A church in the US state of Maryland has committed $500,000 (£364.000) to the cause of racial justice in its community. The Memorial Episcopal Church, which was founded by Confederate segregationists and slaveowners, will administer the financial reparations over the next five years.
In a statement, the church's pastor, Rev Grey Maggiano, said that his faith community had spent the past few years studying the church's history of racism and discrimination.
"Since 2017 this parish community has focused on uncovering the truth of our past and studying the true impact that Memorial inflicted on our neighbours through housing segregation and redlining, disenfranchisement of Black voters, and inequity in school and youth programs here in Baltimore," he said. "As a faith community dedicated to social justice, we acknowledge how our history has shaped our present reality. This initiative is one more step toward repairing that harm."
The church has committed $50,000 (£36,000) of its reparations fund and $50,000 from its regular annual operating budget to the Guy T. Hollyday Memorial Justice and Reparations Initiative, which aims to invest the money into "justice-centered work" undertaken by local community partners.
The namesake of the Guy T. Hollyday Memorial Justice and Reparations Initiative was a city housing inspector who was shocked by the inequality he saw first-hand while working in Baltimore. The church described him as "a staunch advocate for justice: working for Civil Rights, advocating for the LGBTQ movement, and supporting ex-offenders".
"Guy taught GED classes in the city jail, and encouraged his students to write and share poetry," the church added. "He continued those classes after their release and helped hundreds of returning citizens find their voice. Guy was also a tireless advocate for environmental justice; identifying sewage dumps in Baltimore’s waterways and the lack of trees and greenspace in Baltimore’s poorest communities."
Memorial Episcopal, which was originally named after a slaveholder at the time of the Civil War, said that many more steps must be taken to address the country's history of racism, and acknowledged that "as a parish, city and country we are not far removed from that past".
The church added that it had removed plaques dedicated to the founders from the church sanctuary and had "commissioned a local artist to create a piece for outside the church commemorating the families enslaved by the founding rectors".
"The physical changes remind the parish that Memorial of this century will not be like the past," it added.