Wednesday, August 8, 2018

A Place at the Table


The United Methodist Association of Ministers with Disabilities met at Gallaudet University for a three-day conference for the purpose of education, advocacy and support (August 1-3, 2018). The theme was “Taking Our Place at the Table: DisABILITY Leadership Academy.”

The event included a number of speakers: the Rev. Stephanie Remington from Wesley Theological Seminary’s Lewis Leadership Center; the Rev. E. Michelle Ledder from the General Commission on Religion and Race; the Rev. Jackson Day from the General Board of Church and Society; and the Rev. Anthony Hunt from the Baltimore-Washington Conference Board of Ordained Ministry.

Back, Left to right: Rev. Ruthann Simpson (Pen-Del), Rev. Dave Goss (EPA), Rev. Bill Downing (Pen-Del), and Rev. Paul Crikelair (EPA). Front: Bishop Peggy Johnson.

Leadership development was the key component of this event; and the group strategized about how to promote more opportunities to be in leadership and inclusion in the UMC. People with disabilities, even those who are ordained or commissioned, often find themselves talked about but not present at the table.

Jesus understood the importance of table ministry. Much of his ministry included gatherings around meals and tables. It seemed like he was always doing radical acts of inclusion at the tables where he sat.

Jesus ate with sinners and tax collectors and got into trouble with the Pharisees for that (Matthew 9:11). He allowed a woman with a questionable past to wash his feet at a table in the home of a Pharisee, and he gets grief for that too (Luke 7:36-50). We see him including Mary of Bethany around the teaching table instead of sending her to the kitchen to cook with her sister Martha (Luke 10:38-42).

Left to right: Deacon Russell Ewell (Co-chair of the UM Association of Ministers with
Disabilities), Rev. Janine Delaunay (Co-chair of UMAMD with Russell), Bishop Peggy Johnson.

Jesus gives us a parable about the great banquet that includes all those whom the world excludes (Luke 14:15-24), especially those with disabilities. In addition, he didn’t shy away from literally turning over tables of greed and extortion when the place of prayer for the Gentiles was being defiled by the sale of sacrificial animals and the changing of coins. (John 2:11-12).

In each case the Lord was widening the circle at each table, teaching the world the unimaginably grace-filled, inclusive love of God.

Jesus’ most radical act of table turning would be the Last Supper. At that table Jesus himself becomes love incarnate. The Lamb of God becomes the sacrificial lamb for the sins of the world. The bread and the wine are his very body and blood. His death on the cross seals forever the opportunity for everyone, everywhere, throughout all of history to be a part of the family of God and seated at Christ’s table.

At this disability conference at Gallaudet we once again committed ourselves to sharing the good news that God unconditionally includes and loves people with disabilities. I ask you, the church, to think of ways that your church, your ministries, your worship and outreach programs can include this amazingly gifted community. Then widen your table to welcome all.


Thursday, July 26, 2018

Turning as delight


In 1848, Elder Joseph Brackett, Jr. (1797-1882) a member of a sect known as the Shakers, located in Alfred, Maine, wrote the words and the tune to “Simple Gifts.”


‘Tis the gift to be simple, ‘tis the gift to be free, ‘tis the gift to come down where we ought to be.

 And when we find ourselves in the place just right, t’will be in the valley of love and delight.   

