By Rick Wolcott*
Under the theme We Are One in the Spirit, clergy and laity of the Pan Methodist family came together on the first Sunday of Advent for intentional worship and fellowship as a sign of unity and racial harmony among the Methodist family in the State of Ohio and as a witness to the world.
“What’s exciting to me is for the Methodists to come together in a joint worship service. I’ve been Methodist all of my life and I can’t recall being part of such an experience. I’m excited that it’s happening and I’m excited to be a host pastor,” said the Rev. Dr. Charles Tyler, Sr., pastor of Wesley Temple African Methodist Episcopal Zion (AMEZ) Church and presiding Elder of the Akron District.
In addition to the service at Wesley Temple AMEZ Church in Akron, where Bishop Tracy S. Malone of the East Ohio Conference of The United Methodist Church (UMC) preached, services were held simultaneously at:
- Church of the Saviour UMC in Cleveland Heights, where Bishop Marvin Frank Thomas, Sr. of the Christian Methodist Episcopal (CME) Church preached,
- Metropolitan CME Church in Cincinnati, where Bishop McKinley Young of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church preached,
- Vernon Avenue AME Church in Columbus, where Bishop Gregory V. Palmer of the West Ohio Conference of The UMC preached, and
- Concord UMC in Englewood, where Bishop W. Darrin Moore of the AMEZ Church preached.
“Don’t you know that Methodism is a global enterprise, and there is power if we will only claim it and come together,” Malone said in her sermon.
“This is important because it reaffirms who we are as part of the Methodist family. We are not only daughters and sons of God through Jesus Christ, we’re sons and daughters of Protestantism, and we’re sons and daughters of John and Charles Wesley and Francis Asbury and the whole Methodist movement in America, so it’s important for us to reaffirm that,” said the Rev. Bruce Butcher pastor of St. Paul AME Church in Akron.
Malone’s powerful, thought-provoking message, titled Preparing the Way, was grounded in Malachi 3:1-4 and Luke 3:1-6.
“It’s not about what we are doing, it’s about what God is doing through us,” she said.
“Bishop Malone pointed out in her sermon tonight that in addition to personal holiness we also have social holiness. We need to return to that, so we can address some of the social issues that we have before us,” Butcher said.
“I think we need to witness and testify to our unity as Methodists, as people committed to social and personal holiness, we need to make a statement of unity in a culture that is so divided,” added the Rev. Pamela Buzalka of Park UMC (Canal District) in Akron.
“As a pastor right down the road in East Akron this is my backyard, this is where I minister so being here with my brothers and sisters in Christ strengthens our community. We need each other because we can do more together than we can on our own,” said the Rev. Ron Shultz, pastor of Family of Faith UMC and South Arlington UMC (Canal District).
The families of the Pan Methodist Commission of Ohio modeled the strength of our connection during each of the five services. The offerings collected were donated to the Pan Methodist Campaign for Children in Poverty.
“Ministries of care for the poor were the central focus of the early Methodist movement, and God’s call continues today for churches to be prophetic activists in caring for the most vulnerable,” Tyler shared during the service.
“I am hoping and believing and trusting that this is only the beginning of something good and mighty,” Malone said during her sermon. “We know that it does not end just with our worship, so I’m hoping and praying that we are all inspired and even convicted to do something even more.”
“I thought this service was a great opportunity to be together in worship and I would like to see this happen more than annually,” Dr. Martha Banks, a member of Christ Woodland UMC (Canal District), shared during reception that followed the service.
*Rick Wolcott is director of Communications for the East Ohio Conference of The United Methodist Church.