Matthew 25 vision challenges a Denver church’s perceptions
By Melody K. Smith | Presbyterian News Service
LOUISVILLE — Wellshire Presbyterian Church in Denver, Colorado responded to the Matthew 25 invitation in September 2020. Ever since, the congregation has embarked on a journey of self-education, starting with the 21-Day Racial Justice Challenge.
Tom Bacon, a member of the church’s Diversity Task Force, reports the challenge seemed tough for some, but “once you do one or two days, you are hooked.” The task force launched more learning (and unlearning) opportunities, Bible studies, worships and classes. “Sometimes it is as much about what we unlearn that makes a difference,” said Bacon.
The Presbytery of Denver embraced the Matthew 25 vision in July 2020 and has been a strong encourager for churches to connect and labor together in the work of Matthew 25.
Historically, churches tend to work on the symptoms of poverty and racism first and often only, instead of addressing the systemic elements. Wellshire acknowledged the importance of services including food pantries and housing assistance, but also wanted to give the congregation an opportunity to become active in the community addressing the source of the problems.
When they began meeting in person again this summer, they hosted a mission fair and invited local organizations, addressing legislative support, detention centers, legal defense and the like.
As a predominantly white church, many question the difference they could make. The Diversity Task Force explored ways to collaborate around World Communion Sunday. The task force sponsored a video series of diverse speakers addressing elementary education, affordable housing and food equity. Racism and poverty intersect in these issues; understanding how was part of the unlearning.
Putting mission money where their heart is, members and friends also donated funds to four local organizations that support mission in Denver around leadership and diversity training, racial equity and economic justice, migrant support and legal defense for those falsely accused of crimes.
“These are more actionable than talking about racism alone,” said Bacon. “The pandemic actually made learning better as we were already living in a virtual world where people were accustomed to Zoom.”
Wellshire is looking forward to getting physically back into the community again in more diverse settings as soon as it is safe. In the interim, the church is looking at additional ways it can live out its commitment to diversity. An audit is underway for books in the children’s library to ascertain if they offer helpful lessons on diversity, equity and inclusion. Youth and young adult ministries support working for justice and against racism. Opportunities for discussion or action among the youth are also under review.
As a Matthew 25 church, Wellshire is committed to work to dismantle structural racism. This is a key objective of the Diversity Task Force.
Convicted by the Matthew 25 passage, both the 222nd and 223rd General Assemblies (2016 and 2018) exhorted the PC(USA) to act boldly and compassionately to serve people who are hungry, oppressed, imprisoned or poor.
To see the map and list of all 1,000-plus congregations, groups and mid councils who have accepted the Matthew 25 invitation, click here. You can learn more about the work of each congregation through their stories and videos.
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