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“We deliberately sought to understand the histories of these countries. We wanted to help heal the fears that divide us from these resilient people. We hoped our style of travel could demonstrate that a real God exists who can be relied on in even the harshest insecurities.”
This week, we want to feature a blog written by Roger and Claire Dewey, who recently published a book based on their four-month ‘walk’ through Central America and Cuba. Roger was called in 1968 to work against the racism in the Church, founding Christians for Urban Justice. Claire joined him in 1977, teaching in the public schools and raising their family in Dorchester, where they still live. They are members of Reservoir Church in Cambridge, and all profits from their book entitled “We’re Lost. This Must Be the Way” will go to those in Central America who shared their stories of hope and resilience.
Today we’d like to share the spiritual thinking behind our four-month ‘walk’ through Central America and Cuba. It was not to be a vacation. Instead, we wanted to explore the fears that divide so many of us from these resilient people. And it was largely unplanned—most nights, to find where to stay, we listened for “nudges” from God, while trying to understand the stories being lived all around us. We wanted our style of travel to demonstrate that a God exists who we actually can rely on in even the harshest insecurities.
Since our Mexican honeymoon 40 years earlier, we’d been in Latin America many times. We’d driven a rental car all around Guatemala with our children, scouted sites in Honduras for possible retirement, and visited friends throughout the region who are missionaries. Those countries have long been places of joy and adventure, and a resource for spiritual growth.
But we’ve watched their people become objects of fear for many Americans. It is sad to see those we love mischaracterized, those who welcome us into their homes fearfully excluded and humiliated. We feel God’s deep sorrow over our political division from so many members of Christ’s Body.
Before we left Boston, our plumber Mario, a humble believer from El Salvador, became unusually loquacious. “When you go” he said, “listen to what they have. They have what we here do not have, what we are losing in the shadows. They want what we have, but here we are under pressure to keep moving. The communication between us is what is important, not the work we do. That communication is love. So you go to another country, and see what they have that we need, and bring it back to us. Because we really need what they have.”
Though we both grew up as evangelicals, we are disturbed by today’s divisive Christianity, bothered by our religion’s search for security and power through the control of culture. Can’t our daily fears and anxiety actually be overcome by the God who walks with us?
We perceived our journey as a practical exploration of life as a non-programmed walk with God. When lost we listened hard, looking for some hint of guidance. We were not always sure this trust was appropriate, or what, if anything, we heard. This “listening” is not very specific; it’s like learning piano by ear instead of reading music.
A tightly planned trip would never have allowed us to discover the huge diversity of those we met, and then see them through God’s eyes. Like Eduardo, who once had a small but successful carpentry business in Guatemala. One by one, four of his brothers were killed as a result of extortion gone bad. He saw the caravans as his ticket to life and hope for him and his family. We heard from several missionaries that the ‘border invasion’ is mostly children of families like those they know, desperate to avoid being killed or trapped in the gangs.
On a tightly planned trip, we would never have visited the garbage dump in Guatemala City where 3,000 human beings live and work, scavenging trash, surrounded by muck and garbage. Many are Maya Indians who fled there for safety when their government burned and demolished 600 villages. For many, Jesus is their only trusted companion.
A Honduran woman told us her younger brother foolishly stole a bike, then learned it belonged to the son of a drug lord. He received death threats. His family raised money to help him escape to the U.S. She was proud of her brother, but talking about him made her depressed. “When everything goes wrong,” she said, “we can’t afford to be lamenting our situation if we don’t go ahead with the help of God. He is the only one who holds out an extended hand.”
We frequently felt lost. We lived a bit like strangers and immigrants, forced to play a game without knowing the rules. Change was constant. Yet our total insecurity, it turned out, was one of the best experiences of all. We gained empathy from generous families with virtually nothing. And we repeatedly sought Jesus’ counsel for loving those whose needs we could not meet, and loving the politicians who were part of their problems. Again and again, we experienced the security of God’s presence.
Near the end of our journey, we struggled to understand the complexity of Cuba. Easter Sunday, in Havana’s Ebenezer Baptist Church, we met 85-year-old Raul. In 1961, at the time of the U.S. sponsored invasion by Cuban exiles, he had been a Southern Baptist seminarian. He became a medic, and was wounded while defending his country. As a pastor in the ‘80s he led the Cuban Ecumenical Council, and in 1993 became the first Christian elected to the Cuban government. He wrote Martin Luther King Jr. for advice for living faithfully under a difficult government. He founded the MLK Center in Havana, and recounted his decades of struggle to live in the space between the goals of socialism and Jesus’ life of siding with the poor. We recorded our experiences each day, and compiled this record of our journey with a loving God, perhaps suggesting a way forward for Christians in our current troubled world. All profits will go to the whole-hearted people who opened to us their homes, their lives, and their wisdom. We think you will be encouraged by their simple stories of hope and resilience – you can click here to purchase the book.
“I remember feeling grateful for all my blessings, but sickened by the inequities around us and empowered to make an effort to do something more….It is my sincere prayer that this song will both entertain and inspire everyone who hears it, to do more, for those who are less fortunate.”
This week, we want to feature a song co-written by Issa Bibbins, who is a pianist, rapper and content curator and former minister of music at Roxbury Presbyterian Church. “Where Do We Go” is the sixth release on the Treatment Project. This song addresses homelessness and how a lack of empathy, greed, and indifference perpetuate this growing problem. As COVID-19 has furthered economic inequities in Boston, this is a timely and crucial message for contemplation and action – Watch his video below!
Issa describes: “This song started from a conversation with producer, singer, and long time collaborator Sam Jones about two months ago. I had just released the fifth song on The Treatment Project, titled ‘Superhuman DNA,’ and I reached out to Sam about producing the next song on the project. I remember spending a few minutes talking about music, and the conversation shifting from music business, to friends checking in about life. We spoke about the changing responsibilities we both have, as ministers of music at Roxbury Presbyterian Church and New Hope Baptist Church. We discussed COVID-19 and how it has impacted live performance opportunities for musicians in the city. As we all have faced uncertainty during these complex times, it is interesting how vulnerability can give way to both fear and anxiety but also serve as a unique tool to inspire empathy for those who are less fortunate.
A few days later, Sam sent me a rough draft of the composition. It was as if divine inspiration was deposited into my consciousness as soon as I heard the first measure. The song literally wrote itself! My heart erupted with so much emotion, I finishing writing the first verse in less than twenty minutes. I remember feeling grateful for all my blessings, but sickened by the inequities around us and empowered to make an effort to do something more. Sam called artist “ItsyourboyKR”, and I called good friend and artist Abria Smith, and they masterfully brought completion to this piece of art. I had the privilege to volunteer with my daughter at the Friday Cafe at First Church in Cambridge to take an extra step in fulfilling this call to do more, which came as a result of this collaborative experience. It is my sincere prayer that this song will both entertain and inspire everyone who hears it, to do more, for those who are less fortunate.
The incredible music that was produced at the Love Boston concert can be re-watched while you’re at work, cooking, or doing chores around the house!
On September 12, 2020 UniteBoston released our concert premiere entitled “Love Boston.” Amidst the challenges of today’s public health crisis and racial injustices, seven local Christian artists representing hip-hop, worship, soul, spoken word, and gospel genres united to share original artistic responses to the challenges we are facing as a city and nation. They challenged people to “love thy neighbor,” and inspired us in the action steps we can take forward together in this unprecedented cultural moment.
Featured artists include: Caleb McCoy, Shanell Alyssa, Ada Betsabè, Jen Aldana, Jeany Alcántara, Fugi, and Jalen Williams. Click here to meet the artists! Now more than ever, our souls need beauty and art that moves us toward faith, justice, and resilience, loving our neighbor, and toward Jesus in worship! Click on the artist names above to follow them & listen to more music by them!
While we missed having the opportunity to worship together physically in the Boston Common, the beauty of this year’s worship event is that all of the videos can be re-watched and shared. You can watch it while cooking, working from home, doing the dishes or folding the laundry, walking in the park, commuting on the subway, the list goes on and on!
