As a boy, we would camp along the Tennessee River at a place we called “Sycamore Cove.” I used to sit on the banks of the river there between Pickwick Dam and JP Coleman State Park. I would watch the water glide by. It made its way downstream, gained speed and momentum, and disappeared out of sight. Around the bend the waters converged, becoming one.
This is where I fell in love with The River. Sometimes calm and sacred. Sometimes swift and turbulent. It is also where I learned to respect it after once being stranded in a storm.
The Bible is full of rivers. There is the Nile where Moses was adopted. There is the Jordan where Jesus was baptized. And there is The River of Life about which John of Patmos speaks in Revelation 22.
Water. River Water. Baptism.
A river runs through us. I’m told that the Tennessee River is a dividing line in this world I’ve come to inhabit. I hear folks speak of the “other side of the river,” and they mean the other Annual Conference, not theirs. But there is a song that has been sung on both sides of the river for longer than we can remember, “Shall We Gather at the River.”
Today, the river is calling me to it again – this time, with you.
Thank you for spending time with me in our 18 conversations across both conferences to discuss how we may partner in our growth and, indeed, in our future disciple-making.
You’ll see in the report that the financial implications, benefits, and clergy interests are top-of-mind topics, which are appropriate for a convergence such as the one we are proposing.
Together, we can become stronger, much like the rivers that converge around and through Middle and West Tennessee and Western Kentucky. The Tennessee. The Cumberland. The Ohio. The Duck. And others. Flowing into the Mighty Mississippi. My hope is that we will work together with open hearts and open minds as we navigate these waters.
Shall we gather at the River?
Map Source: Robert Szucs, Hungarian cartographer, GrasshopperGeography (Etsy)
On a warm, sunny Palm Sunday morning in Chitungwiza, Zimbabwe, our team gathered with the leadership of St. James United Methodist Church some 700 meters from the sanctuary. With palm fronds in hand and joy in our hearts, we began a processional with children, women, and men singing Hosanna! Hosanna!
When we arrived at the Church, we were met with another group processing from the opposite direction. The expressive joy was contagious as we processed into the sanctuary, still singing, Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the Highest!
Later, among our group, someone asked, “What is the most memorable Palm Sunday you ever experienced?” I thought long and hard. I finally decided it was when our children, Chris and Laura were children. Laura was finally old enough to be a part of the processional and, with the other children of our congregation, paraded in the sanctuary just as these African children had on this Palm Sunday.
As I preached from Mark 11, I recalled the sequence of events leading up and following the triumphal entry into the Holy City of Jerusalem. It is worth noting that this is only time scripture records Jesus riding anywhere. From Nazareth through the Galilee and on through Jericho to Jerusalem never once did Jesus ride. Some 90 miles, he walked that journey up to Jerusalem, the city on a hill.
This week we leave Palm Sunday, journey through Holy Thursday, the Garden of Gethsemane, arrest, trial, the crucifixion, the tomb being sealed, and then on Easter— empty. The 40-day journey to the cross is coming to a close.
40 days of walking in The Way.
In 1779, John Wesley published The Methodist Hymnal. In the preface to the hymnal, Wesley wrote, “these hymns are not carelessly jumbled together, but carefully arranged under proper heads, according to the experience of real Christians.” Essentially, Wesley arranged his hymn-book as a spiritual biography of sorts for such a person.
In the best sense of the word, Lent is that journey toward being a real Christian.
While, some might mock the notion of a real Christian or debate what constitutes a real Christian, scripture is clear. “By their fruits shall they be known.”
It is my prayer that you join me is seeking to deepen my walk in The Way.
May the Christ be real to you in these Holy Days.
by Sarah McCormick, Director of Leadership Development
Project Transformation Tennessee
Young adults are listening to the needs in their communities and moving to action. And they’ve been doing it for decades. They were active in the Civil Rights movement, they are active in immigration reform, and they are speaking loudly now about school shootings. They have much to say and we are listening.
