Note: Dr. Watkins shared the following during a Sept. 3, 2014, press conference in support of a letter sent to President Barack Obama by faith leaders. The letter urges the President to protect unaccompanied children and families in any executive action on immigration. Read the letter A retired pastor, whose son works border patrol in […]
Seventy-four. It’s a big number. It is the number of school shootings since Sandy Hook Elementary where over 20 little bodies were torn apart by bullets. There have been other shootings in other places along the way, making the number of dead much, much higher than a mere 74. Included of course, is the man who was “carrying,” who pulled his weapon and was shot dead himself last week in Las Vegas. Included, as well, are the uncounted, unnamed people, mostly in our cities, who are targeted or caught in the cross-fire of our violent culture.
I’d like to introduce you to some of our partners – brothers and sisters in Christ – who I had the pleasure of meeting in Cuba.
Meet Mercedes of the Presbyterian Church of the Resurrection. Eighty some years old and still going strong. She’s always been strong. After the Cuban Revolution many pastors fled – or were forced – from the country. At her church in the city now called Juan Gualberto Gomez, she was the only one left. A leader from the seminary came through and asked her, “Do you want to close the church?” She answered, “Close the church! Of course not. I’m here. We’ll build the church!” And she has. Today there is a small but thriving congregation there providing spiritual nurture and meeting physical needs of poor people in the town. Mercedes makes clear in word and deed: Christians serve a God of resurrection and of life.
(Praying and worshiping with Disciples international mission partners is one of the privileges of serving as General Minister and President. Recently that opportunity came in Cuba when Brite Divinity School, as part of a course, sponsored a visit to the island to study pastoral care. Rick Lowery and I tagged along.)
We were nearing the end of worship on this Sunday in Havana. Global Ministries missionary and church history scholar Dr. Carmelo Alvarez called me up to the front of the church. We were going to participate in a tradition, he said – a tradition of reconciliation. Citizens of Cuba and the United States have much to forgive. Christians of every nation, however, have confidence that God’s power through Jesus Christ to reconcile is stronger than what lies between us. And so we prayed.
My assignment was to talk about interreligious engagement. It didn’t seem too difficult a topic given the recent shooting in Kansas City. The interconnections between Christians and Jews would be obvious. The shooter had meant to kill Jews but unintentionally had targeted Christians, showing that we’re all in this life together. Hate hurts all of […]
Our hearts break for the families and friends of the three people murdered at a Jewish Community Center and senior home in Overland Park on Sunday. We lift them in prayer. We mourn with our Jewish brothers and sisters for this brutal assault on their community. We hold them in prayer. We stand in solidarity with them in this tragic, frightening moment, particularly coming at the holy seasons for both Christians and Jews.