When true simplicity is gained, to bow and to bend, we shan’t be ashamed,
To turn, turn will be our delight, till by turning, turning, we come ‘round right.” 
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This was originally one of the dance songs of the Shaker sect, whose full name was the “United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing.” Their founder was a prophetic figure known as Mother Ann Lee. 
The group began in Europe (first France and then England) and eventually moved to the New York in the 1700’s.  The Shakers were basically Christian in their beliefs, following the teachings and lifestyle of Jesus. They lived together in communities with a strict rule about celibacy, and they held all property in common.  The movement swelled to 19 communities across northeastern parts of the United States in the 1800’s; and at its heyday they had more than 6,000 community members.  
An important part of their communal worship was dancing; so the lyrics of “Simple Gifts” were as much poetry as instruction, since the song was actually being danced. I can imagine them turning and turning in some fashion that eventually circled them back to their original place in the line.  The concept of turning as “delight” seems to be a call for a willingness to be open to change.  That involves bowing and bending that chaffs against our human pride many times. 
Change, and the humbling turning and turning that comes with it is often a threat to us “feet-stuck-in-the-ground” humans.  Yet only as we are open to change, take risks and are flexible enough to embrace it without “shame” can we grow and mature as Christians.  The basic fundamental core of beliefs and ways of being in God’s eyes stays the same but in the turning we experience personal and spiritual growth that cannot come in any other way.
In her fascinating book Simple Gifts: Lessons in Living from a Shaker Village (Vintage Books, 1999), June Sprigg writes about her experiences working as a summer-intern tour guide in one of the last remaining Shaker settlements in Canterbury, New Hampshire, in the early 1970’s. The remnant of women there, all in their elder years, taught the writer their basic rules of simple living (without the “scrambling and yearning for wealth”), hard work, making and doing things with excellence, and staying the course despite criticism and scorn.  Mother Ann Lee, the foundress declared their motto to be “hands to work, hearts to God,” and it was lived out there even after two centuries.
The Shakers achieved these goals of simplicity and personal piety by strong bonds of accountability to one another, much like the early Wesley Movement with its class meetings and bands.  Shakers had a leadership design that built into the community much mentorship and spiritual guidance.  Each member was assigned the task of confessing their sins on a regular basis to their superior, including those in the highest ranks.  In this way they continued to “turn and turn” and polish the diamond of their souls into a more clear image of Jesus. 
 
I met my future husband, Michael at Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky in 1977.  We were aspiring to become United Methodist ministers. We were married at the Free Methodist Church in Wilmore in August of 1978 and spent our honeymoon at the Shaker Village at Pleasant Hill, Kentucky (just 20 miles from Wilmore).  
The Shaker community there was founded in 1805 and thrived for about 100 years.  After it disbanded because of dwindling numbers, it eventually became a historical center with tours and various exhibits of the Shakers’ handiwork and farms.  They also had exceptionally good food, and people could sleep in the restored Shaker quarters, which had handmade Shaker furniture and the simplest of amenities. We were charmed by the stories of their way of life (except for the celibacy rule), and we felt that our beginnings as a couple could take a page out of their commitment to Christ above all else.
The world continued to turn, and off we went into ministry after graduation from Asbury Seminary in 1980. We accepted appointments in the Baltimore Washington Conference and served there for 25 years, all the while turning and turning as we grew as a family and in the love of God.  
In 2003, the year of our 25th wedding anniversary, we took a pilgrimage to Pleasant Hill, Ky., to once again renew our vows to each other and recommit ourselves to simplicity.  On that visit, we were surprised to see that the Free Methodist Church where we were married in Wilmore had become a Cokesbury bookstore.  We went into the store and renewed our vows in the reference section with a curious store manager looking on. 
Things had turned in those 25 years.  The Free Methodists had built a larger church outside of Wilmore, and the seminary had expanded. The town had two traffic lights!  Our family had also increased by two sons; and our ministries turned from each serving two multiple-church charges to serving single churches in Baltimore. And I welcomed the joy of my life: a full-time pastoral ministry at the historic Christ UMC of the Deaf. Through it all, we learned about patience, endurance, God’s faithful providing in lean times and “laughter’s healing art.” (UM Book of Hymns, 560)
The world continued to turn, and this year we celebrated 40 years of marriage. Off we went to Pleasant Hill, Kentucky, once again to stay in the Shaker living quarters, to eat their humble but delicious food and to renew our commitments. The Free Methodist Church that had become a bookstore by our last visit was now a church again. This time it was the “GCF: Vineyard Church.”  
The town of Wilmore had “turned” a great deal as well: Asbury College was now Asbury University; and our beloved seminary had numerous new buildings and centers for evangelism, mission and technology.  There were many new expanded apartments for student housing. The seminary chapel had been renovated; and because the GCF Church was not open the morning of our visit, we renewed our vows at Estes Chapel.

Once again, we thanked God for the years of marriage and ministry, and we pledged ourselves to continuing the journey of “turning.” Since our 25th anniversary visit there had been much turning in our lives. I became a bishop; there has been great expansion of our global church; there is a new way of being the church in the world with advancements in technology and communication; and the out-in-the-world approach to missions has made our heads turn!
Turning and growing and pruning and continuing on the journey of ministry is our goal for the next however many years we have left. The song promises when we turn and turn enough we will “come ‘round right.” May it be so!  The Shakers will always bring me back to what is really important in life and ministry: the simple gifts are the best!

Enjoy photos of Bishop Peggy and the Rev. Michael Johnson, then and now.