Click here to watch the concert on Facebook – includes chat comments
Music only version of the concert
Lori Dupre created a progressive painting where the artists place their handprints over words like global pandemic, economic stress, and fear, replaced by words of healing and hope and a cityscape of Boston. This painting will be auctioned off at our concert premiere
Finally, we wanted to take time to thank our concert sponsors – the Emmanuel Gospel Center, Resurrection Church, Restoration City Church, Grace Chapel, Standing Ovation Entertainment, and the Black Ministerial Alliance of Greater Boston, as well as everyone who contributed to our production costs! Also, thank you to everyone who donated to support the artists – The contributions for the artists totaled $1575, which will help to fuel and further their music ministries in this crucial moment! Thank you so much for joining into this united worship movement where people of every nation, people and language are coming together to worship Jesus! (Rev. 7:9!)
This week, we feature a blog by Ruth Wong, the Program Director of the Boston Education Collaborative at Emmanuel Gospel Center. The Boston Education Collaborative (BEC) works with churches and Christian leaders to empower Boston’s next generation to succeed in school and in life. The BEC is also a featured ministry in UniteBoston’s upcoming Love Boston concert. Despite the challenges of the pandemic, Ruth shares stories about how God has been at work through church-school partnerships in nurturing new collaborations between churches and city institutions.
“Remember not the former things,
nor consider the things of old.
Behold, I am doing a new thing;
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
and rivers in the desert.”
As the COVID-19 pandemic swept through our world and threw all the countries and their systems into chaos, a sense of awe and the fear of the Lord grew in me. God humbled mankind and put us in our place, reminding us of how limited and powerless we really are. In essence, I believe God called us to attention. There has been much suffering, loss, and death as a result of this pandemic. It has been a sobering season to say the least. Yet, many Christians would also attest that we have seen God work in amazing ways that demonstrate His greater purposes in allowing this crisis to happen. Through the Boston Education Collaborative (BEC) at Emmanuel Gospel Center (EGC), I have witnessed God bring His body together across racial, ethnic, and geographical lines in new ways that I could not have imagined or foreseen.
The mission of the BEC is to help churches support urban students (and their families) so they can thrive and reach their fullest God-given potential. Traditionally, many urban churches had already been involved in supporting schools or running their own programs to meet the physical, social, emotional, and academic needs of students. Since 2011, the BEC has helped to mobilize and support new church-school partnerships primarily with the Boston Public Schools (BPS) but has also worked beyond Boston. Churches have partnered with schools to provide supplies for classrooms, appreciate school staff, support the needs of families, and tutor/mentor students. God has divinely orchestrated so many connections and new partnerships that I am no longer surprised. Yet each time they happen, I continue to marvel at how His ways are infinitely higher than my ways (Isaiah 55:8-9). I am humbled by God’s favor upon the BEC in allowing us to build trust and so many relationships with local leaders in the area.
In early April, a series of personal connections led to an unexpected new ministry role for the BEC. I got connected to a director at the Salvation Army who was involved in statewide efforts to provide emergency and disaster relief. That introduction led to the BEC getting involved in helping to mobilize churches to meet diaper and other needs in Chelsea which was hit hard by the pandemic. Concurrently, I found out about various needs, including diapers, amongst the Spanish-speaking BPS families. This led me to pull in other EGC colleagues to meet with Agencia ALPHA, the social service agency of Congregación León de Judá, to explore ways to partner. ALPHA connected me with Pastor Johana Perez from Harvest Ministries of New England in Weymouth. One thing led to another, and soon, Pastor Johana and I found ourselves as partners in diaper ministry (aka diaper queens) for the Greater Boston region.
What began as an effort to help Chelsea with diaper needs became a diaper and baby products ministry that has helped over 600 families that are connected to at least 18 churches and nine organizations in Boston and beyond. BPS families were able to benefit from these resources as well as many families that were being reached by local churches, most of them in the COPAHNI (the Fellowship of Hispanic Pastors of New England) and ALPHA networks. The families live in Boston, Chelsea, Lynn, Lowell, Waltham, New Bedford, Fall River, Brockton, Cranston (RI), and even on Martha’s Vineyard. We were tasked by the Massachusetts Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD) to manage a large donation of diapers from Baby2Baby, a charity organization. In addition, many individuals and several churches generously supported the ministry with financial and diaper donations, totaling close to $10,000.
Through BPS, the BEC was also introduced to two parent coordinators who had brought to BPS’ attention the many needs of the families that they were connected to. It turned out that these two moms were active members and leaders in their churches. At the time, Iglesia Biblica Faro de Luz in East Boston and New Ministry Church in Roxbury were not connected with ALPHA or COPAHNI. Through the BEC, those two churches were able to get connected to the resources of these two networks. Harvest Ministries, ALPHA, and COPAHNI had been coordinating an amazing operation to deliver food bags and fresh produce to families every weekend from April through early August. Out of the 1000+ families that had received food at least once, 160+ of them were connected to these two churches. The churches also referred families to apply for the cash assistance program that ALPHA was running to help families most impacted by the pandemic. In addition, the BEC connected another 64 BPS families to receive food deliveries.
It was amazing to see all the different churches who collaborated together for these efforts. While Harvest Ministries alone had 30 drivers to help distribute food to churches and hundreds of families, drivers from ALPHA and six other urban and suburban churches also pitched in to deliver to many homes. Besides the diapers that went to families connected to more than 10 Latino churches, there were diapers that went to families connected to several other churches representing different denominations and ethnicities.
This is just one story from the pandemic period. I know of other beautiful examples of churches partnering together for the first time and building relationships that will extend beyond this COVID-19 season. Furthermore, there were many other churches and leaders that collaborated with or supported the BEC during this time on other projects. The number of churches, organizations, and individuals who partnered in all the various projects is astounding. (I wish there was room to name them all here.) God’s fingerprints were all over the web of relationships, the timing of conversations that happened, and the catalytic events that led one thing to another. “You have multiplied, O Lord my God, your wondrous deeds and your thoughts toward us; none can compare with you! I will proclaim and tell of them, yet they are more than can be told.” (Psalms 40:5)
During UniteBoston’s webinar on how churches are missionally responding to COVID-19, Rev. David Wright, Executive Director of the Black Ministerial Alliance & Assistant to the Pastor at Peoples Baptist Church said something that really resonated with me: “I see Christians trying to get ‘through this’ so we can go back to our understanding of ‘normal.’ But God is intentionally leading us to a different place of doing and being the Church. We do ministry in our congregations, but how do we incarnationally engage the world for the kingdom of God? How do we see ourselves within an ecosystem of other churches so we can really be salt and light to the world? I see the body of Christ coming together in phenomenal ways; I’m just hoping that it continues and isn’t just an episodic thing because we had this crisis.” To this, I say, “Amen! Yes, Lord! May Your kingdom come and Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
Currently, the BEC is busy working on initiatives to support BPS and other school districts in the upcoming school year, including mobilizing churches to assist teachers during Zoom classes, providing cloth masks for BPS students, sharing space with afterschool programs, hosting learning pods, and supporting parents/guardians in navigating the online platforms. Please join in on what God is doing through and in the churches as we seek to be His salt and light in our communities! To learn more about these initiatives, go to http://www.churchschoolpartners.org and contact me at rwong[at]egc.org.August 28, 2020 at 2:56 pm in reply to: Bringin’ the Love: Meet the Artists for the Love Boston Concert #17077
In just two weeks, UniteBoston is hosting its 4th annual summer worship event, the “Love Boston” virtual concert! As the culminating event to our “Love Thy Neighbor” summer campaign, Love Boston features local Christian artists of diverse backgrounds performing original songs of justice, faith, and resilience that inspire audiences to “Love Thy Neighbor” during times of great adversity. Also, in recognition of the effects of systemic racism, this concert intentionally centers the voices of artists of color. Viewers can tune in to the live-streamed concert on September 12 at 7:00pm by registering here. Meet each of the singers below to see what the concert’s theme of “Love Thy Neighbor” means to them, and why audiences should tune in to the concert! Click each artist’s name to visit their websites, and learn more about their music and creative missions!
Name: Shanell Alyssa
Home Church: The First Cathedral
Original Song: “Freedom – We’ll All Be Free”
What does the concert theme “Love Thy Neighbor” mean to you?
“It’s been beautiful to see people expressing neighborly love in the Boston area, reaching out and going out of their comfort zones to help others during this time. It’s almost like we are entering a new era of unity… This whole thing is causing us to put aside all of the little things that divide the body of Christ that are not as significant as we make them out to be.
Why should people tune in to this concert?
“I’m really excited for the Love Boston concert. I hope that people can gather and experience this concert and create their own experiences around it in the viewing parties, in whatever way that people want to get together…I am excited to hear how people will be blessed by this [event].”
