Front Porch Conversations

On behalf of West Virginia Bishops S. Clifton Ives, William Boyd Grove, Ernest Lyght, and Sandra Steiner Ball, as well as Rev. Dr. Ken Ramsey, who helped the bishops pull this project together, it is my honor to invite you into our Conversations from the Porch. This conversation, separated into three video segments, was created out of a desire to invite individuals and congregations into a conversation that would raise our individual and collective awareness regarding racism and challenge us to the work we need to do within our own beings and in our communities to eliminate racism. 

In the first part of our conversation, Video 1, we share our stories and invite you to share yours. In the second part of our dialogue, we rehearse and celebrate the small and sometimes large actions that have been taken over the years in the West Virginia Conference to address racism and white privilege, actions that planted seeds for a more equitable future and become signs of hope. The third part of our conversation is an invitation for all of us to engage more, to explore, and to find ways of challenging ourselves and the congregations of which you are a part to connect to the reality of racism in ways that we begin to write the next chapter on how to eliminate it.

This resource and these conversations were created in response to a request from West Virginia Pastors for something that would help to begin conversations to raise awareness about the existence, power, and impact of racism and white privilege with the congregations they serve and with their peers. 

This was our first effort at doing something like this, and while it is not perfect, we hope that the people and leaders of West Virginia will find it useful to tell our stories. We hope that it will move us to intentionally build relationships that would expand our appreciation of differences. We hope it will help us to begin to write the next chapter for creating and walking pathways that work toward eliminating racism in all its forms helping us to become more anti-racist in our thoughts, words, and deeds.

 – Bishop Sandra Steiner Ball

All are welcome to come to the Front Porch and sit a spell.

 Bishop Sandra Steiner Ball shares the vision for the Front Porch Conversation.


Video 1: Telling our Stories

Follow this link for the first video and resources for part 1 of our Front Porch Conversations.

Video 2: Seeds of Hope

Follow this link for part 2 of the Front Porch Conversations series and resources.

Video 3: Writing the Next Chapter

Follow this link for part three video and resources, including reaffirmation of Baptism liturgy written by Bishop Sandra.

Black History is Our History...
A Call To Action.

A witness to the contributions and legacy of our historically African American Churches and a call to all to learn about, respect, and celebrate the gifts of our black sisters and brothers. 

Follow this link for more!


Rev. Dr. Josephine Whitely-Fields is a retired  Black clergywoman from the Western Pennsylvania  Conference, she recently published a book entitled, Pioneer Black Clergywomen.

The book contains stories of Black clergywomen in the United Methodist Church from 1974 - 2016. Bishop Sandra hopes this book can be used as a resource for your further study as we all seek to share our stories and learn from each other.

(Fun fact: Dr. Whitely-Fields was born in Caretta, and later moved to Bluefield until she was in the 9th grade!)

The project was partially funded by the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry, and the General Commission on Archives and History. Proceeds from the sale of the book will benefit scholarships for Black clergywomen.


Suggestions for How to use this Video Series

  • For Small Group Discussion – Discussion questions are posted to accompany each video. We recommend that you do not watch all three videos at once, but take them one at a time.  The videos are approximately 30 minutes each. 
  • We realize these are a little long for some Sunday School or Book Study classes. (We are taking notes on what we will do differently if we should endeavor to record more conversations from the porch.)
  • We would encourage you to utilize the renewal and reaffirmation of Baptism service that is posted on the Website with these materials at the close of your conversation and discussion in relation to the third video conversation. This service of renewal of baptism could also be a way to begin further discussions with a wider group on what steps you and your congregation might take regularly to work at writing the next chapter or story of our work in addressing racism.

Alternate Study possibility:

**Instead of making this a 3-part study, you may want to make this into a 6-part series.  In Session I, Video #1 can be paused after Bishop Grove’s Story for discussion. And then in Session II, you can complete the first video by picking up where you left off to listen and then discuss what you hear from Bishop Lyght and Ives. Of course, the invitation at the end of Video 1 is to begin to share your stories and listen to other persons' stories.

**In your next meeting (Session III), Video #2 can be paused after hearing from Bishop Grove and Bishop Ives. Session IV would pick up with Bishop Lyght; however, the leader/facilitator will need to remind people of what was shared by Bishop Ives to put Bishop Lyght’s statements in context.

**If you desire to split the third video into two study components, we encourage you to pause and discuss following Bishop Lyght’s sharing for Session V, then pick up with Bishop Grove and Steiner Ball in Session VI. 

As you finish this series, we would encourage you to utilize the renewal and reaffirmation of Baptism service that is posted on the Website with these materials. This service of renewal of baptism could also be a way to begin further discussions with a wider group on what steps you and your congregation might take regularly to work at writing the next chapter or story of our work in addressing racism.

This video series can also be used for individual reflection, but we invite you space out your viewing of the videos. Reflect on the suggested discussion questions. Ponder how you will expand your conversations and discussion and with whom.

Create Safe Space for Everyone for your study and discussion.

Respectful Communication Guidelines

  • R = Take RESPONSIBILITY for what you say and feel without blaming others.
  • E = Use EMPATHETIC listening.
  • S = Be SENSITIVE to differences in communication styles.
  • P = PONDER what you hear and feel before you speak.
  • E = EXAMINE your own assumptions and perceptions.
  • T = TRUST ambiguity because we are not here to debate who is right or wrong.

-Kaleidoscope Institute,

Process for Mutual Invitation (a process for helping discussion)

The leader designates a person to share first. After sharing, that person invites another person to then share.  As each person is invited, they have three options for how to respond to the invitation to share:

  • Share and invite
  • Pass for now, then invite another to share. The group will remember to invite this person again later.
  • Pass and invite. The group will not return to this person in this round.

Do this until everyone has been invited - or invited again for those who ‘pass for now.’

-Wolf Shall Dwell With the Lamb by Eric HF Law,

Download the PDF instructions here.

Reaffirmation of Baptism - an important next step

Our conversations from the porch acknowledge the reality and sin of racism.  Additionally, these conversations naturally call us to a reaffirmation and acknowledgment of who we are called to be and how we are called to live as a people of faith.

One of the first steps we can take together as followers of Christ and communities of faith within the West Virginia Conference as we wrestle with the sin of racism is to truly reaffirm our Baptism.  The practice of reaffirming our Baptism is not about the repetition of a religious action or rite but is an act of reclaiming our identity. It is an invitation to remember who we are and to hear God speak our names once again, to hear God call us into accountability to live as a people who renounce evil, profess our faith, and express our loyalty to Christ in every situation in which we find ourselves.

This reaffirmation liturgy is created to be used as part of the West Virginia “Front Porch Conversations” discussion and the prayer and discernment process as congregations and individuals write the next chapter(s) or story (stories) in actively working toward the elimination of racism in belief, behavior, action, and policy.

Download the liturgy here.