|Great Event challenges African-American churches|
An ensemble from Luke "Community" United Methodist
Church in Dallas dances during worship at the "Great Event," a program
of Strengthening the Black Church for the 21st Century. UMNS photos by
Larry Hygh Jr.
By Larry R. Hygh Jr.*
Sept.19, 2008 | DALLAS (UMNS)
As African-American congregations in The United Methodist Church face
the future, do they look like the face in the mirror or does the mirror
show something else?
The question was posed by the Rev. Zan Holmes as he challenged 560 black
Methodists to find their voice and power during a church growth and
Bishop Jonathan D. Keaton leads a plenary session
during the Sept. 11-13
gathering in Dallas.
"It’s important for us to find our own voice, our own God-given
purpose," Holmes told participants at the Sept. 11-13 Great Event, a
program of the United Methodist initiative called Strengthening the
Black Church for the 21st Century.
Created by the church's 1996 General Conference and operated under its
Board of Discipleship, the initiative assists United Methodist
congregations that are predominantly black to be more effective in
mission and ministry. It focuses on spiritual vitality and growth by
linking effective congregations with partner congregations searching for
new ideas and revitalization. There are 2,400 African-American United
Methodist congregations in the United States.
"The essence of leadership is that you have to have a vision," said
Michigan Area Bishop Jonathan D. Keaton, chairperson of Strengthening
the Black Church. "We don’t need any more money; we need more visionary
Holmes, who is pastor emeritus of Saint Luke "Community" United
Methodist Church in Dallas, said churches can be strengthened if members
begin using the biblical model found in Acts 1 and 2, where many voices
speak the same language to talk about what God has done. "The
Pentecostal power did not come until they faced the Pentecostal task,"
he said, noting that God united unique people that day for a God-given
purpose. "They had come to the end of their own strength."
Using the mirror analogy, Holmes said "we come to our churches to get fixed up to resemble who Christians ought to be."
Mentoring for growth and discipleship
Holmes' challenge and the event's theme of "God Delivers Us Through
Hope, Healing, and Wholeness" was evident in remarks made by the Rev.
Joseph Daniels, pastor of Emory United Methodist Church, Washington D.C.
"God needs prophets with a powerful proclamation, not an empty
pontification," said Daniels, declaring that self-centeredness must give
way to self-sacrifice. "Proclamation needs to be transformational. We
need to preach the Gospel not as a popularity contest."
(From left) The Rev. Emmanuel Cleaver III, Cheryl Walker, the Rev. Zan Wesley
Holmes Jr. and the Rev. Lydia Waters Hamilton sing during worship.
Daniels' church is one of the program's 20 mentor congregations, which
range in size from 150 to 9,000 members and hold training sessions in
their areas of ministry expertise. During the Great Event, 14 of the
initiative's congregational resource center teams mentored 95 partner
"Each of the congregation resource centers has various gifts they can
share with conference churches," said Cheryl Stevenson, national
coordinator for the initiative. "Through training, I hope partner
churches receive hope, inspiration, encouragement and determination to
go forward with the vision the Lord has given the church."
Churches qualify to be partner congregations if they demonstrate a
willingness to change and be open and are eager to devote time and
resources to making the training process a success. "God has equipped
each church with the resources to do ministry," Stevenson said.
During the Great Event, participants contributed more than $7,300 for
recovery and relief efforts in Haiti, which has been hit by four
catastrophic storms in less than a month.
The United Methodist Committee on Relief is assisting in relief efforts
in Haiti. United Methodists can help in the rebuilding by mailing checks
to UMCOR, PO Box 9068, New York, NY 10087, and writing "UMCOR Advance
418325, Haiti Emergency" on the memo line. Online gifts can be made at www.givetomission.org.
*Hygh is director of communications for the California-Pacific Annual
Conference and chairperson of the communications committee for
Strengthening the Black Church for the 21st Century.
News media contact: Linda Green, (615) 742-5470 or email@example.com.
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