They often don’t wait for the rest of us to catch up, they just act. They don’t wait for a committee’s approval, a Bishop’s blessing, or a community’s support. They are filled with excitement and eagerness to see issues solved – and they’re willing to get their hands and feet dirty to be part of the solution.
Project Transformation has engaged more than 200 young adults in hands-on ministry over the past 6 years in the Tennessee and Memphis conferences. These young adults are helping to open spaces for churches to connect with their neighbors, spaces for multi-generational relationships to form, and spaces for ministry to thrive. They are leading us into new relationships and new forms of ministry.
In our conferences and in the larger United Methodist Church connection, clergy are aging, the future of our church’s structure is unknown, and churches are struggling to engage young people in authentic community. It is important to name and lament these things. And then we must move from lamentation to hope, and from hope to action.
Our young adults will lead well, as long as we continue to provide spaces to learn from and with them. The church is meant to be a place where we discover who we are, in relationship with God and each other. The Church is also a place where we can encourage and name gifts in each other, in order to change the world. That’s what vocation is – discovering our most authentic selves while listening for God’s invitation to make our greatest contribution to the world. Our churches – our conferences – are fertile ground in which we are raising up young leaders, while helping them to be firmly grounded in faith and community.
This summer will be no different at Project Transformation. Once again, we will have an open invitation to engage with 92 young adults who are seeking conversation about life and vocation. We will learn from these emerging young leaders as they pour out their hearts and invest their time and talents into our churches. It’s our task to journey alongside them, encouraging them to show us how God is at work. It’s also our task to listen to them and name gifts in them that will further enable them to discern who God is calling them to be in the world. These mutual relationships empower us to encounter God and each other in new ways, and lead us into new ways of being the church.
Do you know of a young adult who is discerning a call to ministry and service? Call them today. Share with them the opportunity to serve with Project Transformation this summer. Applications are due March 1. More information can be found at www.pttennessee.org
In memory of Oscar Romero (1917–1980)
It helps now and then to step back and take a long view.
The Kingdom is not only beyond our efforts,
it is beyond our vision.
We accomplish in our lifetime only a fraction
of the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work.
Nothing we do is complete, which is another way of
saying that the kingdom always lies beyond us.
No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith. No confession
brings perfection, no pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No program accomplishes the Church’s mission.
No set of goals and objectives include everything.
This is what we are about. We plant the seeds that one
day will grow. We water the seeds already planted
knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces effects
far beyond our capabilities.
We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of
liberation in realizing this.
This enables us to do something, and to do it very well.
It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning,
a step along the way, an opportunity for the Lord’s
grace to enter and do the rest.
We may never see the end results, but that is the
difference between the master builder and the worker.
We are workers, not master builders, ministers, not
messiahs. We are prophets of a future not our own.
From Xavarian Missionaries:
Oscar A. Romero, Archbishop of San Salvador, in El Salvador, was assassinated on March 24, 1980, while celebrating Mass in a small chapel in a cancer hospital where he lived. He had always been close to his people, preached a prophetic gospel, denouncing the injustice in his country and supporting the development of popular and mass organizations. He became the voice of the Salvadoran people when all other channels of expression had been crushed by the repression.
This prayer was composed by Bishop Ken Untener of Saginaw, drafted for a homily by Card. John Dearden in Nov. 1979 for a celebration of departed priests. As a reflection on the anniversary of the martyrdom of Bishop Romero, Bishop Untener included it in a reflection titled “The mystery of the Romero Prayer.” The mystery is that the words of the prayer are attributed to Oscar Romero, but they were never spoken by him.
This has been a dark day at Marshall County High School in Marshall County, Kentucky. As the news has poured forth from the fatal school shooting. PRAYERS are being offered constantly for the many who have been affected by this morning’s MASS SHOOTING. The school is located Benton, Ky, in the Purchase District of the Memphis Conference of The United Methodist Church. The Purchase District includes eight counties in western Kentucky.
