Just published . . . An essay titled “Eco-Theology in the African Diaspora” The Wiley Blackwell Companion to Religion and Ecology. My essay focuses on creation care from African and African American perspectives.
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A group from the Northeastern Jurisdiction (NEJ) of the United Methodist Church met together from September 15-16 in 2016. Though the topic of diversity development and inclusion is a difficult one, we had a lively and joyful time and discussion. We began with meditation, focusing in part on the call as Christians to dismantle racism echoing the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.:
We cannot be satisfied so long as the Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and the Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied and will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.
The meeting was facilitated by Dianne Glave–Coordinator of Diversity Development and William B. Meekins, Jr.–Assistant to the Bishop, both pastors in the Western Pennsylvania Conference of the United Methodist Church. The guest facilitator was David Esterline, president of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary.
Much was shared including:
- Developing a covenant or norms as a group
- Role playing from different perspectives about racism
- Recommending resources like the United Methodist General Commission on Religion and Race facilitating conversations for a group as large as 600 people
- Launching a diversity officer position in the UMC in a jurisdiction
Learn more about dismantling racism and developing cultural competencies in diversity development and inclusion for your churches through the Western Pennsylvania Conference of the United Methodist Church’s Office of Diversity Development and Inclusion.
In the way I’m feeling it now. Yes, I experienced death working as an intern and resident chaplain at Emory Healthcare. Yes, I’ve walked others through death by officiating numerous funerals. And yes, many uncles, an aunt, and my grandmother have died over the years. I’ve felt those deaths but differently.
You see my mother died (no limp euphemism of passing away that makes death sound like an ocean cruise!) last week.
It’s only now though in the quiet time, the remains of the day that I drift into mourning: no high speed texts are being exchanged about her decline and death . . . no funeral arrangements left to be made . . . no lasagne to be prepared and baked for the many visitors . . . no shopping for paper plates . . . no memorial to attend . . . no dinner gathering filled with the laughter of loved ones after the memorial. Many left after the service, returning to their lives as it should be. Life has a way like a stream of irrevocably moving forward.
Many good family and friends stay in touch by phone and email with a few trickling in to visit. Yet if I were surrounded by thousands at a stadium, I would still feel the sting, the the grief for my mother’s death who was on the long terrible march of Alzheimer’s for eleven years. No, no, she’s not coming back.
And I am forced to sit still in my grief, my mourning. I have to do what I’ve told countless people as they sat by the bedside of dying loved one or in pain at a funeral: live into your grief and don’t avoid it as it will seep out anyway in inappropriate ways. Am I able to take my advice? Time will tell.
For now, I remember my mother’s last moments as I sat by her side. I didn’t even realize she pushed out her last breath at 11:50a on Monday, August 22, 2016. The hospice nurse alerted me when she jumped up saying, “I think she is gone.” Yes, mom is gone.
I am reminded of how I’ve supported others in their grieving avoiding platitudes like there is another angel in heaven. This is not a salve for the living in the midst of the rawness of death. Yet my prayer is that even though I did my best to support others before my mother’s death that I can now relate in another way more deeply with those grieving.
For now, I will rest in my truth that my mom was my super hero.
What comes next? I’m still with my dad for the moment in our shared grief. I will listen.
Reverend Ed Schoeneck understands the urgency of whites growing their cultural competencies in response to racism including white privilege and implicit bias. He is the pastor at Monroeville United Methodist Church in Western Pennsylvania.
On Sunday, July 17, 2016, he urged the predominantly white congregation to begin or continue their journey in dismantling racism in the United Methodist Church and their own neighborhoods in two ways: welcoming the new African American bishop, and taking some personal steps in learning more about racism.
Pastor Schoeneck had much to share with the congregation. He announced that recently, Rev. Cynthia Moore KoiKoi was appointed as the first African American woman to be bishop of the Western Pennsylvania Conference of the United Methodist Church. He encouraged the congregation to pray for and welcome her.
Pastor Schoeneck gave Monroeville United Methodist Church concrete and simple ways to begin developing cultural competencies in response to racism:
Monroeville United Methodist Church 7/17/16 Bulletin
To learn about more ways to continue developing cultural competencies for your church, contact Dianne Glave, Coordinator of the Office of Diversity Development and Inclusion in the Western Pennsylvania Conference of the United Methodist Church at email@example.com.
With recent and mounting racial tensions with Dallas and Baton Rouge police officers killed by African American snipers and two African American men killed by white police officers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and Falcon Heights, Minnesota the hard work in cultural competencies remain timely, as we continue the work locally including our churches.
The Fijian community at Point Marian United Methodist Church is a vital part of ministry in Western Pennsylvania. On Saturday, February 20, 2016, I met with the Fijian United Methodist Women (UMW) and their pastor Rev. Bev Roscoe for a morning of worship in which the Holy Spirit moved among us. A guitar was strumming and voices were raised to God. The day ended with lunch and conversation about outreach, diversity, and inclusion. The Fijian community including the women share their vibrancy and energy as they continue to connect with people inside and outside their church.
Remember those in Fiji impacted by Cyclone Winston in February 2016!
Photos courtesy of Dianne Glave
Last week’s Implicit Bias Workshop on October 9, 2015 in Meadville, Pennsylvania was a success with a full house. The workshop was sponsored by the Western Pennsylvania United Methodist Conference’s Anti-Racism Team (ART). Many at the workshop learned about subconscious racial bias, and ways of being more aware of racist attitudes and behaviors in encounters and relationships with people of color. The hope is is that personal revelations translate into more awareness about institutional racism.
Both presenters–Dr. David Harris, a professor in the School of Law and Dr. Edward Orehek, a professor in the Department of Psychology both at the University of Pittsburgh–suggested taking Harvard’s Implicit Attitude Test. The racial bias tests are Race (Black-White), Asian American, Skin-tone (Light Skin-Dark Skin), and Native American (Native-White American). A test takes about 15 minutes, and is one step towards becoming more self-aware of one’s racial bias.
Another opportunity to attend the next Implicit Bias Workshop is coming soon. Email Bob Wilson, a member of the Anti-Racism Team at firstname.lastname@example.org to be added on the email list and to learn more.