The Dream Will Not Die on Our Watch

Gathering watching performace

By Rick Wolcott*

Clergy and laity gathered at Aldersgate United Methodist Church (North Coast District) on Monday, January 15 to remember the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.


“It’s appropriate that we recognize Dr. King today because the things that he fought for and died for are under attack.  The dream that he had, that all of God’s children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but the content of their character, that dream is under attack,” said the Rev. Dogba Bass of Aldersgate UMC.  “Will we be men and women of courage like Dr. King?  In our day and in our time we can’t recreate his day, but this is our day, this is our time.  What will history say about us?  We cannot afford to let the dream die.  That is why we have called you here today.”

Powerful prayer, passionate singing, emotional liturgical dances, and heartfelt words filled the sanctuary.  None more poignant than those shared by Tracy Bass and third-grader Alexandra Grant, who recited the “I have a dream” speech that King gave August 28, 1963 as part of the March on Washington.

“That one experience shaped my thinking,” said Lena Nance of the impact participating in the March had on launching her life-long journey to learn more about her heritage.

“It may surprise you as a middle-aged white person for me to confess to you that the civil rights movement has made my life immensely better, enormously better.  I think now about the teachers and the colleagues and the friends that I wouldn’t have been allowed to have,” North Coast District Superintendent the Rev. Dr. Steve Bailey said in his remarks.

“As someone who has lived through the civil rights era I am so grateful that courageous people black, and white, and Hispanic, and Asian and many other ethnicities said that we will not be divided by evil or mistrust.  We will not look at each other as competitors or enemies, but as brothers and sisters,” he continued.  “And that’s a mission that could be launched out of a political movement, but Dr. King launched that out of his understanding of the Gospel of Jesus Christ that racism is not an attitude that’s a political opinion, racism is an evil to be deplored and if the church isn’t standing up against racism we have compromised our mission entirely.”

Rev. Dogba Bass and Bishop Tracy S. Malone

“I am convinced that if we want to pay tribute to Dr. King for having a dream, if we want to galvanize the nation to continue to strive toward ongoing freedom and equality, we can keep having these wonderful celebrations – and they are good,” said Bishop Tracy S. Malone.  “But if we want to keep the dream alive and commit to the work and the vision of King we have to face our current realities of our times and admit that we have a societal problem, and we’re part of the societal problem because we have become silent.”

In her keynote address, the bishop implored those gathered to take action.

“It is time for the Church to rise up and be her best self.  We are the moral conscience for society but we must take our rightful place.  It’s time to shift from just dreaming and remembering, and commemorating.  Let us organize. Let us mobilize.  This transcends race, and gender, and class, but anyone who cares about the cause of justice, the cause of equality, the cause of peace, it is time.  Repeat after me, ‘I will not let the dream die on my watch.’”

“When God calls you, God can call you from anywhere,” Bailey said.  “You don’t have to start from a big movement, you simply have to start.  You have to speak.  You have to move forward, and you have to invite people to join you.”

Click on the video to see Bishop Malone’s keynote address in its entirety.

*Rick Wolcott is director of Communications for the East Ohio Conference of The United Methodist Church.

General Secretary: “Vital congregations never lose focus of their ‘why.’”

By Rick Wolcott*

“Discipleship, first and foremost, begins with me.  In other words, you cannot teach what you do not know.  You cannot model what you do not practice.  You cannot lead where you have not been.”

That was just one of the messages that UMC Discipleship Ministries General Secretary the Rev. Junius B. Dotson shared with congregation members and community leaders during his Myers Lecture presentation at Church of the Saviour UMC (North Coast District) in Cleveland Heights.

“We are in a year of discipleship,” said the Rev. Gregory Kendrick, Jr., Church of the Saviour pastor of connections.  “From September 2017 through August 2018, everything we’re doing is about intentional discipleship.  Rev. Dotson coming here is critical and crucial for us because what we learn will help transition us into a year of outreach and mission that will begin in September.  I think it’s important to link the message of discipleship and the message of mission together.”

“These are interesting times.  These are difficult times,” Dotson said.  “We live now, and minister, in a generation that has lost faith in social and religious institutions to make the world a better place.”

To restore that faith, churches need to identify and claim the reason that they exist.  They need to embrace their ‘why.’  Dotson explained that process begins by following the words of The Great Commission to go and make disciples of all nations.

“That is our ‘why’ as the body of Christ,” Dotson said. “Vital congregations are vibrant and vital because they know their ‘why,’ and they stay connected to their ‘why.’ They never lose focus of their ‘why.’”

“Rev. Dotson being here and being able to talk through the ‘why,’ and the importance of the ‘why,’ helps to inform our ‘how’ and our ‘what,’” Kendrick, Jr. said.

“In too many churches across our denomination, we mistake activity for accomplishment; we mistake meetings for ministry; we mistake information about Jesus for intimacy with Jesus,” Dotson said.

He said that when a church is intentional about discipleship it has a clear plan and a clear process for helping people live into their baptismal covenant to support the church with their prayers, their presence, their gifts, their service, and their witness.

“Do you know what those are?  Habits of disciples.  So how are we intentional about teaching the habits of discipleship?” Dotson asked.

“Every church should be able to answer this question, ‘What is our intentional plan of discipleship?  What is our process?  How do people grow and progress spiritually within this body of Christ?’”

Click on the video to watch Rev. Dotson’s presentation in its entirety.

*Rick Wolcott is director of Communications for the East Ohio Conference of The United Methodist Church.

Congregation Thanks Those Working on Christmas Eve

By Rick Wolcott*

On Sunday, December 24, Garfield Memorial Church (North Coast District)  cancelled the Mosaic multi-ethnic praise and worship experience at its Pepper Pike and South Euclid locations to distribute 300 dozen donuts to people who had to work on the holiday.

“We want them to know that even though they’re working on Christmas Eve day, the last place you probably want to be, you’re not forgotten.  Christmas says that God doesn’t forget us,” said Lead Pastor the Rev. Chip Freed.

“Today is about, and has been, and really is what we do here at Garfield is blanket the city in love,” said Outreach Coordinator Nikki Froehlich.  “We’ve been reaching out to people any way we can to bring them to church and bring them closer to Jesus.”

That meant taking church out of the building and into the businesses around both Garfield Memorial Church campuses to thank people for their service, offer them a sweet treat, and invite them to Christmas Eve service.

The church rented out the 1,100 seat Notre Dame College Performing Arts auditorium so that parishioners from both campuses could invite others to join them in worshipping under one roof.

“We said ‘blanket the city, stitch the world back together in love,’ we think that’s what Jesus did and we’re trying to follow Him,” Freed said.

*Rick Wolcott is director of Communications for the East Ohio Conference of The United Methodist Church.