Public Theology is what we do about what we believe

   The motto that titles this blog entry is taken from a July 2013 letter written by Cynthia Kent, Chair of the Conference Board of Church and Society. You can read the full letter in PDF form by clicking on the image above. I have been preparing for the role of Public Theology Advocate at Hillsdale UMC through most of 2014 - studying, praying, asking questions, researching, challenging my beliefs and my faith-in- action. It is clear to me that there are many social justice concerns in our area. I have learned about our community's struggles with racism and bigotry, the lack of resources for the developmentally challenged in our schools, the difficulty LGBT people have in finding a welcoming place of worship ... these are only a few of the concerns our congregants have expressed. In addition, our media is bursting with reports of national protests and cries for judicial system reform as a result of the fatal Ferguson police shooting of Michael Brown, and the NYPD police officer's chokehold death of Eric Garner. Bishop Schol announced on December 11th a commitment to create a conference-wide culture that is vigilant to end racism, grow in cultural competence, and be respectful and welcoming of all people.

   As I researched and prayed for guidance, I began to see a common theme in all these troubles - a clear lack of celebration for diversity. I felt the Holy Spirit speaking to me about this concept as I sat in worship listening to Pastor Brian's December 7th sermon "Love Your Enemies. Be Forgiven." Pastor Brian invited us to step back, and consider the other side.

   Protests can be effective. A demand for justice by writing for legislative reform of our congress and our church can be effective. But what can we each do to change the Pascack Valley community? Is it possible to create a model community where diversity is not simply tolerated - but celebrated? What would it be like to live in such a community? This is the direction I've been guided to explore with all of us. It will require more research to find the source of the problems; it will require a suspension of personal assumptions about our community; it will require some training; it will require much prayer, much discussion about the realities of living here and our own personal understanding of the Gospel, and, perhaps, it will require some action in protest. I don't have a solid plan developed yet, but I am continuing to reach out to our local authorities, our schools, and our residents. And I need help from each of you.

   Next week, I'll write about what that help may be and how to become part of mission to do what we do about what we believe.

In Christ’s Peace, Lisa Schoelles 

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