This evening, I am thankful for the faithful response of United Methodists in Benton who offer the peace and presence of Christ to their neighbors. I join with the pastoral leadership of the Purchase District in inviting your prayers for all those whose lives have been disrupted today by this tragic event. With the Psalmist, we claim, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” Psalm 46:1
STATEMENT FROM DISTRICT SUPERINTENDENT
Rev. Dr. Rob Martin, superintendent of the Purchase District, offered these words today:
Pastors in the Purchase District and specifically the Marshall County cluster (of churches) welcome the prayers of our brother and sister United Methodists across the Memphis Conference and the world.
This tragedy has struck close to home as several United Methodists are among the students and staff of Marshall County High School. In response to this tragedy, prayer vigils were (and are) being held in congregations close to the school, including Calvert City United Methodist Church, which held a vigil at 11 a.m. following the tragedy.
We offer our condolences to the families of the victims, prayers of healing for those who were injured, and also, a prayer for the perpetrator of this tragic event and his family. We don’t have any answers as to why this tragedy happened, but we do trust in God’s mercy and grace to guide us through this dark valley and to comfort us in the midst of this storm.
Below are two prayers shared by Purchase District United Methodist clergy via social media during the day:
How long must we endure these news reports?
Why do guns make it to concerts, movies, political rallies, churches, and schools?
When will our children be safe?
This world seems so full of violence, death, and division and today it is here in our radius, our backyard.
Hear the cries today of our friends and neighbors impacted by yet another shooting in a place of learning.
Make Your presence known.
In the midst of pain give hope. Remind us you are a God of life and restoration.
Help us to be a community guided by grace, love, and compassion that overcomes evil, violence, and suffering. Amen.
~Rev. Nancy Johnston Varden, pastor, Fulton First United Methodist Church, Fulton, KY
we come before you, once again,
after another shooting.
We are sad, God.
So we ask you
to receive into your loving care
the souls of the persons killed,
to care for those who were wounded
or hurt in any way,
to console the family members or friends
of those who died or were wounded,
and to strengthen the hands
of the emergency responders,
the medical professionals, and the caregivers.
We pray for the shooter too,
as we must as Christians.
All this makes us inexpressibly sad, God.
But we know that the sadness we feel
is your sadness.
It is the same sadness your Son expressed
when he wept over the death
of his friend Lazarus.
We are tired, God.
We are tired of this issue being glossed over,
and of the narrative
that gun violence can’t be reduced.
But we know that the tiredness we feel
is your tiredness.
It’s the same tiredness Jesus felt
after his own struggles against injustice.
We are angry, God.
Angry at our seeming powerlessness
to prevent this,
angry that these shootings happen at all.
But we know that this anger is your anger.
It’s the same anger Jesus felt
when he overturned tables in the Temple,
furious anyone would be taken advantage of
in any way.
Help us see in these emotions
your own desire for change.
Help us see in these feelings
your moving us to act.
Help us see in these reactions
your pushing us to do something.
For Jesus did not stand by
while people were being hurt;
he plunged into their lives.
So help us to answer the question:
How can we help?
We are sad over the loss of life,
tired of excuses for loss of life,
and angry that we are paralyzed by loss of life.
So turn our sadness into compassion,
our tiredness into advocacy,
our paralysis into freedom to act.
And help us to be compassionate,
to advocate, and to act
as did your Son.
This we pray in his name.
~By Rev. Jason W. Jones, pastor, Lone Oak United Methodist Church, Paducah, KY (adapted from Fr. James Martin)
Because a number of you have commented on the recent blog about Don Johnson and your own grief in this Advent season, I asked Jorge Acevedo if I might share the service held last Sunday night at Grace Church. I offer this to all those walking through the valley of the shadow of darkness and grief in this Advent and Christmas season. It also is a model that many congregations in the Nashville Episcopal Area might consider in the future.