Name: Ada Betsabe
Home Church: Impact Church
Original Song: “Sparrow”
What does the concert theme “Love Thy Neighbor” mean to you?
“We have so many different groups and organizations pulling for their beliefs, and we’re all so focused on finding someone to have our back and to say “I support this movement.” I think Love Boston lets us draw into the fact that God has our back, and he’s watching after us.”
Why should people tune in to this concert?
“Love Boston is a great initiative. UniteBoston has always been an organization to foster that sense of unity. In this particular concert, I’ve been very involved in the logistics, and have seen the selflessness of everyone involved. As artists, we could be saying “we’re already struggling, why would we do this?”, but that’s not the case. There’s this unity in spirit that we have, and I pray that everyone who gets to watch the concert and be a part of it can be united with the vision, which is to lift up the name of Jesus. That’s what it comes down to, and we’re all just here for that.”
Name: Jen Aldana
Home Church: Impact Church
Original Song: “Your Peace”
What does the concert theme “Love Thy Neighbor” mean to you?
“It’s such an important time to be unified as one church, as one people. What a better time than this to serve one another while so many people are in need, and so many people are starving for truth and starving for something that will bring them peace.”
Why should people tune in to this concert?
“Tuning in to Love Boston is a great opportunity for people of the Boston area to get in touch with what our local artists are doing. I think we don’t always get as much recognition, and we don’t always have these opportunities to collaborate and work with one another like we do at this event. So it’s going to be a great way for others to see what talent there is in the city.”
Name: Caleb McCoy
Home Church: Neighborhood Church in Dorchester
Original Song: “Free (My Soul)”
What does the concert theme “Love Thy Neighbor” mean to you?
“ Loving our neighbor is trying to love yes, the people that are close and the people that we love, but also love those that may be different from us, those that we can’t understand. And I think that’s the beauty of music. With music, we can all spread a message and share a message that may be difficult in conversation. So, I hope to love my neighbor through music and through my life.”
Why should people tune in to this concert?
We want to share this music with you, even though we can’t be there with you, we want to come together to share the encouragement, to share the lament, the trials, and also to share the celebration of what God is doing in Boston.”
Performance: Spoken Word Poet and Visual Creator
Home Church: Restoration City Church
Original Spoken Word Piece: “Still Bless You”
What does the concert theme “Love Thy Neighbor” mean to you?
“Love Boston, for me, is really just capitalizing on community. Knowing that no one should be left out. To look to our right, left, front, and behind us, and knowing that no one is left behind, no one is out. And to make everybody included, even with our own differences.”
Why should people tune in to this concert?
“Love Boston has many cool forms of creativity and art. Everything from singing to rap to spoken word, to music ensembles and creation put together, from all different kinds of artists. And the content is filled with community, love, creativity, peace, and joy. I think if people tune in and really listen to the words that the artists are speaking, they can catch a lot of gems from it.”
Name: Jeany Alcántara
Home Church: Oasis of Life in Dorchester
Song: “On the Throne” by Desperation Band
What does the concert theme “Love Thy Neighbor” mean to you?
“Love thy neighbor is not only speaking but also acting according to what the Bible says: That you help when people are walking through their “valley of darkness.” There are people of different backgrounds, and yet we are one, and we should treat each other the same way you treat yourself.”
Why should people tune in to this concert?
“This concert is a way to bring hope, to unite families and communities. We know that what most of us are going through is not easy, but I think that through the music and creativity, the talent that we are bringing in to this concert will be able to show people that there is still hope and love that can transform any situation they are facing. I think you should tune in to this concert and invite other people to it to come together and worship with us. It’s gonna be cool, I know you’re gonna love it. So come be part of it, and let’s sing together.”
Name: Jalen Williams
Home Church: Impact Church
Original Song: “Never Leave”
What does the concert theme “Love Thy Neighbor” mean to you?
“When it comes to my neighbor, and the season that we’re in right now, I feel like it really means me accepting them for who they are. Wherever you’re at, whatever it is that you are doing or dealing with, I’m still going to be there for you. I’m still going to care for you. Whether you share the same values, or whether you share the same views, it doesn’t matter. You’re human. You’re a person. You have things that you love, people that you care about, and I should care about those things too because you care about that.”
Why should people tune in to this concert?
“We’ve got your favorite Boston Christian artists here, trying to show love with one another, to the community.”
Register for the concert and gain access to the city-wide viewing parties
Make a donation to contribute to this worship and racial justice movement. Once we cover the cost of hosting the event, all proceeds will go back to the artists to support their ministries.
Click here for our media kit, which includes information about how you can have your church or organization listed in our promotional materials.
Application to host a viewing party – Due Saturday September 5
Boston, We’ll Keep On Loving You!
Boston, MA – On September 12th, at 7:00pm, Boston’s top Christian artists are rising up to share original responses to the challenges of a global health crisis and racial injustices in a virtual concert event. In this “Love Boston Virtual Concert,” artists of diverse backgrounds are performing original songs of justice, faith, and resilience that inspire audiences to “Love Thy Neighbor” during times of great adversity.
[caption id="attachment_17051" align="alignright" width="258"] Singer Shanell Alyssa[/caption]
Local performing artists will feature music representing hip-hop, worship, soul, and gospel genres. “We wanted to bring forth a unique response to the current world events, and that uniqueness lies in what each artist brings to the table,” said singer Shanell Alyssa. “From varied demographics, backgrounds, and musical styles, we wanted to share a response that would speak to the hearts of people in all their diversity.”
This concert is the culminating event of a broader “Love Thy Neighbor” summer campaign coordinated by UniteBoston, in which people were encouraged to demonstrate love and connect with their neighbors in new and unexpected ways. In May, UniteBoston launched a COVID Grocery Delivery program which connects volunteers with COVID-positive households to provide groceries, and in June, UniteBoston hosted a large gathering in the Boston Common for racial justice. “Amidst all that is happening in our world today, we see many people responding by disparaging others with different viewpoints and backgrounds,” said Kelly Fasset, Executive Director of UniteBoston. “Rather than mimicking these divisive approaches, we feel called to look outward in love and care for one another, especially to those who are vulnerable or oppressed. I am convinced that there is no better time to Love Thy Neighbor than today.”
Featured artists include: Shanell Alyssa, Ada Betsabe, Jen Aldana, Caleb McCoy, Jeany Alcantara, and Jalen Williams. This year’s concert will be streaming LIVE on UniteBoston’s Facebook Page. To get access to this free streaming concert and neighborhood-based viewing parties, visit http://love-boston.eventbrite.com
UniteBoston is a local nonprofit dedicated to bridging the historic divides among Christians from various denominations, races and generations and making “Love Thy Neighbor” a lifestyle. The “Love Thy Neighbor” event builds on their previous annual summer concerts in the Boston Common, which have been attended by over 2,000 people. Read more about the Love Thy Neighbor campaign and sign up to participate here.August 7, 2020 at 11:18 am in reply to: Keys to Healing Dialogue: Intention, Reflection, Observation, and Need #16998
“If we who call ourselves part of the one body of Christ are to be agents of healing and unity, then we must be skilled at engaging in dialogue that heals.“
This week, we feature a blog by Steve Tumolo of Quincy. Steve is the principal of the Center for Receptive Communication and Executive Director of Heart to Heart. Through these two organizations, he helps people to heal, thrive and lead, cultivating vital communication and leadership skills for diverse learners, including church leaders, male survivors of sexual abuse, incarcerated adults, parents, and teachers.
While many forms of communication result in division and polarization, Steve shares four keys to dialogue that can lead to greater reconciliation and healing, a crucial practice if Christ-followers are to learn and embody the reconciling power of the gospel.
“As IRON sharpens IRON,
so a friend sharpens a friend.”
The times in which we live reveal a growing polarization in the United States. Red vs. Blue, All Lives Matter vs. Black Lives Matter, Conservative vs. Liberal, Pro-Life vs. Pro-Choice are just some of the camps upon which Christians find themselves also divided. If we who call ourselves part of the one body of Christ are to be agents of healing and unity, then we must be skilled at engaging in dialogue that heals.
Dialogue, authentic engagement with another in which we are willing to be changed by the encounter, is essential to healing the divisions in our country. I see, through the help of Marshall Rosenberg’s Nonviolent Communication and other sources, four keys to dialogue that are foundational. The acronym IRON can introduce these keys, named as Intention, Reflection, Observation, and Need. We can sharpen each other and strengthen one another through practicing these keys to healing dialogue.