Learn more about the Shakers from History of the Shakers and Ken Burns’ PBS American Stories and other sources. View the short video (2:24) Utopian Communities included Brook Farm, Mormons, Shakers by S. Anthony Hill.  Also, watch and listen to children sing and dance to the Shaker Hymn “Simple Gifts” [with lyrics]. 
1John M. Anderson (1950) “Force and Form: The Shaker Intuition of Simplicity,” The Journal of Religion, University of Chicago)
 
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Monday, June 11, 2018

World Refugee Day – June 20, 2018

The United Nations' (UN) World Refugee Day is observed on June 20 each year. This event honors the courage, strength and determination of women, men and children who are forced to flee their homeland under threat of persecution, conflict and violence. Some communities dedicate an entire week that includes World Refugee Day to encourage people to think about the lives of refugees and the human right to a secure place to that one can see as “home”. (www.timeanddate.com/holidays/un/world-refugee-day )


By Bishop Peggy Johnson

Last December in my
New Year’s video statement and a related article, I declared 2018 to be the “Year of the Migrant.”  There are more than 65 million displaced people living in our world today; and we, the people of God, have a mandate to show them love and hospitality:

“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” (Hebrews 13:2)

“For I was hungry, and you gave me food; I was thirsty, and you gave me drink; I was a stranger, and you welcomed me.”   Matthew 25:35

“When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.”  Leviticus 19:33-34

The mandate is clear.  To live out these commands in this day and time, with immigration being a highly controversial issue, is far more difficult but also far more crucial.
World Refugee Day is June 20, 2018; and I hope that each of our churches will mention this on Sunday, June 17 and 24, during worship.  Make people aware of the plight of millions.  Help congregants understand the intolerable political climate that exists in many countries due to war, unstable governments, famine or natural disasters. 

Remind our flocks that our resettlement program for legal immigrants in the U.S. is an important part of our national value system. For the Christian, it is part of our commitment to Jesus.
Help people find ways to get involved and offer help, even just a little bit.  We have a United Methodist Advanced Special fund for donations: National Justice for Our Neighbors Advance #901285 (Creating a welcoming community by providing immigration legal services, education and advocacy.)  And we can communicate in many ways to our lawmakers that we support humane immigration policies.

Years ago, when I was serving in a local congregation in Baltimore, a man from Ethiopia came to my church.  He was seeking asylum in the U.S. due to political unrest in his home country, where he was a respected educator.  He narrowly escaped with his life after being kidnapped and tortured. 

The church afforded him many helpful support systems during his long journey through the immigration process.  This was because he had a face and a story; and it was because the common humanity they shared was compelling.  This talented and personable man eventually received asylum status and a green card, and it was partly due to the advocacy and support of this little church.  
Today he is a productive member of society.  I saw a picture of him on Facebook recently standing next to his son who just graduated from high school.  His story taught me that every church can do one thing, help one person, raise one voice for advocacy. 

Compassion for the stranger does not have to spin into partisan political controversy.  Respond only as the Lord lays it on your heart, as the “Lord loves a cheerful giver.”  Remember always that we are all sojourners on this earth, living a common life under the watchful eyes of a loving, merciful, welcoming God, who bids us to be loving and merciful and welcoming as well. 


Please download, use and share this toolkit from the Refugee Council USA, so that your church and others can promote and advocate for this important cause using various means in the weeks and months to come: 

World Refugee Day 2018:  Reaffirming U.S. Commitment to RefugeeResettlement & Protection

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Dwelling in Unity




“Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers and sisters dwell in unity. It is like the precious oil on the head, running down on the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down on the collar of his robes!  It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion!  For there the Lord has commanded the blessing: life forevermore.”  Psalm 133

I have always found this tiny psalm to be curious.  The image of sacred oil poured on God’s priest in such volume that is runs down his beard and onto the collar of his holy vestments does not exactly sync with my idea of unity. Get the Kleenexes! Dew on Mt. Hermon also is a puzzling analogy, this gentle water that covers an entire mountain!  What they both have in common is a sense of pervasiveness.  The oil and the dew are in abundance and they both are symbols of the Spirit which hovers consistently over the face of the earth and among all people. 

Unity is like that. When people are living in harmony with one another it covers everything that has been divisive, it gets into the crevices of partisan debate and intellectual and ecclesiastical pride. The result of unity is abundance and provision for all.  Psalm 133 says it is a blessing and it leads ultimately to everlasting life.