I learned early this morning that a saint died. His name is Don Johnson. Most likely, very few of you who are reading these words have ever heard of Don. I met Don in 1986, when I was planting a congregation just south of Memphis, TN, on Getwell Road. Through the wonderful twists and turns of the Holy Spirit, I had been the pastor of Don’s sister-in-law, Doris, the previous two years in a small the Mississippi Delta town.
When we were gathering folks to be a part of this new congregation, Doris suggested to Don and her sister Billie that they should consider coming to the new church. They listened to her advice and were at the first service on September 11, 1986. Since that day, Don missed only five Sundays. Three of those were when he was out of town, following his grandson’s baseball team. Two of those Sundays, he found a church where he could worship while he traveled. The other two misses were because his health didn’t allow him to attend.
Don showed up every Sunday morning at 7:15 and did not leave until 12:15. He greeted every person who came. Made sure the coffee was made. Picked up trash in the parking lot. Weeded the flower beds. Moved chairs. If Don had had a nickel for every chair he moved over the last 31 years he would be a wealthy man. Every Monday night Don would gather with a handful of other members of the church and take the visitor cards from Sunday and go to pay a visit to those who had worshiped on Sunday. I wish I knew how many visits he had made over the last 31 years. When we were building the first building back in 1988, a group of clergy, led by my father, a master electrician, gathered in the cold of winter to wire the building. Don took vacation days to come to work with us every day until the job was completed.
You get the picture.
Today, by the grace of God, I was in the Memphis area when I heard the news and went by to visit Billie, Don’s soulmate and wife of 60+ years.
It was like I was back in 1988. We picked up where we left off.
Don and Billie were married at the ripe old age of 18. Billie rocked our daughter Laura in the nursery from the time she was born until she was ready to graduate to the 3 year-old Sunday School Class. Don and Billie loved our children like they were their own.
I give thanks to God for the life of Don Johnson. He gave the last 31 years of his life to a place that connected him to the love and mercy of God. He was faithful, in many ways more than any person I have ever known. We could learn a lesson or two from Don. As Billie told me today, “I never heard Don say an unkind or critical word about anyone.” That is the man I knew. I’m proud I had the privilege of knowing Don Johnson. Maybe when I grow up, I’ll be more like him.
His death in these days before Christmas reminds me of all those who have walked the valley of the shadow of death in Advent and Christmas. I am mindful of my sister, Deb, and my niece, Caroline, as they continue to grieve the loss of my nephew, Gale, who died on December 23, 2013 serving in the line of duty as a police officer. I am mindful of Beth, Dixie and Skip, Gale’s wife and children. Grief is hard any time it visits us. It is especially difficult during the high and holy seasons of the Christian year. My friend Jorge Acevedo held a service last Sunday night called “Blue Christmas,” a service of healing for those walking this lonely, grief-stricken season of Advent and Christmas. Those of us who remain in the land of the living would do well to pause and offer prayers for Billie and others who walk this lonesome valley.
Jesus said, “Come unto me all ye who labor and are heavy laden. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11: 28-30
May God grant a measure of peace to those walking with a limp through Christmas season.
Well done, Don Johnson, thy good and faithful servant.
Over the last 12 months, a dream is coming to fruition because of your faithful generosity! As you know, we embarked on a bold challenge to aid women in the eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo to build the Mama Lynn Center to bring hope and healing to survivors of sexual violence. Our initial goal was to raise $350,000. We now are within reach of our initial goal! If we can receive about $80,000, we can complete this much needed facility.
The Mama Lynn Center (named for my spouse, Lynn) is the inspiration of the East Congo United Methodist Church. The Center will help women emerge from the shadows and find healing after brutal assaults. It will be a visible witness to the community and all those who know of it. In this Advent season, the Gospel message rings true: “The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:5)
Even in construction, survivors are recognizing that the church cares about them. Three women – Rosalie, Georgette, and Bibiche – came forward to share their stories publicly last July when the mission team from Memphis and Tennessee Annual Conferences were there. They heard of what the church is doing, and decided to join in a workshop on stigma. A short film was premiered at the workshop, to which one survivor responded, “Society needs me, and I am useful to society.”
