How Our Family Embraces Racial Redemption

God Continued His Work of Racial Redemption

In the early 1990s, a group of white students at a suburban high school where Peter was teaching attacked and beat a Black female student for being “disrespectful.” At the same time, Peter worked with teaching and coaching colleagues who made team selections or academic recommendations based more on negative racial stereotypes than individual ability. Educators who professed to be “colorblind” routinely discouraged students of color from more advanced or challenging classes and activities.

Courtesy of Tracy Hilts

In her roles as a hospice chaplain and later as pastor, Tracy has counseled and sojourned with people from multiethnic communities and multiple faith traditions. While most were welcoming of Tracy’s gifts and ministry, some were not. On one occasion, a hospice client greeted Tracy at the door, saying that she was the first “colored” person in their home. At another patient visit, a neighbor blocked Tracy’s car with his truck and demanded to know what she was doing in his neighborhood where it appeared, “you don’t really belong.”

As a family, our children were treated differently—ignored or trusted, befriended or bullied—based on the color of their skin and their apparent identity. From racial epithets painted on our fence to being singled out for suspicion, to being beaten for being in the wrong park after dark, members of our family took turns living in the valley of the shadow of sin.

While we struggled with the reality of sin and brokenness along racial fault lines, we also found healing around our own dinner table in conversations about these real-life wounds. We tried to build a biblical response through a devotional practice we called “Family Church” where each of us prepared and led discussions about stories and passages that addressed our life.

We expanded our healing journey through partnership with faithful believers who were willing to bear the burden of the consequences of racial sin and injustice with us. We had the meaningful experience of sharing a weekend where a primarily white congregation and a primarily Black congregation came together for a seminar called “An Invitation to Racial Righteousness,” an initiative of Love Mercy Do Justice. We experienced what came to be known as I2RR as a way for whole churches to journey together toward racial reconciliation.

At the time, Tracy was serving on the executive board of the Covenant Midwest Conference and had the opportunity to participate in Sankofa, a personalized version of I2RR, where two people of different ethnicities journey together through geographic and spiritual destinations that tangibly capture some of the legacy of brokenness and healing in the United States. Years later, we had an opportunity to train with Covenant leaders from across North America in the expanding expression of I2RR.

Experiences of trauma within our family and devastation across the country compelled us to speak up and take action at an ever-deepening level. With a burden for congregational and personal redemption, we developed RedeeminG Race, a ministry where we share our story and invite others onto the pathway of healing.

We know that Christ’s kingdom, expressed through the local church, holds the only answer for redeeming the brokenness that has diverted us away from God’s plan for diversity as a blessing. Our purpose is to provide opportunities for churches to take responsibility and exercise community leadership that reflects God’s design for sanctifying diversity.

There is no Redeeming Race without grace at the center. Our conviction is that race-based sin and division represents the complete absence of grace and that healing requires massive infusions of grace-based interactions.

As a hospice chaplain, Tracy witnessed many people arrive at the table of reconciliation without the foundation of biblical study. That led us to choose Psalm 23 —the most familiar passage of all—as the core of our redemptive dialogue. Through prayer, we found a framework within the Shepherd’s psalm that spoke to our heartfelt need:

  • The Good Shepherd—Christ as the model for restoring relationships
  • The Righteous Path—Taking the next right step toward racial reconciliation
  • The Table Prepared—Anointed communion as a contrast to worldly division
  • The Lord’s House—Reflecting life in a kingdom where race is redeemed

Peter and Tracy Hilts
Peter and Tracy Hilts live in Colorado, where they raised six children. They now have an empty nest and grandchildren close by. Tracy has served as a pastor, counselor, seminary professor, hospital and hospice chaplain—and is currently leading Living Hope Covenant Church. Peter has invested 30 years in public education and currently serves as the chief education officer for School District 49 in Colorado Springs.

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