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Director’s Message


I write this as another person is the victim of warfare. I write this as another person is trying to figure out if they will have enough food to feed their family today. I write this as someone is fearful that they may be the target of hate that could cost them their lives based on their orientation and identity. I write this as another person watches their home being taken away.  I write as someone is subjected to a law that tells them that their ancestral heritage reflected in their hair is not lawful in their state. I write this as a parent waits to hear if their child will make it through the night….

Friends, it really is not hard to see that our world is experiencing some devastating times. The rise of hatred, supremacy, genocide, and peril are reflected every day in our news as well as our pews. Not many of us, particularly people of color, can say we are not touched in some way by all that is happening around us. It seems like every day there is a reason to cry out to God for relief from destruction, terror, and pain.  I often wonder if the Jesus whom we worship on Sundays is the same Jesus who is with us during the week.

And I don’t say that because I believe that we lock Jesus up in the church building on Sunday afternoon and don’t let him loose again for another week.  No, I truly believe, as James Cone teaches, that Jesus and God are on the side of the oppressed. What I am arguing is that I often wonder if we always feel it is our calling and obligation as believers to not be voyeurs of what is happening around us. Rather that we have an active role in the work of God’s call in the world. Do we remember that the Jesus we love is a Palestinian who regularly admonished those who followed him to a life where we are actively involved in the liberation of all people.

As believers we have made a moral commitment to follow Jesus not just in the church on Sunday morning, but also into the public square of poverty, war, racism, bigotry, genocide, climate change, militarism, gun violence, and hate. By “picking up our cross and following him” we have said that we are committed to being a people who stand for justice and fight for freedom of all. One of my favorite scriptures will also be Micah 6:8 because it is the theological alarm sounding for all to hear.

We MUST DO justice. It is a mandate that we not be silent, passive, nor blind to the rise of hate, bigotry, and racism that continues to deny equality and equity for all voices.

We MUST LOVE mercy.  It is a requirement that we are participatory in our engagement of helping alleviate some of the suffering in this world in some way.

We MUST WALK humbly before our God. In my work of caring for our neighbor I know it is not for my own gain. Nevertheless, we do it because in humility we are yielded vessels to the glory of God to shine forth through us.

Therefore, I say to you as you read this, I encourage you to be challenged by the gospel that never leaves us comfortable in the church alone. Be invigorated by the God who lovingly calls us to the front lines of justice right beside Jesus…. daily. This is not the season to not notice the connection between what is happening on the news and how it affects your ministry. It is all connected, and God is calling you to recognize where you are to be. Will you adhere to the call?

The Rev. Shanea D. Leonard
Director, Racial Equity & Women’s Intercultural Ministries