As we honor the birth of Christ – the Light of the world – let us remember the Mama Lynn Center in our giving. Darkness can be driven out. May we let His Light shine brightly.
Send checks to:
Memphis Conference, 24 Corporate Blvd., Jackson, TN 38305
Tennessee Conference, 304 S. Perimeter Park Drive, Nashville, TN 37211
Please note on check: Congo Women Arise
Donate online at: Congo Women Arise.
United Methodist Church bishops are calling on members of the denomination to engage in respectful conversations amidst growing conflict over political, religious and justice issues in many places in our world.
November 10, 2017
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Jesus Christ,
Ephesians 4:1-2 admonishes us “to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”
All of us are witnesses to increased animosity and growing conflict over political, religious and justice issues in many places in our world in word and deed. We believe this serves to threaten our safety and security. In antagonistic discussions about our faithful witness in the world, we may encounter verbal abuse, disruptive behavior, harassing emails, letters and phone messages, and confrontations.
As Bishops of your United Methodist Church, we serve a Church which is diverse in its theological understanding of Scripture and Christ’s call in our lives. Conflict and differing opinions, a natural part of the human and faith experience, come in a variety of forms. We are called to address our differences with authenticity and respectful conversations which enrich our understanding of God and of one another.
In recent months, we have experienced these negative behaviors escalating into more aggressive, and violent expressions of hate, prejudice, and anger directed against others. We are hearing of and observing angry words now escalating to actions that are resulting in fear, anxiety, loss of security, and even physical harm. These actions are repugnant to us as your bishops.
We renew our covenant to one another to lead as a council and in our respective residential areas in ways that reflect our commitment to do no harm, do good, and stay in love with God. We renew this covenant within the Council of Bishops to engage in holy conversation and Christ-like behavior especially when we do not agree with one another. We call upon all United Methodists, even in the midst of disagreement and uncertainty about our future as a church, to do the same, and to love each other as Christ loved us (John 12:34).
In Christ’s shalom,
Bishop Bruce R. Ough, President
The Council of Bishops
The Nashville Episcopal Area is being challenged by the planned gathering of white supremacist and associated hate groups in Murfreesboro and Shelbyville on October 28, 2017. I implore all of our clergy to share the following statement with their churches on Sunday, October 22, 2017:
Dear United Methodist Family,
The same hate groups that devastated the Charlottesville, Virginia community just a few weeks ago are now targeting our Tennessee Conference by planning to gather in Murfreesboro and Shelbyville on October 28, 2017 to spread the vitriolic evil of racism. As United Methodists, we must remember and recommit ourselves to the ideals of our United Methodist social witness.
Within our Social Principles we understand racism as sin and contrary to the fundamental recognition that “our primary identity is as children of God.” “Racism … plagues and hinders our relationship with Christ, inasmuch as it is antithetical to the gospel itself.” I call on all of us to renew our personal and collective commitment to stand against racism and the violence born from it.
Some have inquired as to our possible response to the racist protests being planned. We are encouraging people to work within the interfaith partnerships already formed. The Shelbyville First United Methodist Church and the Shelbyville Church of the Nazarene will be sponsoring a prayer vigil on Friday, October 27, 2017 at Noon.
The Rutherford County Interfaith Council and the City of Murfreesboro encourage individuals to consult the #Murfreesboroloves Facebook community. Individuals who seek to publicly counter-protest in the Shelbyville area should consult the Shelbyville Times Gazette for information on where to legally gather. For more information, please feel free to call the Stones River District Superintendent, Rev. Max Mayo, at (615) 893-5886.
I call upon all United Methodists to join in praying for our communities as well as discovering creative ways to live our baptismal vow to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves.