Unity is the oil and the water that is the fuel and sustenance that best drives the church into mission and ministry. Only as we are in unity can we get the job done with all of our varied gifts and graces working together for the good of the whole.  Unity is often mistaken for uniformity of thought and heart but it is much deeper than that. It is a passionate commitment to stay in communion with one another despite even huge differences.  It is born of the love that “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things and endures all things.”  (I Corinthians 13:7)

Dwelling in unity is my prayer for the United Methodist Church. For years we have been a church divided over many social issues but in particular the practice, ordination and marriage of people who are lesbian and gay has taken center stage at every General Conference. Since 1972 there have been paragraphs in our UM Book of Discipline that forbid homosexual people from being ordained and our churches and pastors cannot perform holy unions or same gender marriages. 

At the 2016 General Conference the bishops were charged with the task of leading the way in finding a solution to this impasse once and for all.  What resulted was the creation of a 32-member “Commission for the Way Forward” (a group of highly diverse United Methodists from all over the world) who studied and prayed and worked on a plan for the bishops to consider for presentation at a specially called session of General Conference. The work has been done with grace and faithfulness for almost two years.

At the spring (April 29 – May 4, 2018) meeting of the Council of Bishops we voted to recommend the following:

Having received and considered the extensive work of the Commision on a Way Forward, the Council of Bishops will submit a report to the special session of the GC in 2019 that includes:

All three plans for a way forward considered by the Commission and the Council. (“The Traditionalist Plan,” “The One Church Plan” and “The Connectional Conference Plan.”)

The Council’s recommendation is “The One Church Plan.”



An historical narrative of the Council’s discernment process regarding all three plans.

According to the bishops the rationale for this response is to invite the church to go deeper into the journey of the Council and Commission. The Council makes all the information considered by the Commission and the COB available to the delegates of the General Conference and acknowledges that there is support for each of the three plans within the Council.  The values of our global church are reflected in all three plans.  The majority of the COB recommends the One Church Plan as the best way forward for the UMC.

We will have conversations about this proposal at our sessions of annual conference this year.  In addition all of the documents will be available for further reading and study after July 8th.  This will give our interpreters time to translate the documents into our ten international languages.  In the fall we will be holding town hall meetings on each district to discuss these plans further.  Members of our delegations will also be available for additional meetings and conversation in order to receive feedback and answer questions.

The General Conference will ultimately vote on this recommendation at the special session that will be held February 23 – 26, 2019 in St. Louis, MO.  There are 12 delegates from the Philadelphia Area (8 from Eastern PA and 4 from Peninsula-Delaware) who will be among the 864 delegates from this world-wide church.  What comes out of this General Conference will be the final decision of the church.  We will have more conversations and meetings after General Conference to interpret the decisions and to plan further into our future together. 

We are still on a journey and as we travel together we will pray, we will have respectful conversation, we will study and seek the Word of God. We will continue to be in ministry and mission to a world that Christ loved and died for. We will engage in justice ministries and works of compassion and healing.  We will preach good news of salvation to all.

Through it all my prayer is for the unity of the church; unity that is pervasive and life-giving.  Ultimately when we dwell together in unity we will be blessed and it will best enable us to be a blessing to the world out of love for Christ.
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Friday, May 11, 2018

United Methodist Women touched my life



In the fall of 1978 I was an M.Div student at Asbury Theological Seminary in Kentucky.  But I wondered some days if I had heard God right about this call to ministry. 

My District Committee of Ordained Ministry had put my ordination interview on hold, so I could be interviewed again. I had no role models at the seminary for women in ministry leadership. Only the librarian was a woman. All the other leaders else were men, white men, except for an Asian professor who taught Greek and New Testament.

Then came word of the Consultation for United Methodist Clergywomen in Dallas, Texas, in January 1979. I wanted to go so badly, but money was an issue. So going to Dallas was a clearly a pipe dream. That was until the United Methodist Women of my home church (Lansdowne UMC in Baltimore) stepped up to the plate and sent me the money to attend the consultation. 

It was life-changing and inspirational. It gave me the courage to keep following my call, as I saw capable, bodacious clergywomen preaching and leading with grace and skill.  Those faithful women of Lansdowne will never know just how much it changed the course of my ministry.

Other bishops have been similarly blessed by women and women’s groups. Bishop Joaquina Nhanala, episcopal leader of Mozambique and South Africa, received support from the Women’s Fellowship of the Mozambique Annual Conference for Theological Studies.  She became the first woman elected to the episcopacy from the continent of Africa. But first, scholarships from United Methodist Women helped her follow her call to ordained ministry and prepare for the leadership she is now providing to the church.

