The Rocks Are Crying Out: Show Up, Speak Up, Stand Up.
2020 Reconciliation Ministry Offering
Some Pharisees from the crowd told him, “Teacher, get your disciples under control!” But he
said, “If they kept quiet, the stones would do it for them, shouting praise.” Luke 19:39-40 MSG version
It has been twenty years since we proclaimed our anti-racist and pro-reconciliation identity. We keep trying it on to see if it fits. Over and over again, we find that it does. On September 27th and October 5th, we will receive the Special Offering for Reconciliation Ministry in congregations. This year’s theme is fitting for our response to the sustained unrest that has propelled many to engage in social activism in small towns and major cities. The Rocks Are Crying Out: Show Up, Speak Up, Stand Up based in Luke 19:36 -40, reminds us, that like those first-century disciples following Jesus into Jerusalem, that we must lift our voices to acknowledge the divine message and the divine messenger that is Christ with us. We are the ones to break the silence of oppression and suppression of human dignity based on the color of a person’s skin or their nation of origin. The harmful impact of systemic racism has been lain bare in the health disparities of those impacted by the novel Coronavirus compelling us to ‘speak up’ naming the conditions that unjustly impact poor, black, and brown communities. The extra-judicial treatment of black and brown bodies has compelled many to ‘show up’ in peaceful protests to affirm equitable treatment by law enforcement and to affirm human dignity for ALL. We, too, are compelled to ‘stand up’ to witness to Christ’s profound love on behalf of those who are without hope because of historic economic oppression and wealth disparities in our communities. Your generosity to Reconciliation Ministry strengthens the work and witness of congregations to be the vicarious presence of Christ where we serve. Your giving promotes programs that provide anti-racism and pro-reconciliation education and resources such as our *“Choose Your Own Adventure” online bible study created by Disciples Peace Interns. Your giving promotes inclusive worship and relationship-building through programs such as **One Bag of Tea conversation starter program. As well, your generosity funds grants that fuel advocacy like the Beloved Community mapping project of Greater Kansas City that connects congregations to community needs. Your generosity strengthens our voice to shout “Hosanna, Hosanna, blessed are WE, the ones who come in the name of Lord!” We thank you in advance for your generous giving on Sunday, September 27th and Sunday, October 5th to Reconciliation Ministry!
*Choose Your Own Adventure “A Parallel Journey” resource https://reconciliationministry.org/resources/
**One Bag of Tea program
Ernest Joshua Newborn, Sr. Peace-Maker Legacy Grant Program 2020
Reconciliation Ministry of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) announces the launch of the Rev. Ernest J. Newborn, Sr. Legacy grant program. This grant program intends to provide seed funds for small racial reconciliation and anti-racism projects that address structural barriers for people of color to fully thrive in the communities where they live. Programs awarded by this program are short-term, achievable, and accountable to the communities the award will benefit. The application form and guidelines can be accessed here. Applications will be accepted beginning June 15, 2020, and ongoing through 2020.
Reverend Newborn served for 14 years as Administrative Director of Reconciliation Mission with a stellar fund development record and relationship-building impact. In partnership with Leon Riley and William Fox, Rev. Newborn inaugurated the Bike to Assembly fundraising program that sought to raise awareness and inspire action for poverty and racism across this life of the Church. He developed programs such as Mother-to-Mother connecting women in poverty with women of economic means as a model of economic empowerment and racial reconciliation. In honor of the legacy of Rev. Newborn and his family, we launch this program as an enduring catalyst for transformation and racial justice.
Pentecost and Anti-Racism Response Resources
“All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages as the Spirit gave them ability.” Act 2:4 NRSV
In the throes of a pandemic, protests, and pandemonium, we can be thrust into silence and solitude. I am convinced that solitude is a needed spiritual discipline in times such as these. The past three weeks have been particularly difficult and distressing for our nation and for our African American siblings. In addition to the disproportionate death rate from COVID-19 in African American and Latinx communities, two more African American men were killed by white law enforcement officers. Major cities in our nation, including Minneapolis, Atlanta, Los Angeles, New York, and Chicago are smoldering from flames of combustible rage and despair resulting from the death of George Floyd. Mr. Floyd died when a Minneapolis police officer placed his knee on Floyd’s neck for over eight minutes inhibiting his ability to breathe.
See the resource list.here.
