What is the EmBodied Project?

The EmBodied Project is an invitation, encouragement, and challenge to Highland to help build an antiracist culture and beyond, while sharing and incorporating our core beliefs about Baptism. The physical expression of Baptism not only changes each of us spiritually, it also changes how we interact with one another as the body of Christ. What is shared by one is experienced by all. (Galatians 3:26-28)



Participating In The EmBodied Project

The first initiative of the EmBodied project is a series of videos where our Black brothers and sisters share stories of what it feels like to live in their bodies. These videos are intended to be experienced within a smaller group of people, which will provide space to reflect and discuss ways we can begin to celebrate every member of our collective body.

If you are interested in joining an EmBodied Project Conversation Group, click the link below to fill out an interest form and you will be connected with a small group of people.

Join A Group

For Smaller Communities

Our hope is for smaller communities to take the opportunity to process, examine, unlearn, and relearn together from our brothers and sisters of color and their experiences in order for all of us to live into the wholeness of creation.

In anticipation of these conversations, our team has developed several best practices and guiding principles that will help your group set up healthy conversations as you listen to these stories. David Sessions & Zane Witcher in the video below unpack the logistics and guiding principles for your group to consider and embody when engaging in the Embodied Project.

Watch: Groups & Embodied Project

More About Practices & Principles

Videos & Discussion Questions

Each EmBodied story is meant to be experienced in a small group setting for shared learning and conversation. We suggest spending two weeks with each story, and we’ll provide discussion questions for guided conversations. With the release of each video, links to the questions and videos will be sent to the members within the Highland database.

Out of respect for our storytellers, this link will be password protected. 

Project Videos

Discussion Questions

Request access

Frequently Asked Questions

what is the embodied project?

The EmBodied project is an attempt to know ourselves more holistically. The Apostle Paul teaches that we are all baptized by one Spirit into one body (1 Cor. 12:13.) For too long, we have failed to emphasize the way our bodies are connected in Christ. We have traditionally heard and studied the stories coming from white, middle class people. Our initial goal of this project is to simply listen to the stories from members of our body whom we have not prioritized. At this particular cultural moment, it is important to listen to the stories coming from our Black members, although we recognize the EmBodied Project can expand to hear stories from all marginalized members of our body.

How does the Embodied Project fit with Highland's Pathway?

The EmBodied Project exists primarily in Baptism and Table Pathways. Hearing the storytellers and the resulting conversations are best accomplished in small groups. Jesus’ emphasis on one-ness and the bodily connection to God and each other is clear. What happens to a Black member should matter to every member because we are part of the same body through baptism. Our church will never be fully healthy if we never listen to each other’s stories.

Is the Embodied Project just about race?

No, it addresses race, but it doesn’t stop there. The church must stand against any marginalization of any of God’s beloved children because it grieves the heart of God. Racism has crept its way into all areas of American life, including church. Race is one way we marginalize members of our body, but it's not the only way. Because racial disputes currently seem to end in violence far more often than other forms of marginalization, we believe it’s important to start the EmBodied Project by focusing on stories from our Black members. As we come to terms with our cultural history of systematically subjugating black bodies, we sadly realize that this history has found its way into our churches as well. It is important to hear EmBodied storytellers so we can recognize how and when racism influences all of us.

What does Highland highland mean when we say Black lives matter?

In response to this question the Highland elders have previously stated, “As leaders of Highland, we declare that black lives matter. This statement is not a partisan endorsement of a political party, organization, or policy proposal. Instead, for us it is a truth rooted in the very heart of the gospel. Black lives matter because our vision is to restore Highland, Abilene and the world. So where any of the children of God have been systemically diminished or devalued, we must boldly say that their lives matter to us, that their pain is our pain, and that their hopes and dreams are our hopes and dreams.”

What does the word "anti-racism" mean for Highland?

his term was first coined in the 1940’s but has been introduced into popular speech recently by writers such as Ibram X Kendi. While we believe we can dialogue and learn from every source, the only political view Highland espouses is Jesus Christ and him crucified. However, the idea of being anti-racist is an idea that far predates the term, and it originated through the world of God’s people in church. 

Even before the American Revolution, Quaker churches were working to end slavery in the New World. In our own tradition, Alexander Campbell, Barton W. Stone, and David Lipscomb all vigorously denounced slavery or segregation as antithetical to the gospel of Jesus Christ. 

Unfortunately, racism did not end with the Emancipation Proclamation or the Civil Rights Act of 1968. Our country has developed a deep-seated and centuries-old culture around racism that began with slavery. 

When Highland uses the phrase “anti-racism,” we are communicating our intent to participate in dismantling centuries of racial discrimination on which our country is founded. This belief calls us to action, and we must begin building a new, anti-racist culture in its place. We think the best place to do this work is in Christ’s church. 

Why not just say, “not racist.”

When it comes to racism there aren't just two options of “racist” or “not racist.” In fact, saying, “I’m not racist,” but not doing anything to work against racist systems or attitudes is problematic. When people aren’t overtly racist, but participate in systems that accept or promote racial discrimination, their actions may be complicitly racist. Complicit racism, even if it’s unintentional, is racism that grieves the heart of our Lord. 

Many American churches have been complicity racist for a long time. At Highland, we want to be different. We want to actively work against racism, which requires going beyond making statements denouncing racial discrimination. At Highland we want to develop a culture that works against racism, which means creating an anti-racist culture.