Bishop Ward addresses the people of Ferguson, Missouri and North Carolina after an insightful conversation with Reverend Willis Johnson, pastor of Wellspring United Methodist Church. Wellspring was planted in Ferguson two years ago after the Missouri Conference identified the community as “underserved by the United Methodist Church.”
Grace and peace to you, the people of Ferguson, Missouri and the people of the North Carolina Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
We experience profound connection in the wake of the killing of Michael Brown. I emailed Rev. Willis Johnson, pastor of Wellspring United Methodist Church in Ferguson. I emailed him to assure him of the prayers and support and connection of United Methodist people here in North Carolina.
He graciously telephoned me to thank me for the email and we had a remarkable conversation. I discovered that he is a North Carolinian from Greensboro. I asked him what his message would be for the people of North Carolina, his home state.
He responded that he often uses, in Ferguson, the image of a paralyzed man being carried on a palette by four friends to Jesus. Each of the four friends grabbed a corner of that palette and they carry him to the crowded house. A huge group of people had gone into the house and were at all of the windows, so much so that Jesus was inaccessible.
And so, the four friends used every resource at their disposal to bring their friend to Jesus. They went up on the roof and lifted him up. They created a hole in the roof and they lowered him to the place where Jesus was and they were healed.
Jesus saw their outward expression of great faith and honored it in the healing of the paralyzed man. Rev. Johnson suggests that we all carry our corner of the palette; what a remarkable invitation.
For in every community, there is the potential for stereotyping, for violence and for tragedy. Rev. Johnson describes his church, Wellspring, as a laboratory of learning as they navigate this difficult and traumatic time.
We also have the privilege of learning, and engaging with courage, these difficult events. We give thanks for Rev. Johnson’s wonderful observation that our outward signs of love are used by God as a means of grace.
When we pray and engage, God’s healing grace comes. May we, in communities across our nation, both in Missouri and in North Carolina, be agents of God’s healing and gracious presence this day and always.