Yesterday afternoon, the business – or, as it’s sometimes called “worshipful work” – of the assembly began. As promised, General Minister and President Sharon Watkins delivered her State of the Church address, in which she presented a new initiative for ministry called Mission First. It’s an effort to make sure that the organizational structures our church has in place actually support the mission that God is calling us to do. Mission First begins with mission gatherings, held in various locations around the country, in which representatives from congregations will share the mission work they’re doing, and collaborate together to discern a call for the wider church. Then, a mission council will convene to support that work and hold each other in covenantal accountability for our work together. I’m still learning about all this, and you can read more (and sign up to get info about upcoming mission gatherings) here.
In addition, the assembly heard reports from a variety of ministry programs, from Disciples Home Missions to Women’s Ministries, to the association of Disciples colleges and universities. It as a good reflection of the varied work we do together as church. There were also “sense-of-the-assembly” resolutions regarding environmental racism, climate change, the #blacklivesmatter movement, and a response to the Charleston massacre. I’m glad to be a part of a church that has a public witness for justice in our world.
Over the dinner hour, I attended a banquet put on by the GLAD Alliance – that is, the Gay, Lesbian, and Affirming Disciples. GLAD has been working for years to encourage the church to welcome and support gay and lesbian people. The speaker at the dinner reminded us that while there has been much to celebrate in the last few years, there is still a long way to go until all are truly welcomed.
The highlight of the day, for me, was the evening worship service, at which the Rev. Amy Butler offered an outstanding message about not being afraid to speak hope into a despairing world. You can read the full text of her sermon here (and you should!).
The word of God will not fall to the Babylonian sword, or crumble under changes to the institutional church.
The word of God will not be extinguished by the evils of racism and white supremacy.
The word of God will not bow to broken systems that exploit the poorest and most vulnerable among us.
The word of God will not stay silent in a society with inadequate gun laws and a culture of violence.
The word of God will not fall victim to hatred, or exclusivity, or injustice, or even death.
Make no mistake about it, friends, this vocation to which we are called, the mandate to be God’s people in this world, is not for the faint of heart. But speaking a word of life in to a culture of death is the very essence of our faith.
Don’t forget you can watch the last two worship services live, tonight and tomorrow, here.
It’s good to be the church together.
–Lee Hull Moses