It is important to enter dialogue with a leading intention to connect, appreciate and understand. These intentions suggest that we value relationship more than proving ourselves right and someone else wrong. Prioritizing relationship is God’s Trinitarian template. It is the Trinity’s relationship that creates. The Trinity, I suggest, does not relate for utilitarian motives, but out of love. Through loving, through Trinitarian relating, a universe was born. If God’s priority is relationship, why not make it ours as well?
This does not mean questions of what is good or what is just are not raised. It simply suggests that we start by listening and learning. This helps us to meet people where they are, not where we may want them to be. As Marshall puts it, “people often need empathy before they are able to hear what is being said,” (p. 171). The intention to connect, listen, and empathize, especially with people who have different experiences and perspectives, those who we may see as “other,” makes true encounter possible.
The second key flows directly out of the intention to encounter and connect with another. It is the ability to distinguish reflecting from responding. Reflecting involves communicating back to the speaker the heart of what you hear them saying. This one action has multiple gifts. It can help the speaker experience being valued and heard. It can help the listener get clarity and understanding. This is especially true when what is reflected is not the speaker’s intent. This gives the speaker the chance to say, “well, that’s not exactly what I meant. It’s more like this…” The act of reflection can build a bridge of understanding, so that the heart of what is expressed is heard and experienced.
Responding has its place in dialogue. It is simply different than reflecting. Responding involves communicating what is stirred in me as I listen to you. Most of the conversations I hear sound like this: expression-response-response-response-response-response-reponse. We seem to be hooked on getting across our point. With two people, each trying their best to make their point, neither may experience being heard. Reflecting, however, slows down the conversation, creating opportunities to live into our intention, opportunities to experience connection and understanding.
The third key in healing dialogue is to distinguish observable facts from our interpretations and evaluations. Many of us have been brought up in the language of judgment. Yet judge not, Jesus commands, for the judgments you make upon others will turn back onto you. (Matthew 7: 1-2)
Mixing our judgments and evaluations with our observations contributes to the great confusion that divides Christians and our country. Keeping communication simple and focusing on what is pierces through the confusion and builds bridges of shared understanding. Learning to communicate in clear observations is key to dialogue across difference.
Presenting the raw facts has a power all its own. George Floyd was killed after a police officer kept his knee on his neck for close to 8 minutes. This is an undeniable fact. Two people can disagree on their evaluations but beginning with the same observable fact can be a vital starting point. From there, feelings can be communicated without evaluation as well. When I think of what happened to George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Philando Castile, Alton Sterling, Trayvon Martin and so many more of my Black brothers and sisters, I get choked up. I feel a mix of grief and shock and outrage. Sharing my raw truth, without judgment, can help me be heard and understood by another person who may have a different perspective than me. When people with different life journeys can share their experiences and perspectives, a shared understanding can emerge.
The heart of what is being said goes deeper than feelings. Underneath every feeling is a need. Needs, Marshall Rosenberg suggests, are what motivates all of us to speak or act (pp. 52-55). When a need is met, we have a feeling we often enjoy. When a need is not met, we have a feeling we often do not enjoy. Feelings have this essential purpose of indicating the state of our needs.
When I think about George Floyd’s death, a deep need for justice arises. This need I believe is widely held and that all humans desire justice. Marshall considers core needs as universal and an expression of the divine (p. 130). We might say they are God-given. God created humans to long for and be motivated by the same core needs and desires of the heart. For example, to survive, we all need air, water, food, and safety. To thrive we need love, belonging, acceptance, freedom, respect, justice, and more.
If our dialogues are to connect us and bring about the unity for which we have been created, then we must get to the heart of what is being expressed. This means getting to the need, the heart’s desire. When I speak and name my core needs, when I listen and hear the needs of others, then we can see that we all long for the same things. We who say, “Black lives matter” want every Black woman, man and child to experience mattering, safety, respect, and justice. And perhaps those who say all lives matter have a need to experience mattering themselves. This need of mattering is something we all share.
Taking the time to listen and hear the need underneath what is being said is the fourth foundational key to dialogue that heals. Hearing and connecting around commonly held needs is a unifying practice. Together, these four keys, our intention to connect first, distinguishing reflecting from responding and observing from evaluating, and hearing and speaking to the need, lay the foundation for healing dialogue. If we Christians are to be agents of healing and unity, then, I believe, it is our call to engage in such dialogue with our families, our churches, and our world.
The Center for Receptive Communication helps people and organizations heal, thrive and lead. They facilitate transformative learning for faith communities and schools and their leaders. The Center for Receptive Communication’s newest project is Sobrevivir, accompanying men who survived childhood sexual trauma in their journey through healing to thriving and leading. .
Heart to Heart helps people affected by violence to hear and follow Life’s calling, transforming people and systems . Heart to Heart is building on its 30 years experience working in prisons to support incarcerated people, returning citizens, children affected by a household member’s incarceration, and their parents, caregivers and teachers. It’s newest project is Heart to Heart Families and Heart to Heart Schools.
For more on Nonviolent Communication, see Rosenberg, Marshall B. 2015. Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life. 3rd Edition. Encinitas, CA: Puddledancer Press or go to http://www.cnvc.org
“[There is] immense pressure, even in the Church, to prove our belonging to the “acceptable” group—a pressure that makes it easy to forget that justice often means longer term, un-sexy, behind-the-scenes labor in policy, paperwork, learning to love neighbors, and quiet, unseen conversations and prayers.”
This week, we feature a blog by Lexi Carver, member of Church of the Cross. Lexi recently moved back to her hometown of east Arlington, where she lives with her husband Connor and their cat, Billboard. Trained as a mechanical engineer, Lexi spends her days writing engineering software user guides, where she obsesses about rigorous use of language and contemplates the magic of nanoscale design. She also enjoys long walks and reading theology from many traditions. Lexi shares a powerful perspective on the need for Christians to examine their underlying motives behind their work towards racial justice and the need for discernment about the consequences of current cultural trends.
This past month, grappling with injustice against black Americans, I have learned and prayed much and still have much to learn and pray about. The ways in which churches continue to be complicit in racial injustice are heartbreaking; white Christians in particular are called to reflect on and repent of these sins, but also to act towards bringing forth a more fair and reconciled society; and for Christians, this must first begin in the church. I am heartened to see how many white people (myself included) are beginning to better comprehend the long suffering of our black brothers and sisters. The charge to listen is a great one – it is imperative that each person takes seriously the aches, wounds, discomforts, and the long line of injustices back through history. The reminder that Christ alone is our hope is a much-needed anchor. The invitation to pray and lament is crucial.
But there is even more at stake than what we see on the surface, for the battle is not against flesh and blood. In the midst of increased work for justice and awareness, I have noticed increased social temptations: to send certain signals for the sake of social acceptability, making my motives about me instead of the problem at hand, to succumb to viewing others with suspicion by mimicking scenarios in which people are labeled “friend” or “foe” based on (dis)agreement, and to judge others and myself as “moral” or not based on choices of politics or preferred action.
I have seen that it has become very easy in Boston, even encouraged, to label other people “racist,” “white supremacist,” “ignorant,” “unresponsive,” and a whole host of other condemning (or even idealizing) labels. These labels often stem from perceptions of only a few choices: Did they attend protests or not? Who did they vote for? Do they want to defund the police? Are they using the right lingo? In some conversations these days, disagreement feels tantamount to personal betrayal.
In some cases, these assessments may be accurate. But the temptation to hastily assume others’ hearts or to wave self-righteous flags reflects a cultural pitfall of moralizing judgment, of separating the “acceptable” people from the “unacceptable,” often along political lines. This leads to immense pressure, even in the church, to prove our belonging to the “acceptable” group—a pressure that makes it easy to forget that justice often means longer term, un-sexy, behind-the-scenes labor in policy, paperwork, learning to love neighbors, and quiet, unseen conversations and prayers. We can easily forget that Jesus called us to close our doors, praying to the Father who sees what is done in secret.
Amid the obvious issues of racial injustice many of us are exploring in conversation, there are also much less-discussed tensions of economic oppression, cultural identity, and political motives. My husband lived in Jamaica Plain for 10 years before we got married. In the last few years of his living there, many of his black and Latino neighbors suddenly moved away and their former homes were gutted, quickly rehabbed, and resold, in many cases for upwards of a million dollars.
