Faithful Christians from around the Eastern PA Conference, whether committed to or just concerned about biblical and Wesleyan values of peace with justice, are invited to gather on Saturday, May 13, at Holy Cross UMC in Reading, Pa. There they will explore and engage hearts and minds in their shared struggles against racism and other forms of oppression.
“Hearts on Fire: Stories of Shalom and Social Holiness” is planned as a major learning, networking and mobilizing event, unlike any before it, to create “a diverse network of people connected by story, committed to justice and collaborating for peace.” The theme is inspired by the Apostle Paul’s encouraging admonition in Romans 12:11-13: “Never let the fire in your heart go out. Keep it alive. Serve the Lord. When you hope, be joyful. When you suffer, be patient. When you pray, be faithful. Share with God’s people who are in need. Welcome others into your homes.”
Scheduled for 9 AM to 2 PM, the gathering will hear topical TED talks* by justice ministry practitioners and engage in small-group discussions, networking activities, biblical reflection and worship. Inspired by Christ’s gospel, they will “learn and work together as leaders to help create social change and build thriving communities of shalom.” Speakers will share creative ideas and practical applications that work “on the ground.”
Topics may include responses to the Northeastern Jurisdiction’s Call to Action mandate for conferences to challenge racism and inequity in the church; justice and mercy for immigrants and refugees seeking asylum; and justice aspects of The United Methodist Church’s four mission foci:
The conference’s Urban Commission, leaders representing urban churches and communities, initiated planning for the event but broadened that role to include leaders of other conference groups and individuals involved in social witness and human development. The commission, at its 2016 planning retreat, developed an “Urban Quadrilateral” basis for its partnership and resourcing work: “Love, Learn, Lead and Leverage.” That same mandate may guide discussion and activities at the “Hearts of Fire” gathering.
“We want to use a holistic justice approach to creating thriving communities of shalom,” said the Rev. Lydia Muñoz, Urban Commission co-chairperson. “That includes addressing racism, sexism, xenophobia, homophobia and so on. Our creative, collaborative efforts should inspire leadership and reflect a vision of the reign of God.”
Bishop Peggy Johnson and the planning task force, which includes leaders who are diverse in race, region and ideology, hope to see this event as the launch of a quadrennial, coordinated effort at motivating and involving more churches in meaningful ministries of outreach, justice and human development.
“It will be helpful to make people more aware of what’s happening in our churches and communities and how they can be involved,” said the Rev. Anita Powell, Superintendent of the Central District. “We must get out of our ministry silos and find ways to engage everyone in working cooperatively for peace, justice and social holiness.”
*TED is a nonpartisan nonprofit devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks. TED began in 1984 as a conference where Technology, Entertainment and Design converged, but today covers almost all topics — from science to business to global issues. TED is now a popular style of oral and often visual presentation used by organizations to briefly introduce ideas and information.