“I am a product of United Methodist Women,” Bishop Nhanala has said, adding that she’s not alone. “A lot of women are now in a position to have a say because of the efforts of United Methodist Women.”

Bishop Rosemarie Wenner, recently retired from leading the UMC in Germany, was the only female UM pastor in her country when she considered going into ministry. She became the first women outside the U.S. elected to the episcopacy in 2005. Women inspired and supported her along her path of ministry as well.

United Methodist Women continued to change my own life. Later when I served Christ UMC of the Deaf, a deaf congregation in Baltimore, Md., the UM Women’s Division sent our entire UMW unit to the Women’s Assembly. The women were inspired by the vision for mission with women and children and youth that they had never experienced before.  

They were asked to sign a song on stage in front of 10,000 women, and the song was “God of the Sparrow, God of the Whale.” I remember one of the lyrics was “God of the ages, God near at hand, God of the loving heart.” I felt the “loving heart” of God through the generous gift of mission from the UMW to this humble unit of women at that amazing Assembly gathering in Kansas City, Mo.


 In 2012, as a fairly new bishop, I was able to give back to the UMW by writing the book study for their Mission u topic, The Church and People with Disabilities.  It gave me a chance to write from my passion for ministry among people with disabilities. I hoped to teach the church how to provide access to and empower such people, and thus learn that disability does not mean inability.

As I plan to attend the May 17-20, 2018 UMW Assembly in Columbus, Ohio I can only wonder who will be inspired next to be a bishop, or a pastor, or a missionary, or a servant who will lead the church into the future?  We celebrate our own Barbara Drake, who will be consecrated a Deaconess at this event.

No doubt, others will follow in her footsteps in the years to come because of her servant leadership model. Mission inspires mission; and constantly, women lead women into higher forms of mission and ministry around the world.

As they celebrate 150 years of ministry, the UMW has a bright future of empowerment through mission and loving hearts. These women continue to inspire me with their relentless call for justice for women and children and youth everywhere. They are touching lives each day and making a difference in our world and in our church.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Let us rejoice in our United Methodist heritage



United Methodist Heritage Sunday this year falls on May 20. That is also Pentecost Sunday, giving the day a double-heritage significance, since that is when we celebrate the birth of Christ’s church.
Speaking of births, however, I invite us all to begin our United Methodist heritage celebration a month early, on Sunday, April 22, in order to commemorate the birth of our denomination from merger and reorganization 50 years ago. That labor-intensive birth happened on April 23, 1968. But it came after nearly a decade of prayerful negotiations, General Conference legislation and prevenient mergers of racially segregated annual conferences—like ours—until the glorious day of delivery when we finally became The United Methodist Church.
The Methodist Church merged with the Evangelical United Brethren Church—both denominations being offspring of earlier mergers themselves. The new denomination abolished Methodism’s Central Jurisdiction, created in 1939 to unify and segregate annual conferences with predominantly black churches and members across the nation, like our former Delaware Annual Conference.
So, in 1968 and in the years that followed, after a history of divisions and dubious mergers, we finally got it right, for the most part. Getting it right meant reorganizing churchwide agencies and creating legislation and special commissions to monitor our still-unfinished journey toward racial and gender equity and denominational inclusiveness. For that same journey and others, it also meant creating special programs and funds, Special Sunday offerings and eventually, missional priorities.
It meant—and it still means—living into our divine call to manifest integrity, generosity, grace and other bedrock Christian values, as we strive to become what our own annual conference approved as its vision statement in 2017: United in Christ, Committed to Transformation.
We are 50 years old as a denomination this year, and we have made much progress. But there is much more to be done. I pray that our life expectancy, our arc in history, is long, with no end in sight, and that it will forever bend toward justice, in James Russell Lowell’s famous words.
The year 1968 was one of emergent change, not only in our church, but across our nation and throughout society. There was turbulent racial conflict, violence in our streets, war, protests and questions about the relevancy of the church. 
The Rev. Dr. Albert C. Outler, a prominent theologian at the time, cast a vision for the Uniting Conference in his address on the morning of our merger ceremony.  He called for the new church to be steadfast in unity and committed to ecumenism and evangelism in word and deed. He also stressed the need for the church to reform itself from being an insulated institution to actively demonstrating the presence of the living Christ.
In order to reform, he said, we needed to be “…a church united in order to be uniting, a church repentant in order to be a church redemptive, a church ‘cruciform’ in order to manifest God’s triumphant agony for mankind (sic).” When he finished, the 10,000 people at Dallas Memorial Auditorium gave him a prolonged standing ovation.
Dr. Outler’s call is still with us today as we celebrate 50 years of United Methodism.  If each one of us would take to heart these principles of unity, ecumenism, evangelism and reform, we could become the church that our founders envisioned many years ago, as they sought to spread “scriptural holiness” across the land. 
“This is the day the Lord has made,” said Outler. “Let us really rejoice and be glad in it—glad for the new chance God now gives us.”
Indeed, for the next month, from April 22 through May 20, and for months and years to come, let us really rejoice and be glad in this faithful, if not faultless, heritage we share as United Methodists. Let us clothe ourselves in love, seeking always to be transformed as those redeemed through grace.  And let us be glad for our unity in a Christ who “binds everything together in perfect harmony” (Colossians 3:14). Yes, glad “for the new chance God now gives us.”
Please read and share these recent accounts, resources and ideas to help celebrate our United Methodist history, as we celebrate 50 years together. Also, be sure to view the compelling, 11-minute historical video that shares diverse views on the in 1968 merger of the EUB and Methodist denominations and related concerns.
Also, UM News Service will publish a story at www.umc.org this week on the end of the segregated Central Jurisdiction in 1968, and later a story on the creation of the General Commission on Religion and Race (GCORR). They will finish their UMC 50th anniversary series on Monday, April 23, with a story about people who were at the 1968 Uniting Conference. 
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Monday, April 9, 2018

