Peace on Earth, Good Will to All: A Pastoral Letter from Bishop Hope Morgan Ward
Glory to God and on earth peace! – Luke 2:14
I greet you in the name of the One who comes embodying peace and offering peace to all.
In Advent, our churches use beautiful hues of purple and blue on pulpits, communion tables and banners. Blue is the ancient color for Advent, the color of the Bethlehem sky and the color of Mary’s garments in classical Christian art. Purple, the color of royalty, summons us to a posture of humble, penitent yearning for the fullness of life the Messiah brings.
These colors guide us during this turbulent time in our nation: grief, frustration and pain continue as people confess the fear and violence evident in Ferguson and New York and in our own communities here in North Carolina. “The violent deaths of black men are indisputable evidence: we are not the people we are called to be”. We carry still the stereotypes we were taught about one another. Because of fear, mistrust and misunderstanding we protect our privilege and possessions more than life itself.
How might the church help lead true dialogue in our communities – dialogue between different races and nationalities and between law enforcement officials and the citizens they have sworn to protect?
It is essential that we talk about this together. Therefore, I would like you to know about plans currently unfolding in the New Year and ask that you participate.
1. A planning team will meet with Erin Hawkins, the General Secretary of Religion and Race, to further develop ways for us to increase our multicultural competency as we resist and dismantle systemic racism persisting in our communities. This planning process was first established in January 2014 when over 200 laity and clergy met for a day in Garner to discuss this topic. The planning meeting will occur January 13 in the NC Conference building.
2. Sacred Conversations: Because Black Lives Matter event will be convened at Duke Memorial United Methodist Church, January 28, 6:30 pm – 8:30 pm, with leadership including the Duke Divinity School community.
3. We will collect forty meditations for Lent 2014. These meditations will help us share our experience and wisdom related to these matters of race. They will be available for personal devotionals and for group discussion in churches online and in a print publication.
Many of you have written, preached, taught and convened around these issues in your churches. Thank you for your faithful and prophetic leadership. It is my prayer that these plans will help all of us lead with greater faithfulness, courage and strength as we move forward together.
May the purples and blues of Advent help us name our hurts and hopes as Jesus, the Savior of the World, comes to us this Christmas.
With gratitude for the peace and joy of this radiant season,
Hope Morgan Ward