–Ben White– Pastor, Circle of Hope, Pennsauken, NJ — Member of the Peace and Justice Project Leadership Team
It is Martin Luther King’s Birthday today, January, 15th. So last night was Martin Luther King’s Birthday Eve! We got together to celebrate by sharing stories about our dreams of the Beloved Community King described. Some pastors from the BIC had stories to get us started. The BIC Peace and Justice Project leadership team invites everyone to our every-other-month gathering of people of peace and justice from all over the country (maybe the world!) Our goal is to uplift the stories of generosity, compassion, peacemaking and racial reconciliation that we know is at the heart of the Brethren in Christ. here is video of the presenters and a summary below.
Krista Dutt, The Dwelling Place, Chicago, IL
Church in a van? She and her friends had an idea to start a church that addressed one of the largest injustices facing their neighborhood, mass incarceration. Eventually she said, what if the church met in the van as we travelled from our neighborhood to the prison an hour and a half away? Krist a said it was “so crazy that it could only come from God … Like from Old Testament times if Old Testament had cars.”
And then community started happening around this trip, this van, this common project. Shiny! Their dream is a bit on hold during the pandemic but we wait with her in hope as they stay connected the best they can.
Hank Johnson, Harrisburg BIC, Harrisburg, PA
Hank started off with repping the historic nature of the Harrisburg BIC congregation, It was founded in 1897. “Most people don’t name us as one of the historic BIC churches but we is.” History moves fast though, and at some point a couple of decades or so ago, the church looked at their neighborhood and realized they were not as connected as they wanted to be with their now rather brown and black neighborhood.
So they started dreaming about ways to connect and somehow they said, “Let’s just build a hospital!” But they weren’t at all sure how to do that. Eventually, two doctors came to them and confirmed that the area really DOES need a clinic, so they said again, “Let’s do it. And they started raising money, looking for millions.
But the church’s visionary, Dr. Gwen, lost her husband and got sick herself. The dream went back on the back burner.
Then they got recruited for hosting a mobile medical clinic in partnership with a Catholic organization who had a similar ethos — Be the kingdom by giving this care in the name of Jesus. Now they have hosted the clinic for three years and the church has spent a grand total of $80 to get a special plu so the mobile bus clinic can easily plug into their building.
Hank said “We thought it was our idea, but it was God’s idea.”
John Grimshaw, Lakeview Community Church, Goodrich, MI
2018 was the worst financial year on record at Lakeview Community Church. So they felt like they didn’t have much to offer, but it was that year rhat a local foodbank recruited them to be one of their distribution centers.
They created a Client choice food pantry, where neighbors get to select their own items almost like a store. It is very dignifying and gives more opportunity for relationships to happen while neighbors shop.
When Covid 19 shut everything down they switched to Curbside Pickup. Folks would drive up and fill out a checklist, which an attendant would then photograph and text inside where other volunteers would quickly pack up their order. meanwhile Jon asked everyone if he could pray for them. of hundreds, only two ever said no.
The numbers: 2019: 149 families, 452 individuals, 294 family visits to the food pantry. 2020: 250 families, 630 individuals, 714 family visits . That’s some exponential growth, which has energized the church and even included a couple new families in their worship service. They just had their 1000th family visit and, in only two years, they have given away the equivalent of $150-250K in food and household items items.
Jon said, “On my own I couldn’t do it, but with God I can.”
Joshua Nolt, Lancaster BIC, Lancaster, PA
Joshua Nolt said, “I fall into stuff… so this is a micro story”
After the death of George Floyd and the swell of response across the nation, Joshua wrote “a word of encouragement and challenge” to his white friends:
“…If you have feelings of sorrow over George Floyd, Ahmad Aubrey, Brianna Taylor, or the host of other fallen people of color, I encourage you to allow them to be an invitation to do more than just feel – but to do the work and then contribute an informed voice to help bring about justice. This is a way to honor and love our brothers and sisters of color for whom this is daily, lived experience.”
Then he recommended some resources. People were quite interested so Joshua said to himself, “Facebook is not really a community. So who is going to take this somewhere… I guess it’s me.” So he organized a reading group of Jemar Tisby’s book, “The Color of Compromise” (and here is his new book How to Fight Racism)
For some in the group, the things that they were reading were shocking — eye opening. Others had done some work already and were not so surprised. The various levels of exposure was part of the triumph, because the resulting dialogue was real and rich.
Leaning into difficult, potential shame-leden conversations such as the book helped to create is often avoided. But Joshua concluded, “Leaning in with brothers and sisters is a lot easier than doing it ourselves.“
What’s your story?
Then we broke out into breakout groups. Here is a picture of mine, with Curtis, Chris, Nancy and Drew. These were our instructions.
- Introduce yourself to each other
- Did you or someone in your community have a dream that came to some fruit?
- Do you have a dream forming now?
- Do you need encouragement? Advice? Resources?
Want to add to the conversation in the comments on his blog, or on our facebook group (which is like a 24/7 Shine Bright Event — share your story any time). We need each other to be shiny because each of us feels bright dull by ourselves.
See You Next Time?
Next Shine Bright is March 11th at 8:30 EST, 7:30 CST, 5:30 PST on Zoom