Dear Storytellers of St. Luke’s,
Our first week of Living the Story 2021: Learn, Engage, Listen and Echo has been a powerful week as a St. Luke’s community. We pivoted on Thursday morning of last week, deciding to move forward with the Church Bible Study we had postponed on Wednesday night and even with the last-minute switch we still had close to 70 participants with us. In fact, the level of engagement is pretty exciting:
- 338 registered for the Wednesday night Bible study
- 90 registered for Sunday’s Becoming Beloved Community with Gary Mason and Dr. Nichole Phillips
- New Life Together groups forming
Even if your schedule doesn’t permit you being with us at the scheduled time on Wednesdays or Sundays, by registering you will receive the recordings as soon as they are uploaded and edited the next day. This way you can still participate in your own time frame. Watching Wednesday night’s class before Sunday helps continue the momentum.
In our first Becoming Beloved Community class we had the opportunity to learn from Sean Murray and Winston Irvine who were involved in the “Troubles” of Northern Ireland on either side of the conflict, and now work toward bridge building and peace in their community. We learned from their experiences of Belfast, the work of Beloved Community takes vulnerability and willingness to confess and listen, sacred space of community and hearts to hear another experience and testimony of trauma, and patience. 20 plus years out from the Good Friday peace accord, they are still working to heal generational trauma, single narratives of hate, and move toward one another in reconciliation and trust. For North Americans, who really like quick fixes, this news was a little daunting. However, as we move into Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend, we realize how far we have come, but also how far we still have to go toward the beloved community he began to speak of in 1956.
We see this on every level as we move toward Inauguration with the threat of more violence possibly breaking out this weekend in each state capital. Beloved Community began as a vision of equity by Josiah Royce who founded the Fellowship of Reconciliation of which Dr. King Jr. was a part. King used this vision of equity not just about race, but economics, culture, religion and so much more to capture the heart of Christ’s Kingdom and the Old Testament vision of the lion lying down with the lamb. But all of these years later, we are still laboring for the ideals of beloved community and WE are a part of that work for our communities, nation and even our denomination. But there are things we CAN do, as followers of Jesus, Storytellers of God’s love, as revealers of God’s Kingdom.
This week as we move into the theme of the Bible, RELATIONS, found in stories of Genesis 3 – 50 in particular, we recognize the work of beloved community and relations depends on this movement of us doing our interpersonal work, and then moving toward one another. Pastors Jeremy, Jad, and Melissa will ENGAGE us in the stories Pastor Bill will help us LEARN and weave the connection to this important work on this important weekend. I invite you to take some time this weekend and read Letters from Birmingham Jail as well as the stories of Jacob and Esau from Genesis 25.
We also invite you to participate in one of the many education and celebration events of MLK weekend held in our city. We will begin to look at our US history of race and the work we need to do to understand slavery and the obstacles we must overcome on our way to becoming Beloved Community as Dr. Phillips joins us this Sunday at 5:30 p.m. for a three-week conversation.
Finally, I have been working with the UMCNextFL team and Florida UMC Bishop Ken Carter to help create a 31-day devotional and conversation guide, walking us from MLK day on January 17 to Ash Wednesday on February 17. This journey is based on the third UM Baptism Vow:
“Do you confess Jesus Christ as your savior, put your whole trust in his grace, and promise to serve him as your Lord, in union with the church which Christ has opened to people of all ages, nations, and races?”
Each week, a diverse set of lay and clergy authors scripturally ground each of the underlined words to move us toward a deeper understanding of living this confession and our commitment to a vision of a church whose future is open to all based on Christ as our Lord. Included with each daily devotion is a video of the writer telling their story. I will host a weekly conversation on Thursday nights at 7:00 p.m. for anyone interested in what such a vision means for our witness and how God is writing this story of love at St. Luke’s. Register here for the conversation and you can begin to use the devotion this Sunday by downloading a copy of the PDF here.
Every vision begins with those willing to take the steps to make a vision a reality. It begins with people who see, feel and pray for the vision of God’s holy Kingdom to start the work of making it a reality within themselves, but also within their communities. This is a part of our vision at St. Luke’s. Here are some great ways to begin. Until Sunday…
Grace, peace, and love,