We offer much gratitude to all congregations that promoted and collected Reconciliation Special Day Offerings over the past two Sundays, and to you who gave. One of several programs in our Region that is receiving grant money from the Reconciliation Offering is The Caring Hands After School Program at Willow Street Christian Church in Hannibal (featured recently in the Hannibal Courier-Post). Do know that your generosity is changing lives!
Last week, Penny Ross-Corona and Paul Koch had the privilege of gathering with colleagues in our Region and beyond at Centennial Christian Church in St. Louis to join Rev. April Johnson, Minister of Reconciliation; Mark Anderson, president of the National Benevolent Association; and our new General Minister and President, Rev. Teresa Hord Owens. The event was led by Rev. Dr. Dietra Wise Baker, who is NBA’s Organizing Specialist and a member of the St. Louis Racial Justice Group. We gathered for worship and to offer collective encouragement to our fellow pastors who have been “praying with their feet” in support of their St. Louis neighbors. Testimonies were heard from Rev. Brenda Booth of Isaiah 58 Ministries, Rev. Dr. Jacque Foster of Compton Heights Christian Church, Rev. Dr. Jeff Moore of Webster Groves Christian Church, and Rev. Derrick Perkins of Centennial Christian Church. We heard from Rev. Johnson that the General Church Office of Reconciliation is claiming its call to be a prayerful and financial resource when a crisis of inequality and injustice erupts in our communities (like Week of Compassion is for natural disaster). As Rev. Owens eloquently added, “We can’t choose our headlines, but we can work for better ones.” Indeed, your Regional Minister Team stands with those who wish to make better headlines that resemble the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Please go to: https://www.nbacares.org/stories-and-news/gods-countermoves for additional information about this gathering.
As you have worked, given, stood, and marched to make Reconciliation possible, we wish to recount how your Regional Minister Team, congregations in our Region, and faithful Disciples have made progress this past year, and where we see ourselves heading next.
- Three Pro-reconciliation/Anti-Racism workshops that educated and informed about systemic racism were held across the Region in 2017, each very well attended. The PR/AR team gathers at least monthly to listen and to refine content.
- Disciples in our Region have gathered for non-violent presence, in consultation with local law-enforcement.
- A special grant has been given to help train those who wish to learn to be pro-active rather than just reactive when injustice occurs, as part of future PR/AR trainings.
- Grants were given to Disciples congregations who see justice as also helping alleviate economic inequality in their active ministries.
- Our 2017 Persons in Ministry Retreat provided biblical teaching on how to “minister in turbulent times.” Sacred spaces for sharing and lamentation were created to help pastors find healing and resolve in daily ministry frustrations.
- Central Missouri Disciples have joined Missouri Faith Voices to offer prophetic words to our state government.
- Our 2017 Christian Regional Youth gathered at Drury University in July to learn about ways to bridge the gaps of social inequality.
- A high school winter retreat over the Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend in January 2018 will touch upon many issues for action to build up the beloved community.
- Our Outdoor Ministries is beginning a special initiative to bring more youth of color to our camps in 2018.
- Our Regional Gathering this October focuses heavily on cooperative hands-on mission that will aid disaster victims and families around the world.
- Our Mid-America Update features each week a story of mission and justice happening because of local congregations in each quadrant of the Region.
- We have made it a priority to listen to the many layers of struggle and economic inequality experienced by our rural Disciples and through the ministries of our small-town and rural churches.
Rev. Owens concluded her remarks at Centennial Christian Church by saying, “Our biggest evangelism tool is our public witness.” May all who seek the love of Jesus Christ find he has many feet, many voices, and many hands that always extend out as welcome to our table of grace.
G. Mike Weinman