UMC on forefront of efforts to ease tensions

People hold hands and pray during a vigil near the site where Michael Brown was killed in Ferguson, Mo. (UMNS photo by the Rev. Matt Miofsky)

People have asked about what the United Methodist Church is doing in response to the events in recent days in Ferguson, Mo. I’d like to lift up a few significant points of engagement and offerings of ministry.

Bishop Robert Schnase

The Missouri Conference launched a new church start in Ferguson two years ago after identifying the community as underserved by The United Methodist Church. Wellspring United Methodist Church is located two blocks from the area seen frequently on television news in recent days.

The congregation has offered services of prayer and reconciliation, and provided meeting space for community and church leaders. Under the leadership of the Rev. Willis Johnson, the church has been on the forefront of efforts to ease tensions, offer consolation and prayer for those who grieve, and to seek the truth about the events that led to the death of Michael Brown.

Powerful interview

Let me strongly suggest that you listen to the following National Public Radio interview with Rev. Willis Johnson for the program “All Things Considered.”

They bear witness to the courage and faith of United Methodists on the frontlines as they engage issues of race, anger, fear and a longing for reconciliation.

The interview and the accompanying photograph are powerful. They bear witness to the courage and faith of United Methodists on the frontlines as they engage issues of race, anger, fear and a longing for reconciliation.

I would also draw your attention to the article by Heather Hahn of the United Methodist News Service. She highlights the involvement of other United Methodist churches in the St. Louis area and from across Missouri that have reached out with volunteers to help with educational ministries for children and youths during the time that the Ferguson schools have been closed. Heather’s article can be found at Church leaders strive to be peacemakers in Ferguson.

The Missouri Conference Office of Mission, Service & Justice has also offered support and volunteers to help with such basic tasks as clean up and support for those businesses that have been looted or suffered damage.

United Methodist voices

United Methodist voices, including that of the Missouri Governor Jay Nixon, an active United Methodist himself, have sought to de-escalate rather than to intensify, to work toward peace and justice rather than to avoid, blame, or ignore.

We continue to hold in our prayers all those who have most personally and painfully been affected by the violence. We continue to look for opportunities to serve and to bring a ministry of healing to a community that has been deeply hurt.

We ask for your support. If you are looking for a way to engage positively, I invite you to correspond directly with Rev. Willis Johnson at Wellspring United Methodist Church in Ferguson via email or call (314) 521-4217.

You may also contact the Missouri Conference office@umocm.comOffice of Mission, Service & Justice Ministries, or call (573) 474-7155.

Editor's note: Bishop Robert Schnase is episcopal leader of the Missouri Conference of The United Methodist Church.

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