When They Prayed
FROM THE BISHOP DAVID GRAVES   I chose the theme of our 2023 Annual Conference session, “When They Prayed,” based on Acts 4:31: “And when they had prayed, the place in which they ...
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Black History Month

February 15, 2021

“History has shown us that courage can be contagious and hope can take on a life of its own.” – Michelle Obama

I wish I had paid closer attention to history through the years – including when I was in school. I meet people who enjoy a love of history, and I have come to understand the rich lens it gives in the present and looking into the future. 

This month we celebrate Black History Month, and as I think about Black history I tend to shelter myself from the difficult pieces. For example, the history of slavery is very difficult to think about and even harder to comprehend, but I have also come to realize that learning our past is necessary; it’s necessary to travel back through history to inform our present as well as impact the future. 

Last year, learning about the origin and significance of the Watch Night Service (Dec. 31) within the African-American community certainly gave me a greater appreciation for this gathering. Being able to attend a service virtually at St. Mary’s Road UMC in Columbus was powerful. Black History Month embraces looking back and around at history in the making, highlighting the incredible contributions that people of color have made throughout history and continue to make in shaping our future. 

Studying Black history has been pivotal in helping me understand the present. I learn from listening and hearing others’ stories, which is the desire behind launching South Georgia’s new Book Club with an open invitation. Registration is live now for our first book, “How to Be an Anti-racist” by Ibram X. Kendi. Rev. Andrew (Drew) Young, pastor of Mosaic Church in Savannah, and I are teaming up to lead six weeks of conversations beginning March 2. Our prayer is to create safe space to learn, ask questions, and see how God works among us. For more information, click here. I hope you will join us! 

Throughout February you will see Black History Moments – similar to our beloved John Wesley Moments – on our Conference Facebook page and in other communications. Led by some of our African-American clergy and laity across South Georgia, these are inspiring ways to learn about contributions shaping history in our conference. Our first was from Rev. Abra Lattany-Reed. 

You won’t want to miss the “Alive Together At the Table with Bishop Bryan” this month. On Feb. 16, Bishop Bryan will have a special guest who witnessed an event that is woven into Black history and the experience was life changing. I was also amazed to find out that Rosa Parks was our guest’s Sunday school teacher. Join us at this virtual table! 

You know I am always ready to resource, and this is no exception. I hope you will take advantage of these resources as a starting point and see where they take you. There are so many more resources at our fingertips through the Internet. I am learning so much, and I am thankful for those who have extended grace and safe space for me on this journey of understanding and my desire to be a change agent. 

UMC Resources:
SGAUMC Multicultural Task Force 
United Methodist Black History Quiz
United Methodist Women: Black History Month
Methodism in Black & White

Worship Resources:
Worship Resources for Black History Month 
Liturgy Resources for Black History Month 

Other Resources: 
PBS: Celebrating Black History Month: a month of special programming and narratives.
Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture

I do believe that courage is contagious and that hope can take on a life of its own. I felt this movement through Amanda Gorman’s inspiring spoken word poem during the recent presidential inauguration: 

... there is always light, if only we're brave enough to see it. If only we're brave enough to be it.” (The Hill We Climb, Amanda Gorman) 

This is exactly what Christ has called us to be – light! (Matthew 5:14-16) 

May we have courage and share the hope to embrace this beautiful, multicultural world we live in and to reflect and mirror the diversity in our churches that we see in our communities. Every day is history in the making, and beyond February, we should celebrate the rich history of people of color which is, in fact, American history. I’m brushing up on my history! 

February is Black History Month. You can learn more about the founders and the origin through the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ALASH). The 2021 theme is “The Black Family: Representation, Identity, and Diversity.” The ALASH shares that narratives of family offer a rich tapestry of images for exploring the African American past and present and they provide many virtual events and an opportunity to learn more.

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