The Big Deal Weekend

March 18-20, 2022 at First United Methodist Church of Kalamazoo

Online registration is now closed, but you’re welcome to register in person on Friday at 6pm or Saturday at 8am.

What is it?
The Big Deal Weekend is a weekend built around anti-racist education focused on the intersection of faith and identity. It will be a weekend full of opportunities for growth through fellowship, workshops, and worship. The weekend will consist of a Friday evening, full Saturday and Sunday morning.

Why is it important?
For several years, FUMC Kalamazoo has been working on becoming an Anti-Bias, Anti-Racist (ABAR) congregation. The work of several ministry teams has been centered around making the congregation more open and affirming to people of all walks of life. Having a weekend centered on anti-racist education is a step towards becoming a more welcoming congregation.

What is the schedule like?
Friday evening, March 18
Listen to six storytellers and engage in small group discussion based in our identity with Christ, the church, and as a person aware of racial biases. Participants will be sent home with a devotional that will provide opportunities to engage in conversations between participants and others.
-6pm: Registration and welcome begins
-6:30pm: Worship

Saturday, March 19
-8am: Doors open for coffee and chats. Snacks, coffee and tea provided.
-9am: Worship service presented by Wesley band. Announcements for the day, introduction of workshop leaders and more fun music.
-10am: First workshop
-11:30am: Break for lunch
-12:30pm: Second workshop
-2pm: Take a breath break
-2:15pm: Third workshop
-3:45pm: Snack break
-4pm: Panel discussion with workshop leaders and community organizations

Sunday, March 20
-10am: Worship service led by Bishop David Alan Bard (he/him), presiding bishop of the Michigan Conference of The United Methodist Church

Who are the facilitators?
Workshop leaders
-Shonagh Taruza: Critical Race Theory and Communities of Faith
Shonagh (she/her) is the Deacon of Social Justice and Community Relations and Assistant Pastor at First United Methodist Church of Ann Arbor. Watch one of Shonagh’s worship services on YouTube.

-Naomi Garcia: Polarity; shifting seemingly opposites towards community
Naomi (she/her) has been working for the Michigan Conference of the United Methodist Church for several years.  Learn more about Naomi from this profile.

-Mixed Kids Ministry: Intentional Spaces
MKM is a ministry built by Garrett-Evangelical students, Jordan Aspiras and Sarah Dehaan. MKM is a place for adults to identify with others who share the same/similar experiences. What’s at the root of being racially mixed is equally as important as figuring out what’s in the middle. Leaning on each of our individual experiences, there’s a separation of self in being mixed; what you’re holding back and what you’re putting forward. Learn more at

-Jarell Wilson: Building an Anti-Racist Faith
Jarell (they/them) earned their M.Div from Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary and is an Anti-Racist/Queer-Affirming/Public Theologian. Jarell’s workshop will explore the rise and stability of racism through an examination of history, music, liturgy and church evangelism (and pop culture) to see where it got its start and how it adapts to survive and how/why we are called to combat it at every turn. Learn more about Jarell at

-Matt Smith: Redlining in Kalamazoo
Matt (he/him) works as a librarian at the Kalamazoo Public Library and has studied the history of redlining in Kalamazoo. Watch Matt’s talk on How FDR Segregated Kalamazoo on YouTube.

-Diane Owen-Rogers: Allyship for White People
Diane Owen-Rogers, Ph.D. (she/her) is the Southwest MiSTEM Regional Director and Anti-Bias Anti-Racism Leadership Team Co-Leader at Kalamazoo Regional Educational Service Agency. She collaborates with business/industry, community organizations and K-12 educators to promote access and equity to STEM education for ALL students. Dr. Owen-Rogers infuses her expertise in anti-bias education into her work as she seeks to create a more just educational system. Dr. Owen-Rogers’ 20+ years of service in the educational system includes experience teaching secondary mathematics, K-12 instructional coaching, curriculum development, facilitating school improvement, program evaluation, professional development, as well as teaching undergraduate and graduate courses at Western Michigan University. Diane is also a past Co-Chair of the Reconciling Ministry Team at First United Methodist Church of Kalamazoo.

-Julia Librizzi: Childrens’ Ministries and Godly Play
Julia (she/her) serves as the Director of Children & Families Ministries at First United Methodist Church of Kalamazoo. Julia has been called to work with children and has been involved in many roles of leadership including being a mentor in after-school programs, nanny, preschool aide, Girl Scout leader, LEGO Robotics Coach, Godly Play leader, Vacation Bible School leader and an assistant for emotionally impaired learners at Kalamazoo Public Schools. She is filled with joy to experience and share God’s love with all children and families at FUMC Kalamazoo.

What will I get out of this weekend?
Through The Big Deal Weekend, participants can expect moments of worship, education and fellowship centered around anti-racism. There will be moments of growth in our comfort zones. There will be fun workshops with our wonderful facilitators. We will be learning more about the intersection between spirituality and anti-racism. Plus, there is a cool t-shirt and a yummy lunch!

What is expected of participants?
We hope that participants will stay for all sessions from Friday night to Sunday morning. We hope they engage the critical thinking parts of their brains. We hope that they are able to have hard questions asked of them and are ready to ask hard questions of others. This weekend has been built with intention for stretching and growth. We hope that by the end of the weekend, participants feel more prepared to engage thoughtfully in hard conversations around the intersection of anti-racism and spirituality.

How do I register?
Register online here.

How can I be of support?
Please share this weekend with all of your FUMC Kalamazoo friends, peers, colleagues and everyone in between. Invite them personally! If you feel led to do so, volunteer! If you don’t feel led to volunteer, but know someone who would like to, please get in touch. If you are able to, help financially support a participant. Let people know how excited we are for this weekend to happen AND how excited we are to have them, specifically, here for the weekend. Finally, we are excited to have YOU. If you are unable to do anything else, please consider coming! To discuss volunteering or  any other questions, please contact Kathryn Sappington at and Mandakini Brophy at