We noticed with dismay that this sharp increase in gentrification directly correlated with an equally sharp increase in the number of “Black Lives Matter” signs appearing on the lawns of the new, wealthier, mostly white residents. These college-educated transients who had just pushed out lifelong residents showed no interest in getting to know the remaining, less wealthy, neighbors. Given the circumstances, it was hard not to see the lawn signs more as a social signal, support for a specific organization and its political ties, or perhaps an attempt to associate with virtuous sentiments, than an effort for real justice.
This was – and is – hard to talk about in Boston, home to so many universities and egregiously high rent prices, and where economic oppression can go hand-in-hand with political signaling. Although this trend is obviously not limited to predominantly black neighborhoods, what happened to my husband’s street was a cautionary tale to me of how people fighting for certain causes may widely perpetuate other injustices.
I am sure I am not exempt from the temptation to this particular sin! None of us are. We realistically will rarely have perfect motives, and it requires humility to acknowledge this. A question we might ask ourselves before joining any cultural movement is, “Is this for God’s glory or my own sake? What am I gaining?”
Yet discussions of issues like this can quickly turn bitter as political opinions become, more and more, all-encompassing labels of identity. In addition to the political label that can come with Black Lives Matter lawn signs, another label that comes to mind is the phrase “anti-racist.” Despite the commonality of this phrase, I find myself hesitant to define people overarchingly by what we are against. Jesus certainly stood against evil, but he defined Himself in terms such as the comforter, Savior, mediator, king, shepherd, bridegroom, deliverer—never the “Man Against Wickedness.” As my friend Kelly Madden recently pointed out, I want to be for justice, for cheering for the personal agency and authority of my black friends and neighbors and leaders, for the protection and exaltation of black lives, for the respect of black voices and churches and businesses, for support of black communities, for the liberation of black prisoners wrongly accused and unjustly sentenced, for better and fairer policies, for accountability without condemnation, for humble and ongoing learning and growth. Perhaps our challenge is to pause long enough and breathe deeply enough of the Holy Spirit to envision something to create, not only to tear down.
The Enemy would use this time, if we allow it, to tempt us to pit ourselves against each other, to drive our divisions deeper rather than work to heal them, to malign each other (or others not in the room) endlessly. But this is nothing new; as Jesus tells us, the path of the Kingdom of God is narrow, wending and twisting between landmines in our hearts and our societies.
I do not have the answers for how best to work for and discuss issues of racial justice, or any of the other forms of justice we need right now, while avoiding the evil that will inevitably follow from “standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others” (Matt. 6:5). Of course, God can use even our most measly and self-serving actions to his own purposes and glory. But I believe these are questions that the church must grapple with. Following the way of Christ means allowing God to train us in shrewdness and innocence, prayerfully discerning where and with whom we are called to work, and digging beyond the surface of cacophonous news headlines, social pressures, and our own hearts.
Pray with me:
Lord, help us to seek, above all, your heart for our churches and our city. Plug our ears against the siren calls of selfishness, social acceptability, and condemnation of our neighbor; help us to learn the language of your Spirit; teach us narratives and ways that edify your children. Help us to take the time to sit with you, until we are filled with and compelled by your love. Empower us to pray for our enemies and love our opponents. Above all, help us to see your reflection in every human face, and show us your call to us in your mission of racial justice and other forms of justice in the world.June 27, 2020 at 10:58 am in reply to: UB’s Love Thy Neighbor Campaign: Meet Who’s Making it Happen #16851
The theme for this year’s summer campaign is entitled “Love Thy Neighbor,” which invites Christians to reach out to their neighbors in new and unexpected ways. Through providing groceries to combat food insecurity, racial justice initiatives, and interdenominational dialogues, we are encouraging people to contemplate who their “neighbor” is and how everyone can best “love their neighbor as themselves” during the difficult times we are facing. It has been a humbling experience to witness the campaign coordinators discern the best course of action for these initiatives, and to see Christians of different denominations and backgrounds connect with their neighbors in such profoundly gracious ways.
Our team will also be creating and releasing collaborative videos that celebrate testimonies and worship experiences around people loving their neighbors, which will culminate into a virtual worship viewing party on September 12, 2020. Stay tuned for more information about this!
Our “Love Thy Neighbor” summer team is a diverse group of Christians, working hard each week to discern and launch various initiatives. Meet the coordinators below as they reflect on what the theme of “Love Thy Neighbor” means to them!
Name: Mike Hong
Position: Music Director
Home Church: City On A Hill Church
“Loving your neighbor is a holistic pursuit of your neighbor’s good in the same way you pursue yourself. We make plans for ourselves. We go on grocery trips. We make financial sacrifices and investments. We spend time growing in knowledge and maturing spiritually. We even vote and lobby for things that benefit ourselves. Loving your neighbor encompasses care of body and soul, anything less disregards the very way that God designed us as human beings.”
Name: Kelly Fassett
Position: Executive Director, UniteBoston
Home Church: River of Life Church
“‘Love thy neighbor’ is at the heart of Jesus’ message, and it calls for a radical orientation of one’s life to others rather than on oneself. I believe that loving our neighbor means that we intentionally listen to, care for, and lay our lives down so others can flourish.”
Name: Chloe Gaydos
Position: Concert Co-Producer
Home Church: Reunion Church
“Love thy neighbor is a high calling which Jesus instructed us to follow, and as we love our neighbor, we are able to impact each other at the deepest level that we were made for. God puts many people in our lives who play various roles – and if we lack love for them, then we have fallen short of our calling as Christians. It’s important for us to take what we have and use it to love one another and to recognize our differences with an open heart and mind.”
Name: Kelly Shea:
Home Church: Highrock Church
“‘Love Thy Neighbor’ is a selfless way of being, whether we are consciously aware of it or not. Often, as an act out of the love we have received from Jesus Christ, it is the next best step forward to serve someone else without condition or expectation of a return. To love thy neighbor is to care freely, and potentially wholeheartedly, for their well-being – to be a support for others in their time of need or distress, in any way we can. And if you know Jesus, loving thy neighbor is to share the good news, through both word and deed as He has displayed.”
Name: Sharon E. Walcott
Position: Public Relations
Home Church: Pentecostal Tabernacle, Cambridge
“In Galatians 5:14, it commands us to ‘Love thy neighbor as thyself.’ This commandment is a golden rule for me. Specifically, I really try to love️ my neighbors who are in need, broken and invisible to most.”
Name: Peter Seremetis
Position: Communications Coordinator
Home Church: Marsh Chapel at Boston University, and St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church in Wyckoff, NJ
“When I think of Christ’s call for us to “Love Thy Neighbor,” it reminds me to pay attention to all of the nuanced ways that God is at work in our lives. As Christians, we often talk about God acting “upon” us from heaven, or acting “through” us via the Holy Spirit. Yet, I find that God acts most deeply and profoundly “between” us through the relationships that we cultivate with each other. When we “love our neighbors” by checking in with, reaching out to, being present with, standing up for, and–when necessary–forgiving each other across boundaries, we take the first steps in aligning our acts with God’s acts, ultimately becoming part of the great work that God already has in motion.”
Name: Joel Putnam
Position: Social Media & Projects Manager
Home Church: New City Church, MA and First United Methodist Church of Pinellas Park, FL
“Living out my Christian faith is not complete without following through on my own baptismal commitment of doing good works as a response to the love and grace God has given me. As my future takes me into vocational ministry, I must not lose sight of what God calls me to do as an individual. Our UniteBoston mission reminds me of how important it is to see others and care for others.”
“Let not the wise boast of their wisdom, or the strong boast of their strength, or the rich boast of their riches, but let the one who boasts boast about this: that they have the understanding to know me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight.”
In early June of 2020, as the country grappled with multiple murders of unarmed people of color, including George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and systematic oppression of those peoples, former Patriots player Benjamin Watson reached out to local clergy proposing a united prayer gathering for racial justice. Nine days later, over 1,000 people spanning race, denomination, and age gathered to worship the God of justice and call forth the need for reform in our city.
In a city where Christians are known what we are against rather than what we are for, we were also excited to see local news and press cover this story. There was a huge spread in the Boston Herald, and it was also covered in the Boston Globe and MassLive, as well as through Channel 5 News, Channel 4 News, and Channel 7 News.
