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Holding Up Your Corner: Talking About Race in Your Community, equips pastors to respond with confidence when crises occur, lower their own inhibitions about addressing this topic, and reclaim their authority as prophetic witnesses and leaders in order to transform their communities. 

This book provides practical, foundational guidance, showing pastors how to live into their calling to address injustice, and how to lead others to do the same. Holding Up Your Corner prompts readers to observe, identify and name the complex causes of violence and hatred in the reader’s particular community, including racial prejudice, entrenched poverty and exploitation, segregation, the loss of local education and employment, the ravages of addiction, and so on.

Pastor Willis Johnson walks the church leader through a self-directed process of determining what role to play in the leader’s particular location. Readers will learn to use testimony and other narrative devices, proclamation, guided group conversations, and other tactics in order to achieve the following:

  • Open eyes to the realities in the reader’s community—where God’s reign/kingdom is not yet overcoming selfishness, injustice, inequality, or the forces of evil.
  • Own the calling and responsibility we have as Christians, and learn how to advocate hope for God’s kingdom in the reader’s community.
  • Organize interventions and activate mission teams to address the specific injustices in the reader’s community.

What Does ‘Holding Up Your Corner’ Mean?
The phrase ‘holding up your corner’ is derived from a biblical story (Mark 2: 1 – 5) about four people who take action in order to help another person—literally delivering that person to Christ. For us, ‘holding up your corner’ has meaning in two aspects of our lives today:
First, it refers to our physical and social locations, the places where we live and work, and the communities of which we’re a part. These are the places where our assumptions, attitudes, and beliefs have influence on the people around us. When we feel empowered to speak out about the injustice or inequity in our community, we are holding up our corner.
Second, the phrase refers to our actions, the ways we step up to meet a particular problem of injustice or inequity, and proactively do something about it. When we put ourselves—literally—next to persons who are suffering, and enter into their situation in order to bring hope and healing to the person and the situation, we are holding up our corner, just like the four people who held up the corner of the hurting man’s mat.

Holding Up Your Corner: Guided Conversations About Race is a unique, conversation-based experience that pastors facilitate for their communities.

The resource includes everything pastors need to organize, host, and lead the events:
- a one- or two-day Conversation, hosted by the church, including people from the congregation and the wider community
- people from various backgrounds gather for large-group presentations and small-group discussions
- includes multiple video Conversation Starters from pastors and others across the US who share their own experiences, fears, and realizations about race
- face to face conversations lead to radically new understanding
- each community determines the outcomes of their own Conversations, which may include new relationships and ministries in the community

The Promise for Participants:
Our lives change when we sit with one another and converse. When we share our own stories and listen to another. Real, honest, vulnerable conversation leads to empathy. It fosters our understanding and sharpens our convictions. It breaks down barriers and builds surprising new relationships. Conversation leads to change.
Gather with diverse people from your community for a series of guided conversations that will empower you individually and together to embody God's promises of hope and justice for all.

The DVD includes video clips from clergy and other Christian leaders across the country. Each presenter shares a personal story related to one of the discussion points in the Conversation. These video stories are meant to open participants to new ways of thinking, to spur their own self-examination, to offer a sense of common experience, and to spur thoughtful dialogue.

"Holding Up Your Corner is a passionate, fast-paced, wonderfully practical book.  F. Willis Johnson has a gift for Christian communication and he pours all of his gifts and rich pastoral experience into a book that encourages his fellow Christians to acknowledge, affirm, and act in the face of the racism that grips many of us.  He displays deliberative theology in the service of instigating talk and action on behalf of racial justice, all in the service of a God who graciously enlists us to work with God to defeat evil.  I guarantee that after reading Willis Johnson you will want to work from your corner to become part of God’s work in the world.” --Will Willimon, UM Bishop, retired, Professor of the Practice of Christian Ministry, Duke Divinity School.

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Nicki Reinhardt-Swierk is the author of the Youth Resource.  A St. Louis native, and a current city resident, Nicki Reinhardt-Swierk has 11 years of experience as a justice advocate and educator. She has spent the last 7 years focusing primarily on racial justice. After serving as a Teach for America Corps member in the Arkansas Delta, Nicki studied the intersection of religious life, institutional politics, and systematic oppression, with a focus on racial inequity and racial justice organizing at Harvard Divinity School. As the Associate Director for The Center for Social Empowerment, Nicki currently works to empower individuals, organizations, and churches to become agents of change in their own contexts.



F. Willis Johnson

A third-generation educator, Rev. Dr. F. Willis Johnson is a spiritual entrepreneur. An elder in the West Ohio Conference of the United Methodist Church, Johnson is a respected scholar-practitioner, fellow and author of Holding Up Your Corner: Talking About Race in Your Community.
Johnson holds fellowships at Bridge Alliance and Walker Leadership Institute-Eden Seminary. He is a former Vosburgh Visiting Professor of Ministry and Social Engagement at Drew University’s Theological School.
Currently, he is the leadership pastors Living Tree Church and adjunct faculty at Methodist Theological School of Ohio (MTSO).