church to conduct renewal activities as well.

He and his family will be traveling to parts of West Africa associated with the “Middle Passage,” that route for slave ships which generated the African Diaspora throughout the Western Hemisphere. Additionally, they will be seeing sites in Paris, France, connected with the African American expatriate community there during the first half of the 20th Century.

Back in the States, they will spend time in Washington, DC, in particular at the new National Museum of African American History and Culture. After they’ve returned to Webster Groves, there will be some day trips to Springfield, Illinois, to see the Lincoln Library and Museum, and another to the Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tennessee.

First Church meanwhile (and beforehand and afterward) will spend 2017 learning about the roots of racism in our country and why it has become such an intractable challenge to the progress of American society and culture. Members and friends of the Church will be encouraged to do personal reflection in groups and with curricula centered on their experiences of our culture’s divisions along lines defined as being racial.

The plain truth is that Christianity as a religion has contributed to the functionality and durability of racism. But Christians may also serve as vehicles toward bridging the divisions we have caused. As theologian Ben Sanders III has observed, “Our faith was developed by a man from an oppressed people who was killed by the Roman government for preaching God’s special favor of the poor and outcast.” If we are willing to walk with Jesus through our pain into God’s realm of wholeness and peace, we cannot fail to be triumphant with him!

We hope you will join us on our journey for renewal – whether you follow online or in person (or both). We cherish your interest and request your prayers.

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