This event was hosted by a variety of local organizations, including UniteBoston, Boston Collaborative, the Black Ministerial Alliance, SEND Boston, Greater Things for Greater Boston, and other local churches.
Below are some of our favorite photos from the gathering – more are available on our Facebook album here.
Also, click on the button below to check out UniteBoston’s Racial Justice Page and Wall.
“I was moved to tears at this event, and deeply deeply encouraged and inspired. Having grown up in the Greater Boston area, I would’ve never imagined this possible before — Christians across denominations, race, backgrounds coming out in public and worshipping God together and encouraging other to continue seeking God’s shalom in this city, in a biblically grounded way that also invites non-Christians in to the process. I want to see more of this in the city!!!!”
“I felt this was a very powerful way to share our faith in a public way as well as unite against racism.”
Kaitlyn McCarthy, New Hope Chapel Norwell
“It was great to be around my friends and a bunch of other believers worshiping God and praying for the city especially since we’ve be in quarantine for so long. This event was a good distraction from all the stress and anxiety of the world.”
Mykaliah A Best, Holy Tabernacle Church
“Worshipping together with people all over the city reminds me of glimpses what it will be like to worship together in heaven one day — all praise and glory be to Him!”
Rachel Murphy, Executive Assistant, Charles River Church
“I have definitely missed gathering together with other Christians for a time of worship and prayer. This blessed my soul as well as ignited me to take action and bring awareness to social justice issues.”
“It was wonderful to have a Gospel-led outlet for all of the feelings and thoughts that have come up during this time. I left feeling Spiritually-fed and inspired to continue seeking change, racial justice, and shalom flourishing for our entire community.”
Ashleigh Pelto, Life Community Church
“I felt the Holy Spirit moving and it was incredible! Now we need to continue the momentum to bring change!”
Amanda Gonnella, All Saints Anglican
“I loved hearing the Black church profess Christ in the midst of so much persecution and recent murders of black people by cops.”
Natasha Cassamajor, Church of the Cross
“It gave me so much hope! If the church is actively dismantling racism we are moving in God’s direction and cannot fail.”
AnonymousJune 8, 2020 at 8:52 am in reply to: Boston’s Church Leaders Speak Out on Racial Justice (Includes Video Panels) #16608
In response to the recent murders of our Black brothers and sisters, including George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and many others, Christians in Boston are speaking out on the sin of racism that has plagued our city and nation. Here are a few perspectives on racial justice from Boston Church leaders:
– On the Murder of George Floyd & Riots: A Black Pastoral Defense of Justice, Law and the Boston Police Department (Rev. Eugene Rivers, The Ella J Baker House)
–Calling in White (Bill Mooney-McCoy, Director of Worship at Gordon College)
–Daily Examen for Living as an Antiracist Person (Co-authored by Vernée Peacock Wilkinson, a Black Spiritual Director and lay leader at Reservoir Church in Cambridge)
– Statement on the Killing of George Floyd (Cardinal Sean O’Malley)
– Speaking Out For Racial Justice? 4 Suggestions for Getting Started (Josh Wilson from The Table)
– “Our Siblings’ Blood is Crying Out:” A Call to Listen & Action (Rev. Laura Everett & Rev. Jennie Barrett Siegel from the Massachusetts Council of Churches)
–“The Narrow Way of Racial Justice” (Lexi Carver, Church of the Cross)
– A Panel Conversation on Racial Justice (North Shore Gospel Partnership)
– American Revolution to Officially End Sanctioned Racism (Torli Krua, Universal Human Rights International)
–Dear White Christians… (Megan Lietz, Director of the Race & Christian Community Initiative at the Emmanuel Gospel Center)
Video Panel Discussions
As Christians grapple with the knowledge of how racial oppression and injustice has plagued our city, where do we go from here? Below is a listing of panel discussions by local Christian leaders that can inform us as we move forward.
Click on the images below to watch the videos on Youtube, and email us at email@example.com if you have ideas for how we can move forward in God’s vision for restoration together.
Conversation on racism and the role of the church hosted by Restoration City Church – click on the image on left to watch their worship service this morning , which included a panel with local Christian leaders.
Note that this list is not meant to be comprehensive, and please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org if there are other perspectives we should shareJune 4, 2020 at 7:21 pm in reply to: Speaking Out For Racial Justice? 4 Suggestions for Getting Started #16584
This week, we feature a blog from Josh Wilson, a movement architect and organizer at The Table, a multiracial church startup in Dorchester. Prior to his work at The Table, Josh served under black leadership and in primarily non-white congregations in Boston, Philadelphia, and Chicago. He holds Masters degrees in church-planting and urban ministry.
So many folks are raising their voices right now to speak out against police brutality and racial injustice. I’m seeing so many friends black out profile picture and #SayHisName for the first time ever. For me at least, it’s a ray of hope in a pretty dark time.
As a white guy who’s been learning to take action for racial justice for a few years now, I wanted to offer some unsolicited advice, resources, and cautions to white friends who are speaking out. Whether you’ve been considering issues of racism for a while or the murder of #GeorgeFloyd has sparked a new awareness of racist police violence, welcome to the conversation. I know that for some of you, speaking out feels risky. Some of you are getting pushback in your comments from people you love. So, thanks for standing up for something important.
Right upfront, I want to say I am not an expert on race. I am not an expert on black people. I haven’t arrived or even fully rooted out the racialized assumptions in my own soul (POC, standing invitation to check me on anything I say here). I am someone who’s been on a journey of realizing and repenting of my own racist beliefs and working to deconstruct the ways they play out in our culture and churches for a few years. I still miss it. I am just a recovering racist who chooses to be an antiracist every day.
I want to highlight a few traps to avoid. I share these out of my own experience of making mistakes and receiving painful and embarrassing rebukes from friends who loved me enough to help me grow. My hope is you can avoid some of these pitfalls and this might speed you along your journey.
1. Listen. Live. Speak Last.
I’m the type of person who enjoys sharing the things I’m learning. Generally, this feels like a positive thing, but at times, I speak with authority on things I still really haven’t fully grasped or have only begun to learn about (that has to do with privilege btw). If you’re like me, let me caution you to be “Quick to listen. Slow to speak.” If you’re white, you are never going to be an expert on the black experience. The vast majority of people about racism, have NOT YET done the internal work needed. Listen and ask A LOT of questions. If you have friends of color who are up for sharing their experience with you (don’t assume and treasure it if they are), absolutely ask about their experience and perspective. If you don’t have this type of deep, meaningful, personal relationships, begin building them. In the meantime, the internet is a thing! People have written books, articles, created podcasts, made movies. Literally, all the resources in the world are at your disposal if you’re up for learning. I’ve taken the time to compile an annotated bibliography of some resources that have been helpful to me personally. There are so many other great resources; these are just a few of the best I’ve personally engaged. All of this to say, sharing is great – but only if you’re also listening much and putting what you’re learning into practice.
2. Act. Welcome feedback. Go again
If you’re like me (and most white people I know), you probably have some ignorant perspectives on race. This does not make you bad; you don’t know what you don’t know. While people of color are forced to grapple with race, those of us in majority culture can sail through life without having to learn. All of this means, when you first start relating across difference, you’re going to say some things that aren’t quite right, make some faulty assumptions, or accidentally say something that’s taken in a way you didn’t intend. This does not make you bad (although you may really hurt or negatively impact someone even without intending to). I love how SURJ – Showing up for Racial Justice Puts this: “As white people, we are going to make mistakes when doing racial justice work. It’s inevitable. We don’t know anyone who has been in the work and hasn’t made a mistake. Not a single person. When we make mistakes, we want to take the time to reflect on them thoughtfully and keep moving in the work. We cannot let making mistakes prevent us from continuing our work.” This is great advice. When you “splat,” acknowledge it. And go again.
3. Steer clear of virtue signaling. It’s not about you.
There’s a lot of pressure right now at least in some cultural spaces to say/do the “woke” thing. There’s also a toxic culture of performing our lives on social media for others. It’s so easy to say or do things for the likes; to share things that demonstrate that we’re “on the right side.” Ironically, when we’re mostly concerned with being perceived in a certain way, we stunt our learning and growth. So long as we’re most interested in looking good, we’ll continue to resist having our blind spots exposed. Push back on this. As you share, keep asking “why?” And be conscious of the fact that while your voice is important, it should not be at the center of conversations around racial justice. Who are the black and brown voices you can listen to and amplify?