Native Americans and the Church: Past, present, future

Sunday, April 15, is “Native American Ministry Sunday” in the United Methodist Church. I hope that every church will take a special offering to aid Native American seminary students and the many wonderful ministries that are happening in our Committees on Native American Ministries (CONAMs). More importantly, I hope on that Sunday people will learn something about this vitally important part of our church’s witness to its past, present and future.

At our 2016 Annual Conference session we engaged in an “Act of Repentance” for the sins committed against many indigenous peoples of the world by invaders who conquered, colonized and oppressed them, often decimating their populations and societies. In our country indigenous people were treated shamefully for the most part and the church was too often complicit in that mistreatment.

To this day the wounds of discrimination and genocide live on as a part of their historical trauma. The good news is that as we repent and partner with our Native American brothers and sisters, much healing and good can come. We need each other to survive. We as a church are not whole unless all are included and empowered for ministry and mission. Healing comes as we repent and then do the works of repentance. Let’s keep this before us!

Two key events focusing on Native American struggles and losses, as well as culture and contributions, will occur in our conference this weekend. Our CONAM will celebrate Native American Ministries Sunday, April 15, from 4 to 6 PM, at Camp Innabah (712 Pughtown Road, Spring City), with a festive and informative gathering for worship, a fellowship meal and first-person accounts of UM persons and churches serving God in mission among Native peoples. All local church CONAM representatives are urged to attend for information and networking. Please learn more and try to attend.

On Saturday, April 14, Lititz UMC (201 Market St., Lititz) will host CONAM’s presentation of the Loss of Turtle Island exercise (from 9:30 to 11:00 AM). It is a dramatic, interactive, multimedia demonstration that teaches the history and impact of Europeans' conquest and colonization of Native peoples in the Americas and the Church's complicity in that history. I participated in this same activity last fall, when CONAM presented it at Camp Innabah. It is powerful. Learn more and share the event flyer.

Young people from Oneida United Methodist Church, who attended the Peg-Leg Flamingos youth leadership conference in September, present a tribal flag to water protectors at Standing Rock. Photo courtesy of the Rev. Carol Lakota Eastin

And during the first weekend of May the “Peg Leg” empowerment youth camp will welcome a gathering of young people who have Native American heritage. They will be at the West River Camping and Retreat Center in the Baltimore Washington Conference. Many leaders of our conference and others around the country will participate in this movement to strengthen young people for leadership.

I will participate in the closing worship there. In preparation for the event, I spoke to the Rev. Carol Lakota Eastin, a Native American District Superintendent in the Illinois Great Rivers Annual Conference. She and Ragghi Rain Calentine from the Peninsula-Delaware Conference are working together to make this a deeply spiritual experience for the participants.

Dr. Lakota Eastin said to me that they are emphasizing two things: prayer and activism. As we pray, we are called to go out and “do” the work of God. That is a good word for all of us. Pray and do!

I look forward to the world that our young Native American people will bring to us as they engage in this work of God. May we find ways to partner and open doors for their giftedness to shine.