Bishop Bill McAlilly
Also, I invite you to read and reflect on Reverend Paul Purdue’s sermon: Blessed are the peacemakers – Being mistaken for the Children of God preached Sunday, October 8, 2017 in the aftermath of the shooting in Las Vegas. You find a link to this message below:
Brothers and Sisters of The United Methodist Church,
Grace and peace to you in the compassionate name of our Lord Christ Jesus.
I write to you on behalf of our Council of Bishops to invite you to observe Global Migration Sunday on December 3, 2017. This is the first Sunday of the season of Advent, a time when we remember the coming birth of the Christ child who himself was a migrant.
From Asia and Europe to Africa and the Americas, the plight of more than 65 million men, women and children forced to leave their homes and migrate to places unknown calls all Christians to remember what God requires of us.
Wars, natural disasters, persecution, economic hardships and growing violence around the world are the major root causes of the unprecedented global migration we witness with grave concern today. As if these deadly forces were not enough, migrants also face myriad problems including hazardous travel, cultural barriers and the physical and emotional costs of arriving in strange lands where they are not always welcome and they often face persecution.
For most of these migrants, the decision to flee their homeland comes as a last resort effort to live. We are reminded of Joseph and Mary as they sought to save their lives and especially the life of the Christ child as they fled to Africa to escape the wrath of King Herod, who (threatened by the birth of Jesus) ordered the massacre of children (Matthew 2:13‑14).
As United Methodists, we believe that the prayers of God’s people can cause the outpouring of God’s mercy and justice. As your bishops, it is our fervent hope that on Global Migration Sunday on December 3, United Methodist congregations in all the places we serve around the world will join our voices to pray for our brothers and sisters who are suffering the journey of forced migration. In addition, as a people who pray and act upon those prayers, we ask that all our congregations gather an offering dedicated to the human suffering inflicted by forced migration. Offerings collected should be sent to the Migration Advance No. 3022144.
We are grateful for our general agencies who have prepared excellent resources for Global Migration Sunday in English, Arabic, French, and Spanish — including the prayer that we ask all pray on December 3rd.
Jesus said, “When you welcome the sojourner, you welcome me.” (Matthew 25:35)
Let us welcome our migrant brothers and sisters with compassionate care, pray for them without ceasing and give generously that they, too, may have life.
Grace and peace,
Bishop Bruce R. Ough
President, Council of Bishops
I want to encourage you to take the opportunity this October to hear and interact with a great teacher of church history, Rev. Dr. Justo Gonzalez. He will be visiting the Nashville Episcopal Area on October 13 & 14.
In his sessions, Dr. Gonzalez will lay the groundwork for understanding how our past informs our future. He will share his insights surrounding the impact of the Protestant Reformation of 1517 for our life as the church of 2017.
As we approach the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s audacious act of calling on the church of his day to make much-needed changes, we may find ourselves reflecting on something quite similar for our own lives as well as the greater church.
We are called as the church to provide a way through the reality we are facing and to be an anchor in the storm for those who are lost and hurting. Our time with Dr. Gonzalez will provide learning to help us better understand the context Martin Luther faced as well as our own.
Dr. Gonzalez will share his teaching in English so everyone will feel welcomed into the conversation that has been going on for some time with our Spanish-speaking brothers and sisters. (Spanish translation is available upon request.)
Our hope is that this time of learning around the 16th century Reformation’s context and the potential for a new reformation may guide our prayers and planning. This will be a time to enliven passion around seeing the people in our own contexts, primarily our Hispanic and Latino neighbors, so we may work in cooperation with one another.
While this is a two-day event, the leadership team wants to accommodate schedules and make this available to as many people as possible. They now have added a single-day registration option to attend this event in Murfreesboro. More information and a registration link are available at tnumc.org/reformation2017.
I want to thank you for your generous and faithful response to your sisters and brothers affected by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma! I am thankful for the way God has worked through the disciples of the Nashville Episcopal Area to offer Christ to a hurting world.