4. Invest locally for the long haul.
Protests have value. Perhaps changing your profile picture and posting a hashtag do too. But if your engagement with this conversation stops there, that’s a huge miss. The problem of racism isn’t simply a few bad apples somewhere else; I promise you it infects your workplace, your school, your church, and your neighborhood. How can you get involved, keep learning, and actually show up for change in the places you live, work, and play? Beyond the work I do with The Table, here in Boston, for me that means learning from and supporting efforts lead by organizations like the following. If these aren’t relevant to you, find out who’s doing this work where you live and get plugged in:
Race & Christian Community Initiative
Families for Justice as Healing
Louis D. Brown Peace Institute
Violence In Boston Inc.
Boston Ujima Project
The New Democracy Coalition
City Life/Vida Urbana
Dorchester Not for Sale
Mass Action Against Police Brutality
Massachusetts Bail Fund
Asian American Resource Workshop (AARW)
Blessings to you, friends. This work is a marathon, not a sprint. Keep building relationships, listening well, learning to love, and stand with those experiencing oppression. Your investment and action can make a difference.
*Note: citation of a resource or recommendation of an organization should not be read as an endorsement of the everything that resource or organization believes, says, or does. Proceed with wisdom, discernment, and an ear to hear.June 3, 2020 at 7:11 am in reply to: Stories from Love Thy Neighbor: COVID-19 Grocery Delivery #16533
UniteBoston has launched a program in conjunction with Park Street Church in which Christians throughout the Greater Boston area can assist families with basic food needs. This program is focused on families and households who have someone that tested positive for COVID-19, by providing them with groceries for their time in quarantine. Working in partnership with Massachusetts COVID-19 Community Tracing Collaborative (CTC) at the Department of Public Health, the program puts each volunteer in contact with a particular family within the person’s designated zip code. The volunteers then have 48 hours to purchase and deliver groceries to their assigned families. Our goal is to serve 20 people per day, or 100 per week! If you’re interested in volunteering, click here for the volunteer sign up form.
Here are a few stories of Christians who are selflessly giving their time and energy to provide for their neighbors! Keep checking back on this page to see more and email email@example.com if you have a testimony to be added here.
“It’s such a loving thing for us to just share the most basic commodity of all, food, with each other. I think it’s significant that when Jesus is loving his neighbor, he’s providing food for them. He’s usually sitting at a table, having a hospitable presence. I know we can’t sit at a table with each other yet, but I’m hoping there would be a follow up where at some point we would sit at a table together somewhere as neighbors.”
-Pastor Kimberley Morrison, Park Street Church
Rebecca responded within 3 1/2 hours and drove 15 miles to deliver the groceries! She also added flowers from her garden and a hand-written note. See the photo at the right with the groceries that she delivered. The family responded in a text to Rebecca, “Wow, I am super grateful! I appreciate all the help my family has received. This makes me cry. Thank you so so so so much. I don’t know if you are a religious person, but God bless you. And please stay safe.”
“At the moment I took a selfie of my packed car, my rosary that had been hanging from their rear view mirror swung into the picture. As a Catholic, this simple string of beads with a crucifix on the end (and the crucifix is the part that swung into the picture), is a tangible reminder every day of the sacrifice God made for us out of his love. It’s so easy to get caught up in the culture of ‘more’ and ‘never enough.’ But the wisdom of Jesus invites the opposite: contentment, sense of abundance, generosity. This picture, to me, is of God’s many daily reminders that he loves us and gives us this life to savor and share that love. We have enough. We have so much more than enough, and when we can be in that space, we are not far from God.”
-Elizabeth Smith Woodard and Ben Woodard, Members of Holy Family Parish in Concord
“I just made my first COVID grocery delivery to a family that lived near me in Dorchester. When I rang the doorbell, a young girl came out, who helped translate to her family about why I was dropping off the groceries. I also pointed out the sheets that we had bought for them that they requested and her face lit up. That moment was worth everything to me. I also told them to call us if they needed anything else. I captured this photo to show my daughter about how we reached out to show God’s love to our neighbors during quarantine.”
-Kelly Fassett, UniteBoston Team Leader, member of River of Life Church in Jamaica Plain
Here is an inspiring video of Hannah overcoming obstacles to deliver food to one of her neighbors – via bicycle!
“Delivered the groceries! Praying for this family. I included a card as instructed. Interestingly, the main contact looked to me about 17 years old- he and his mom came down to get the groceries. I brought my 17 yr old son to help me shop and deliver. I was glad I did.”
Read How Peace Begins in God’s Kingdom where Hannah Tam, a student at Harvard University and member of Park Street Church, reflects on her grocery delivery experience. She says, “Of the 5 years I’ve lived in Boston as a student at Northeastern and now at Harvard Medical, I have never been to a predominantly black neighborhood before, let alone interact with the residents. I realized that, while we live in a diverse city, we mostly interact with the people that are in the same socioeconomic status. That’s what we’re comfortable with. As a Christian, I realize that this is wrong. There’s a delicate balance between reaching out to those who are in need the most and coming into the neighborhood unannounced and imposing a “white savior complex”. I’m continuously praying for how we can help in a way that is in line with God’s intentions. All in all, I think we both really enjoyed our experience.”
Grocery Shopping for God – Patrick’s Story
As a former executive chef, Patrick Lynch knows quite a bit about food shopping, But he was still daunted by the challenge of getting enough of the right kinds of groceries for a family of seven he had never met and knew little about to survive for two weeks. And yet, he believed that this was what God had called him to do.
The family of seven, a great grandmother, grandmother, mother, father, and three children, were on quarantine due to COVID-19. They had no local support to help them get the supplies they needed during their time of isolation. Patrick had been assigned to the family through UniteBoston’s Love Thy Neighbor campaign. Names of families in need are generated by MA-COVID-19 Collaborative at the Department of Public Health and Partners in Health. Volunteers are then contacted and assigned a family. The volunteers purchase and deliver food to the families.
As Patrick pushed a bulging cart down the aisles of Stop & Shop and Whole Foods, he thought not only about the staples like rice and beans but also what extras might make the time easier like cake mix and frosting.
“I wanted to make sure they had what they needed,” he said. “And, I wanted them to have things that would make them more comfortable.”
He figured the cake would be both a treat and something they could do together.
It was the first hot day of the year when he went to deliver the food. Only after carrying the boxes up a flight of stairs did he realize he was at the wrong house. Far from being disgruntled, however, he laughed it off. He didn’t even mind when he realized after dropping off the food that he’d forgotten to get milk and had to find a local store to get it.
He sees the experience, being a part of caring for this family, as a gift from God. Though the family was in need, Patrick said he was too.
“Every time I feel like I’m separated, Christ reaches out and pulls me back in and says this is what I have for you next,” he explained.
Patrick lives in South Boston and is the Director of Dining at an assisted living facility in Jamaica Plain. Patrick grew up Catholic, has been involved at Park Street Church for four years, and has been a believer for about that same amount of time.
He was humbled by the reaction of the family, who offered their praise to God in texts to him: “We thank God for all things sir. Whatever HE allows to come our ways is for HIS Divine Will. To God be all Adorations, Praises, Thanksgiving….In Jesus’ Mighty Name Amen.”
The Love Thy Neighbor campaign has just 48 hours to match a family in need with a volunteer. Since the program was launched earlier this month, 65 volunteers from 12 churches across the city have been connected with 21 families – providing all of their groceries for 14 days of quarantine. Initially, volunteers are being matched with families within their zip code, but that may be expanded based on need.
There is a need for more volunteers so that if one can not accept an invitation on a particular day or time, another is available. To become a helper, fill out this online VOLUNTEER FORM.
This week, we feature a prayer guide for the city of Boston during the COVID-19 pandemic put together by Anne Freeman, based off of the “Empty Streets, Full Hearts” video. Anne is a member of River of Life Church in Jamaica Plain, and works in Boston as a freelance American Sign Language Interpreter. She also serves in Deaf ministry through New England Deaf & Hard of Hearing Ministry, under the umbrella of The American Baptist Churches of Massachusetts. There are also prophecies at the bottom of this post from UniteBoston’s Prophetic Council. This is a great resource to pray for the city either personally, or with your family, in a small group, or congregation.
Please pray for the following segments of Boston society as we ride out the COVID 19 pandemic.
