Jubilee: Where the Universe Changed

By Renee Ruchotzke

The Day the Universe Changed, words across a lens being held by a hand.

Back in the mid-80s I was a fan of the BBC documentary television show The Day the Universe Changed: A Personal View by James Burke. The show was a bit of a mind-bender for me, showing how our perceptions of the universe are fluid, and that changes in technology or understanding can impact culture or even paradigms. Each episode included a historical timeline of mini-stories that – when woven together – pointed to a major shift in western thinking: i.e. when the universe (as perceived) changed.

When people ask me, “What is a Jubilee training?” I try to describe an experience of a similar shift in thinking. The workshop shines a light on the ways cultural and institutional racism operate in American culture. The Jubilee trainers artfully have the participants revisit familiar cultural touchpoints such as historical events, images, songs, film clips, books, cartoons, characters, phrases, etc. with a renewed understanding how these bits of culture combine to create a narrative of white superiority that is baked into most of white America.

I have had several experiences with Jubilee trainings over the years. My first was in 2007 when took a Jubilee II training for seminarians before a General Assembly, where I was first introduced to Peggy McIntosh’s White privilege: Unpacking the invisible knapsack. I took a similar training for young adults called Groundwork, which helped me develop a systemic understanding of racism (as opposed to the persistent notion that “racism only happens when individual people are racist”). I also learned about needing to understand and analyze the types of power in communities, and how power can reinforce or dismantle oppression. More recently, I took a training with Paula Cole Jones, Dr. Leon Spencer and Lutricia Callair in Rochester, NY before the pandemic. They shared some film clips of cartoons with caricatures of black people that I remember from my childhood, and I was shocked by how obviously dehumanizing they seemed now.

Jubilee 3 Anti-racims Training, November 12-14, 2021 online. Rainbow colored scarf on grey carpet with a gold chalice and singing bowl.

I am very excited that Paula Cole Jones, Dr. Leon Spencer and Lutricia Callair have created an online version of the training, Jubilee 3, which is available to CER congregations. Every time I have taken a Jubilee training, the trainers have reimagined and reshaped the curriculum to make it a meaningful and transformative experience. I hope that your congregation considers this training as part of your anti-racism journey!

The current offering of Jubilee 3 online is November 12-14, 2021. Registration is open. Learn more at the CER website.

About the Author

Renee Ruchotzke

Rev. Renee Ruchotzke (ruh-HUT-skee) is a Congregational Life Consultant and program manager for Leadership Development.

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