It is Time to Break New Ground
A deadly police shooting in Charlotte, NC, of Keith Lamont Scott, has added to the narrative of death and violence reported daily throughout the nation. The news that this has happened in our community has shocked us. It is reported alongside an increasing numbness in which we are becoming apathetic to the horrible events that destroy lives and community. In an atmosphere of fear and anger we seem to be drifting into a disrespect and defiance of others which only contributes to an escalation of violence as witnessed last night when a peaceful protest turned violent. As social media shares videos of these events we quickly draw conclusions and make statements that are not necessarily helpful in resolving these frightful occurrences.
In light of this death and the destructive actions that have followed, Governor Pat McCrory declared a State of Emergency. In the midst of this increasing violence my thoughts are focused on the families who are grieving and impacted by these events; may they find mercy and understanding.
There will be many calls for prayer, which I know are already being lifted, and our prayers should lead to action. It is my prayer we might behave in such a way as to embrace Jesus' teaching, "Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy...Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God." To be a peacemaker at this moment will require patient and persistent efforts to embrace and work with those who may not share our same life experiences and beliefs. It will require deliberate and measured steps of building trust within each community.
The Church reminds us the way in which we live in community with others is a spiritual issue. The way we treat others is a spiritual issue. The way in which we respond to others is a spiritual issue. Within each of our respective communities, with all our differences, we are called to relate to our neighbors as our brothers and sister, the family of God. Jesus responded to the question, "Who is my neighbor?," by telling a story of violence and concluded by asking a question of his own, "Which of these was a neighbor to the one who fell into" violence? The answer was clear, it was the one who risked assisting the one who had been beaten and attacked. Action is required.
I invite each of our churches to pause during their worship services this Sunday in prayer for those who have been impacted most directly by these acts of violence. Pray for the peace of our community and for those who work to protect public safety. I would also invite our congregations to consider how we might be engaged in conversation with our community leaders to encourage, support, and build trust as we become partners and peacemakers. Finally, as we remain immersed in the acts of grace, I would ask United Methodists to form small discussion groups within our congregations and intentional conversations between communities of faith, particularly those of different racial, ethnic make-up than your own for the purpose of entering into conversation about how our involvement can be expressed in acts of mercy within our own communities right now.
The prophet Hosea (10:12) called upon the faithful people of God to live in a different way by saying, "Sow righteousness (justice), reap the fruit of unfailing love, and to prepare new ground; for it is time to seek the Lord." This is such a time. May we lead our communities to live in this “different way.”
Grace and Peace,
Bishop Paul L. Leeland
Resident Bishop, Charlotte Area
The United Methodist Church
Resources for Vital Congregations
Lewis Center for Church Leadership
Lewis Center for Church Leadership: Books
Lewis Center for Church Leadership: Serve Your Neighbor
GBHEM Leadership Resources
Living Faithfully: Human Sexuality and the United Methodist Church
Englewood Book Review
Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations
Ted Talks: The Golden Circle
Ted Talks: The Power of Vulnerability
Ted Talks: The Price of Invulnerability
Meditations on the Ministry of All Christians
Be A Disciple
A Disciple’s Path; A Guide for United Methodist
Lewis Center for Church Leadership: Adult Christian Studies from the Wesley Ministry Network
Traveling Together: A Guide for Disciple Forming Congregations
Living As United Methodist Christians
Methodist Doctrine: The Essentials
Reclaiming our Wesleyan Tradition: John Wesley’s Sermons for Today
John Wesley Sermons: Anthology
Get Their Name
Evangelism & Theology in the Wesleyan Spirit
Canoeing the Mountains
Fresh Expressions: Dinner Church
Lewis Center for Church Leadership: Reach New Disciples
Lewis Center for Church Leadership: 50 Ways to Reach People
Community: The Structure of Belonging
RESOURCES TO CONNECT WITH THE COMMUNITY:
Institute for Emerging Issues
Congregations 4 Children
The Royce and Jane Reynolds Ministry Fund Grants
The Duke Endowment
The Appalachian District Church Vitality Team has been prayerfully seeking ways to help support you and the ministries of your local congregation during this COVID-19 pandemic. Together they have diligently researched and connected with others throughout the conference and our denomination to identify resources and offer them to you. We hope they will be helpful to you and bless you greatly in leading your churches and communities through this unprecedented time. We are very grateful to the District Vitality Team and other contributors for their great work on this resource.
This faithful team has created three documents, two of which you are receiving today. They include:
- Family Home Worship – designed to help families establish a regular worship space within their homes as well as a time where they can worship together.
- Tech Strategies – to help guide you in selecting effective tools and resources within your budget to best communicate in the digital world.
We believe these resources will be of great benefit to you. Also know that the District Vitality Team is available to answer any questions you might have in regards to the documents attached. If you have questions, you may email Rev. Howard Fleming at email@example.com.