1. People sick with COVID 19: Jehovah Raphe (God our healer), we speak hope, health (mental & physical) and healing strength over the people who have tested positive for COVID 19 in the city of Boston. We ask that you help them discern when to return to normal activity after their 14 days of quarantine. We especially pray for Chelsea, the hardest hit city with COVID 19 in the entire state of Massachusetts.
2. First responders: Jehovah Sabaoth (Lord of hosts), we lift up the Boston Police, Fire Fighters, EMTs & The National Guard to you, declaring your protection, safety & perseverance over these people who serve our city on the front lines. We especially lift up their morale to you for protection.
3. Medical facilities: Jehovah Shalom (the God of Peace), we lift up the 20 hospitals in the city of Boston, all staff, administrators, researchers, and their financial resources. We pray for their psychological and emotional strength, tenacity, protection and safety, and their ability to cooperate well with each other under the strain of the demands being made on them during this pandemic.
4. Those in Power: El Shaddai (the God of Power), we lift the Boston city government, Mayor Marty Walsh, city workers and Massachusetts state Governor Charlie Baker, as well as state workers to you, declaring your wisdom and justice in their allocation of resources. Give them perseverance to continue to do well in managing this crisis in our city.
5. Households: Jehovah Jireh (God our Provider), we lift our households in Boston to you, including families that are spending more time than usual together, experiencing stress of disrupted schedules, financial crisis, & inability to celebrate special occasions as usual. We also lift up those who live alone, dealing with loneliness, isolation and need to sense your presence. We pray for those who may be quarantined in a home where there is someone neglectful or abusive. Send your angels of protection over them and bring justice where there is wrongdoing.
6. The economy/ financial institutions: Jehovah Nissi (God of Victory), we pray you would help people who work in Boston banks, credit unions and the Federal Reserve to have ethical practices, decision making and good judgement, especially because so many businesses are applying for loans. We also lift those who work in the Boston Department of Unemployment as so many people are applying for unemployment benefits. They are fielding unusually large amounts of applications. May our economy weather this storm in your strength! We lift up East Boston, Revere and Winthrop where there is an overwhelming amount of community need for food.
7. Funeral homes & clergy: Jehovah Kadesh (God who sanctifies or makes holy) we lift every Boston pastor, priest, minister, rabbi, nun, Imam and lay leader to you, asking for your anointing and supernatural ability to handle unprecedented demands during this crisis. Many Boston congregations are meeting remotely, requiring leaders to learn how to use technology they may be unfamiliar with and that is not always effective. We also lift the funeral directors and their staff at the many Boston funeral homes that are, along with clergy, facilitating many more funerals and memorial services than usual. We remember cemetery staff who are also busier than usual. Give them strength and enable them to carry out fair business practices.
8. High Risk Populations: Jehovah Elohim (God who is strong and mighty) we remember those who are most vulnerable among us, including elderly people, those experiencing homelessness, prisoners, people with disabilities, those living in institutions like group homes and halfway houses, shelters, nursing homes, rehabilitation centers, state hospitals, and assisted living facilities. We speak your supernatural protection over people with compromised immune systems and people in recovery from substance use disorder in our city. Strengthen them with your might, our most vulnerable citizens.
9. Military: Jehovah Nissi (God of victory on the battlefield), we thank you for and lift all Boston enlisted, other military personnel and civilians working on Boston military bases. They are handling the stress of cancelled leave, may be suffering from symptoms of PTSD and living in close quarters. We speak salvation over those who may not know you & your grace over military marriages under strain. Provide effective treatment for those with mental health issues, and shelter, food and clothing for Homeless Vets. Military chaplains may be fielding questions that are hard to answer from those they have spiritual responsibility for.
10. Educational institutions: God our Judge, we recognize you alone hold the scales of justice for our 35 colleges in the city of Boston, the large and oldest in the country public education system and the many private schools we have. We lift up all the home schoolers who live in Boston. We lift up the students experiencing remote learning, some for the first time. Help them handle stress of their disrupted schedules, social lives, cancelled events at the end of the year, graduations that must be conducted remotely and anxiety about summer programs. We pray for teachers and instructors that are having to learn how to use technology at levels they have never been required to before. May our educators not fail in educating our students during this crisis, with your help. Be with the students under these difficult circumstances and help them to do their best in learning and completing assignments. Anoint their creativity in handling hardship this pandemic is bringing to their education.
There are many other great resources for prayer, including a “May This Plague Pass Over: A Prayer for the Commonwealth from the Massachusetts Council of Churches and “Prayer for a Pandemic” poem below by Cameron Bellum.
Prayers & Prophecies from UniteBoston’s Prophetic Council
We also wanted to share these prayers and prophecies from UniteBoston’s Prophetic Council from May 23, 2020. For more information about the prophetic council, contact Alanah Percy, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Prophecy For The City:
The Lord is shaking Boston and the tremors can be heard throughout the earth. Revival is coming to Boston and the weapon of the revival is prayer. Radical obedience to God will be the new normal in this season. Unusual works of the Holy Spirit will come upon the city. The Lord is calling for unity in the body of Christ in Boston and churches will find ways to connect and a decentralization of power will be the norm in this new season. Jesus is on the throne.
Prophecy for Individuals and Families:
God is releasing grace over families during this season. He is breaking personal strongholds and reinforcing us with his love. Pray Ephesians 3:20 over yourself and your families.
When facing moments of difficulty, uncertainty, and change in our lives, it’s common for many to question “Why is life happening this way? Where is God in all of this?” Facing the implications of a global pandemic and social distancing, these questions can seem more prevalent in people’s hearts and minds than ever before. In the spirit of offering comfort and insight in these challenging moments, we’re excited to feature Jen Aldana’s second original music video: “Trust in You.”
Released on May 15, “Trust in You” shares a relatable glimpse into the inner doubts one can experience and the resolve one can feel when deciding to trust in God in those moments of insecurity. Rather than showing this dynamic overtly by having a character overcome a monumental challenge, or through a series of relationships as depicted in Jen’s previous music video: “Heaven Rejoices,” “Trust In You” instead walks the viewer through the day to day activities during which individuals may be contemplating those subtle doubts–such as while going about a morning routine, driving, or walking through Boston. According to Jen, embedded in the video’s simplicity lies the conviction that “we have to make this decision every single day as we live our regular lives.” “It’s not just in the big things, it’s in the little things too,” Jen said. “I start off the video at home because those are the times when I feel like my mind gets jumbled with doubt. So that’s what I wanted to show, that even though I’m just starting my day, I have to make that decision of ‘God, I’m going to trust you for this day.’”
Interpreting Jen’s explanation through the lens of the “Lord’s Prayer” in Matthew 6:9-13, one could almost view the scenes depicted in “Trust in You” as a living reminder that “as we give God our daily trust, God ‘gives us this day our daily bread.’”
Since Jen herself is the only “character” in the video, viewers may correlate its themes and scenes with today’s social distance living. However, as Jen explained, this relatability to current events is unintended as the video was filmed in October 2019, and the song itself was written much earlier in 2018. That said, in response to the video’s release coinciding with the coronavirus pandemic, Jen encouraged viewers to see “Trust in You” as a reminder that “we’re gonna make it through” and to “keep trusting God the same way we did before this pandemic.”
While circumstantially the timing of video and its messages may be coincidental, what enables “Trust In You” to maintain its relatability and authenticity across such a long period of time is the story behind it. Similar to her previous video: “Heaven Rejoices,” the song “Trust in You” was written in response to Jen’s own experiences maintaining her faith in God during challenging times. “I wrote this song during a time in my life where I was confused about my music career, had just ended a really long term relationship, and was honestly just unsure about where God was taking my life,” Jen said. “And despite all of that, I felt led to write songs of worship, and this song is one of the ones that came out of it.” In the midst of this confusion, Jen contemplated releasing the songs she had written, and questioned whether this was the right time. One of her mentors assured her, “Jen, this is exactly the time to do it. Because, you’re going to help so many people when you write from this place of pain rather than from a place of perfection. It is so much more impactful for you to say these words about trusting in God when you are in the middle of a wilderness in your life.”
Reflecting on her journey and the video’s release, Jen hopes that “Trust In You” may serve as “an encouragement that people can share with anyone who may need this reminder.” Be on the lookout for Jen’s next music video: “Your Peace” being released on June 5th! Follow her Instagram @jenaldanamusic for the latest updates.