Continuing to Respond to Ferguson

Daily news reports about Ferguson seem to be subsiding.  The temptation will be to go back to normal, to forget the crisis.  And yet that’s not the ongoing work that God calls us to.

Rev. Willis Johnson, pastor of Wellspring Church in Ferguson

Rev. Willis Johnson, pastor of Wellspring Church in Ferguson

This week I attended a gathering of United Methodist clergy from the Gateway districts (St. Louis and the surrounding region).  Rev. Willis Johnson, the pastor at Wellspring UMC in Ferguson, introduced us to Doug Walker of the United Methodist General Board of Church and Society. Doug and Willis were connecting us to PICO (People Improving Community through Organizing) and Rev. Dr. William Barber, the state president of the North Carolina NAACP who started the Moral Mondays movement.  They are training people in Ferguson in the art of nonviolent protest. This is our United Methodist apportionment dollars at work.

But the United Methodist response cannot be limited to Ferguson and North County.  Rev. Ivan James, a United Methodist minister in my weekly prayer and Bible study group, says, “Whatever community you're in, we're only one police stop away from being Ferguson.” He adds, “We don't need crisis to bring us together --- we need Jesus to bring us together!”

These are the ways that the church believes that Jesus is calling us together:

PRAY and LAMENT. As a people of hope, we express our lament and solidarity in our hope (e.g., Psalm 55 and Lamentations 5).

+  Each day at 6 am, 12 noon and 6 pm. 

+  Consider fasting on Wednesdays and use that time to be in prayer and solidarity with the community of Ferguson.

+  Attend the Ecumenical Prayer Service for Victims of Gun Violence on Tuesday, September 23rd at 7 p.m.  Hosted by Trinity Presbyterian Church, this prayer service was planned before Michael Brown’s death in Ferguson.  It takes on new meaning in light of what our community has experienced the past few weeks.  The UUMC Chancel Choir will sing in the service, and we hope many UUMC members are there both to sing and to pray.

LISTEN and LEARN. Learn the history of racial tension and division in St. Louis.

+  Area clergy recommend the documentaries The Pruitt-Igoe Myth and Spanish Lake. (If anyone would like to watch those as a church, please let me know!  I haven’t seen either one and would love to add to my understanding of my new home in St. Louis.)

+  Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community? is essential reading in the area of economic disparity and poverty.

+  The General Commission on Religion and Race published a letter from their board president, United Methodist Bishop Minerva Carcaño.

+  The General Board of Church and Society, while it hasn’t spoken directly about Ferguson, has two categories of racial justice and racial discrimination in addition to their promotion of the section on race relations in our Book of Discipline.

+  Other sources for local events on Facebook @ Faith 4 Ferguson.

GIVE and SERVE

+  School supplies and toiletries such as soap, shaving cream, and toothpaste can be dropped off at Wellspring Church, 33 S. Florissant Rd., St. Louis, MO 63135.  If you want to bring those toiletries and school supplies to University UMC, we’ll make sure that they get to where they need.

+  Give monetarily to Wellspring Church for emergency needs so they can remain a viable and accessible place of hospitality and respite for the community, as well as host for future transformational conversations. Give to University UMC and designate your check to Wellspring/Ferguson.  We will send it on through the annual conference.

+  Watch UUMC’s Headlines for a future date for service in Ferguson. This will be coordinated by the Missouri Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.

+  Patronize local businesses (like the Farmers’ Market) in Ferguson to keep them viable and able to employ local workers.

There will continue to be opportunities and ways for us to respond in both the short- and long-term.  The mission team, led by Rich Wymore, is engaged in community discussion and planning.  We will keep you updated through weekly worship, Headlines, facebook, and twitter.  Keep your #handsup in prayer and service!