Today we can celebrate your financial gifts to UMCOR that totaled over $87,000 during the past month from churches and individuals in our two conferences – and it is still coming in.
Our churches have connected directly through family members and sister churches in affected areas to assist them. Conference Emergency Response Teams quickly prepared to deploy as we waited for invitations and assignments from affected Annual Conferences.
And of course…we made cleaning bucket kits…THREE truckloads of buckets and other needed supplies. I invite you to watch the video below to see our volunteers in action!
I want to thank the people of the Memphis and Tennessee Conferences for your continued prayers, your financial gifts, and your hands-on response to our neighbors in need.
Leviticus 19:33-34 “When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.”
As we continue to have concern about our brothers and sisters in Christ who would be affected by decisions to end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, I share with you a guest post from Morgan Stafford. As a part of his third year of divinity school at Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University, Stafford is currently a full-time intern serving as a cross-cultural strategist for the Nashville Episcopal Area. Part of his responsibilities include working with lay and clergy leaders who continue to be marginalized based on their immigration status.
Earlier this week, the announcement was made that the current presidential administration intends to end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, commonly known as DACA. Created in 2012, DACA has provided temporary protection from deportation and legal work authorization for about 800,000 “DREAMers.”
DREAMers are young immigrants who arrived in the United States before 2007, are currently enrolled in or have graduated from high school, and have committed no criminal offenses. While these young people do not have citizenship, they have spent the majority of their lives in the United States, contributing to the well-being of our communities, schools, and churches. Without DACA, thousands of families will be negatively impacted, and this reality will directly impact us all.
During my ministry experiences across Tennessee, Kentucky and Texas, I have been blessed to be in relationship with many immigrant sisters and brothers. Among these individuals have been several DREAMers who are proud recipients of DACA. I have witnessed firsthand the positive impact of DACA on the lives of these young people and their families:
- A 16-year-old who could apply for a job and now pays taxes and works part-time to support his family.
- A 17-year-old who could obtain a driver’s license and now drives to a better public high school outside of his neighborhood.
- An 18-year-old who could apply for in-state tuition and scholarships and now attends one of the best public universities in his home state.
- A 22-year-old who could use her gifts for ministry and now serves on staff at a local non-profit organization.
- A 26-year-old who could answer her call to ministry and attend seminary and now serves on staff at a local United Methodist church.
We celebrate that over 100 young people in Tennessee have successfully received DACA thanks to Justice for Our Neighbors, a United Methodist-affiliated organization which “provides affordable, high-quality immigration legal services to immigrants, educates the public and faith-based communities about issues related to immigration, and advocates for immigrant rights.” The Tennessee Conference of The United Methodist Church has supported this ministry from its beginnings.
In my new work with the Nashville Episcopal Area, I am blessed with the opportunity to visit and serve alongside lay and clergy leaders across the Memphis and Tennessee Conferences. Many of our churches have been enriched by the presence of young people from a beautifully diverse range of cultures, languages, and nations. In a divisive political climate in which immigrants continue to be marginalized and objectified, the United Methodist Church has a clear response found in our Social Principles:
“We recognize, embrace, and affirm all persons, regardless of country of origin, as members of the family of God. We affirm the right of all persons to equal opportunities for employment, access to housing, health care, education, and freedom from social discrimination. We urge the Church and society to recognize the gifts, contributions, and struggles of those who are immigrants and to advocate for justice for all.”
Now is the time to practice what we preach!
I pray that our churches will continue to be or become places where young people are welcomed and affirmed regardless of their documentation and legal status.
I pray that our clergy will advocate for policies which protect families and empower young people to use their God-given gifts.
I pray that our laity and clergy will organize and demonstrate their support for DACA recipients in a clear and public way.
May we pray. May we act. May we stand for justice.
Cross-Cultural Strategist & Ministry Intern
Nashville Episcopal Area
The United Methodist Church
1908 Grand Ave.
Nashville, TN 37212