Churches Uniting in Christ: Reconciling the Baptized, Seeking Unity with Justice

CUIC, OGA video explores race and the church

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Office of the General Assembly has partnered with Churches Uniting in Christ (CUIC) to produce a video on race. Through the lens of the Michael Brown killing in Ferguson, Missouri, Race and the Church: A New Call explores how CUIC member churches, including the PC(USA), are responding to the current racial climate in the United States, and challenges them to look outside themselves as they work for justice in the future.


 

"They Met to Read the Bible"  

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A Hymn on the Emanuel AME Church Shooting, Racial Injustice, and Gun Violence

ST. CHRISTOPHER 7.6.8.6.8.6.8.6 ("Beneath the Cross of Jesus")
 
They met to read the Bible, they gathered for a prayer,
They worshiped God and shared with friends and welcomed strangers there.
They went to church to speak of love, to celebrate God’s grace.
O Lord, we tremble when we hear what happened in that place.
 
O God of love and justice, we thank you for the nine.
They served in their communities and made the world more kind.
They preached and sang and coached and taught, and cared for children, too.
They blessed your church and blessed your world with gifts they used for you.
 
We grieve a wounded culture where fear and terror thrive,
Where some hate others for their race and guns are glorified.
We grieve for sons and daughters lost, for grandmas who are gone.
O God, we cry with broken hearts: this can’t continue on!
 
God, may we keep on sowing the seeds of justice here,
Till guns are silent, people sing, and hope replaces fear.
May seeds of understanding grow and flourish all our days.
May justice, love and mercy be the banner that we raise. 

Tune: Frederick Charles Maker, 1881
Text: Copyright © 2015 by Carolyn Winfrey Gillette. All rights reserved.
Email: bcgillette@comcast.net  New Hymns: www.carolynshymns.com
Permission is given for free use by local churches and in ecumenical services.


 
 

Truth to Power Panel: Eradicating Racism

 
 Rev. Dr. Staccato Powell - Moderator

Rev. Dr. Staccato Powell - Moderator

 Rev. Brandon Smith

Rev. Brandon Smith

 Rev. Staccato K. Powell

Rev. Staccato K. Powell

 Rev. Hannah Bonner

Rev. Hannah Bonner

 Mr. Jonathan Pulphus

Mr. Jonathan Pulphus

 Rev. Waltrina Middleton

Rev. Waltrina Middleton

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Depiction of a Watch Night in 1862

 

 
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On New Year’s Eve in 1862, Black communities in America came together in churches and private homes to wait for the moment that the Emancipation Proclamation would become law. At the stroke of midnight on Freedom’s Eve, all the slaves in the Confederate States became legally free. Frederick Douglass wrote that at the stroke of midnight, “joy and gladness exhausted all forms of expression, from shouts of praise to sobs and tears.”

The Watch Night (or Watchnight) service was originated by the Moravians in Germany and was adopted by John Wesley, founder of the United Methodist Church, as an annual renewal of a Christian’s commitment to God. The first Watch Night service in America took place at St. George’s Church in Philadelphia, where Richard Allen, founder of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, attended.

While Watch Night services were celebrated in both white and Black churches before Emancipation, the Watch Night service took on a special significance to Black communities after Freedom’s Eve in 1862, when slaves were legally freed. This new celebration of Watch Night became a tradition in many Black churches, including the now-historic Black communions of the African Methodist Episcopal, African Methodist Episcopal Zion, and Christian Methodist Episcopal churches.

The Watch Night service usually begins between 7 p.m. and 10 p.m., ending at midnight when the New Year begins. Traditionally, five minutes before midnight, everyone kneels and prays from the old year into the new year. In an article on Watch Night in The African American Lectionary (online), doctoral student Jonathan Langston Chism writes that some services fully honor the Freedom’s Eve tradition during Watch Night, while other services “implicitly reflect the spirit of Freedom’s Eve celebrations by bringing in the New Year with jubilation and praise, praying, shouting, and thanking God for allowing them to live and survive another year as they anticipate the fulfillment of their hopes and God’s promises in the New Year.”

Rev. Robina Winbush, President of Churches Uniting in Christ, shared her memories of Watch Night services, saying, “Watchnight service has always been an important part of my familial, communal, and congregational liturgical life. My favorite memories of Watchnight service were from childhood. Even before we would go out and celebrate with friends, we would always go to church, listen to and share testimonies of God’s blessings in our lives over the past year and celebrate God’s faithfulness in our individual and collective lives. About 15 minutes before midnight, we would gather on our knees (or sometimes in a circle), the lights would dim, and we would begin to pray. About 5 minutes before midnight, someone would ask the question, ‘Watchman, watchman, what is the hour?’ A response would come from the back of the sanctuary in a booming voice, ‘It’s 5 minutes to twelve and all is well.’ This would continue until it reached midnight and the lights in the sanctuary would come on and we would celebrate entering a new year. Later when I learned the history of Watchnight service in the African American church, I appreciated the ritual even more.”

In an article on the Watch Night service, Dr. Calvin H. Snydor III (AME) said, “Watch Meeting Night Service is a tradition that I hope will continue because we have a lot for which to be thankful. All of us have a testimony to give, a song to sing and a prayer to be prayed. In the black community, the Watch Meeting Night began with us, the African Methodist Episcopal Church and with the Right Reverend Richard Allen, the first consecrated and elected bishop.”

Article Resources:

African American Registry - http://www.aaregistry.org/historic_events/view/first-watch-night-service-occurs

African-American Civil War Memorial and Museum - http://www.afroamcivilwar.org/component/content/article/4-upcoming-events/190-watch-night.html

The United Methodist Church - http://www.umc.org/what-we-believe/watch-night-service

Dr. Calvin H. Snydor III, 20th editor of The Christian Recorder - http://www.metropolitanamec.org/watch-meeting-night-services.asp

The African American Lectionary - http://www.theafricanamericanlectionary.org/PopupCulturalAid.asp?LRID=184

 

Image Credit:

Heard and Moseley.
Waiting for the hour [Emancipation], December 31, 1862.
Carte de visite.
Washington, 1863.
Prints and Photographs Division.
Reproduction Number: LC-USZC4-6160 (4-21a)

 

A Statement on the Killing of Trayvon Martin (March 2012)

Churches Uniting in Christ (CUIC), an ecumenical group of 10 denominations ― plus the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America as a “partner” ― has issued a statement offering consolation to the family of murdered Florida teenager Trayvon Martin and calling for “an expedient and unbiased investigation” into his death at the hands of a neighborhood watch captain in Sanford, Fla.

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APPEAL TO THE CHURCHES
To Seek God’s Beloved Community

In January of 2002, during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, nine Christian communions will inaugurate a new relationship with each other called Churches Uniting in Christ. As the first step in this journey toward unity, we issue this appeal to every member of our churches, “that we all may be one” (John 17:22).

 
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Racism is a church-dividing, faith-denying and community-destroying reality that must be eradicated. It is an evil practice among individuals, churches and nations. Racism is a sin and without repentance it is unto death. CUIC provides a unique opportunity for the ecumenical community to embrace with enthusiasm and excitement a new future, devoid of the baggage of racism, where we exercise mutual respect and equal regard.
— The Right Reverend McKinley Young Former Vice President, COCU CUIC Transition Committee Presiding Bishop (2002) 10th District African Methodist Episcopal Church

My greatest hope is that we will join together in the most significant anti-racism effort in our society’s history. We have heard God’s call to do that work together.
— The Reverend Dr. Jeffrey R. Newhall Former President, COCU Transitional President, CUIC Pastor, Greendale People's Church Worcester, MA
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