At our annual Charge Conference on Sunday, October 25th, our District Superintendent Dr. Deborah Smith asked Pastor Ronnie to respond to the following question: What have you learned about yourself and your ministries during the dual pandemics of COVID-19 and racial injustice?
Following is Pastor Ronnie’s response:
When the pandemic first began, I was one who refused to believe it was as serious as it was being made out. Not from the standpoint of any conspiracy, but I felt it would be with us for a few weeks, and then would go away – sort of like the flu season.
When the bishop mandated that the church cease from public worship, I was angered and wanted to rebel. But now months into this pandemic, I see the seriousness of it, and have done all I can to insist our church follow and maintain healthy guidelines for meeting in public. We do a reasonably good job of following the guidelines here at Millington FUMC; there are ways we could improve, but I think we maintain a high bar.
Here is a quote from my sermon this morning: God will not be defeated or crushed by any calamity from nature or mankind. God’s Word and God’s vision will continue.
I believe that Millington FUMC has been very pro-active in continuing the ministry of our Lord. Our Food Pantry continues to feed the marginalized, our Backpack Ministry continues to put food in the hands of children who are malnourished, Sunday School classes have found creative ways to continue to build faith, and some of our Circles have met by practicing social distancing.
Despite the challenges brought on by COVID-19, I’ve seen God’s Word move forward, and I’ve seen people join us for worship from as far away as Idaho, and around the country. I’ve been amazed that the church can adapt and change to ensure that God’s vision for the world continues to be viable
In some ways, maybe God has used the pandemics of COVID-19 and the Black Lives Matter tragedies to bring attention to issues we otherwise may not have given as much consideration.
With little else to do as a result of the sheltering in place, our attention and our conscience was pricked by tragedies which befell our African-American neighbors.
One of the characteristics of Millington FUMC is that we have been a very welcoming congregation. At one point a few years ago, we welcomed people with Asian/Pacific Islander, Middle Eastern and African-American heritages to our worship. Some have moved on as a result of jobs, or deployment, but some have stayed, and we have added people to our membership roll from other races.
I celebrate this about our church, that no matter who walks through our doors, they will be welcomed, shown hospitality and loved. And if they stay with us long enough, they will be not only loved, but encouraged to assimilate into the full life of this church.
The recent emphasis on the Black Lives Matter movement has reminded me that God wants us to see each other as one human family. The example must be exemplified in the church, through its value systems, its character and its context for ministry. I believe this is all a part of God’s vision for the world.