Protests turned fiery and businesses have been breached through broken entry points and theft – looting has occurred. Yet, looting cannot be the legacy of this season. As a Pro-Reconciling and Anti-Racist Church, we must keep a meta-view of this moment. This is not about bad actors who burn buildings and steal merchandise. The depth and longevity of individual and collective despair have many expressions. Four hundred plus years of actual and symbolic knees pressed onto the necks of people of African descent in this nation have festered into blisters that burst and ooze with rage, resolve, and repression of the human spirit.
All of this as we enter into the season of Pentecost. As the Spirit rushes upon the Church like a mighty wind, we are propelled toward a shift. This shift requires that we, like the disciples on that Pentecost Day in biblical antiquity, receive the Holy Spirit. It is requiring that we trust the Spirit to use our different tongues and languages as we employ our skills, gifts, passions, and talents to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ. We will not all protest in a local town square, but I pray some of you will. We will not all form prayer circles and pray for the Spirit to accompany our culture shift to dismantle racism, but I hope many of you will. Many, if not all of us, can vote, join a movement in our local community, learn how to be an ally, and educate ourselves in anti-racism.
I have attached, above, a document with a few resources that have emerged over time from Disciples pastors, scholars, and ecumenical partners. It is my hope they will help you to embrace the rushing wind of the Pentecost season in order to affirm the image of God in every human body and spirit. It is also my prayer that we, “filled with the Holy Spirit, will begin to speak in different languages (by utilizing our differing gifts) as the Spirit gives ability” to be the reconciled body of Christ from this day forward. While silence and solitude are virtuous disciplines, I pray we are reminded that we are never alone. I also pray that Disciples emerge at this moment committed to join the movement of the Holy Spirit to change our culture of racism this Pentecost season.
Rev. April Johnson
Minister of Reconciliation
Asian American Pacific Island Heritage Month
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Poor People’s Campaign March on Washington (virtual) June 20, 2020
In October of 1967, members of the Christian Church gathered in St. Louis, Missouri at the annual International Convention of Christian Churches where a group of those members brought up the distress urban areas across the country were experiencing regarding w issues of racism and poverty. Participants at the Convention felt strongly that the church should make intentional effort to address these issues happening throughout the church and nation. So, they got to work.
Almost immediately the United Christian Missionary Society through the Urban Emergency Action committee received funds to begin providing grants to social services organizations who were already serving communities in the work the church was looking to support. Organizations like the Boys and Girls Club and the YMCA received grant money to aid in their efforts dismantling societal oppression.
After a year of success and increasing interest from across the Church, General Minister and President, A. Dale Fiers, convened a steering committee to discuss and strategize how to further address the racial and social oppression that was occurring in American cities. The committee had a goal of raising $1 million over two years for programs in urban centers and rural communities..
What the church thought would be a temporary fund that would eventually lose interest became a movement. Reconciliation: The Urban Emergency Program consistently met its fundraising goals, with congregations within the denomination generously donating money, overwhelmingly supportive of a mission working within the the vain of social justice during the tumultuous civil rights era.
In 1971, the Church now officially organized into the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) formalized its commitment and call to the work of Reconciliation as a permanent ministry within the denomination. The call to Reconciliation: The Urban Emergency Program – the Reconciliation Ministry continues its witness these 47 years later.
Today, the ministry works to break down systems of oppression that effectively marginalizes people through practices of social and economic exclusion. Reconciliation Ministry offers anti-racism and anti-oppression trainings throughout the Church to foster a denomination-wide understanding of the importance of dismantling systemic racism and poverty in their community where they serve and do mission.
“It’s helpful for the church to act as a moral agent of the community to raise the consciousness and to inspire those who are willing to commit to be advocates for those who are as victims of racial and social oppression,” says April Johnson, Executive Director of Reconciliation Ministry. “It’s important for the Church to know that it is a major influencer in society. We are much more than what we do inside the doors of the Church. The value of the church is how we witness when we are outside the doors of the church. We embody the ministry of reconciliation everywhere we go as ambassadors for Christ.”
Reconciliation Ministry still participates in funding community organizing networks and church-wide ministries through it granting program and robust anti-racism educational efforts. During the last week of September and the first week of October, the Reconciliation Ministry Special Offering is received in congregations; individuals and congregations can donate in their congregations, through online giving, or by mailing a check payable to Reconciliation Ministry (P.O. Box 1986, Indianapolis, IN 46206).
Scripture on 1 Corinthians 12:20-26 says, “As it is, there are many members, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and those members of the body that we think less honorable we clothe with greater honor, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect; whereas our more respectable members do not need this. But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior member, that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.” Continue reading.