Disciples News Service

New Year’s greetings from Sharon Watkins

January 2017

Dearest Friends in Christ –

“Hope is a star that shines in the night, leading us on till the morning is bright.” [1]

From the Advent promise of Emmanuel: God with us; to the Epiphany revelation: God-with-us-now, we hope.

And yet, I confess, as 2017 begins, my heart is bruised by the pain and division the United States and Canada have experienced which have filtered into our communities and congregations. Antagonistic elections in the United States have upended civil discourse. Repeated public incidents of both individual and institutional racism have fractured relationships in communities. And beyond our borders, civil wars in places like South Sudan and Syria, as well as natural disasters in long-suffering Haiti, only increase the need for healing of all kinds.

Still, along with “all of creation” in Romans 8:18, we wait expectantly “for the children of God to be revealed.” In fact, we hope to be among them. We are Disciples of Christ, a movement for wholeness in a fragmented world. We know God to be a God of abundance who provides enough for all and makes room enough for all.

This is the time for Disciples to shine! We have long found ways to live together in unity for the sake of God’s mission. Our ability to respect (and engage!) a diversity of faithful opinions is needed now more than ever. Our emphasis on healing the rifts of racism with pro-reconciling work is foundational to moving forward in our part of the world and globally. Our shared sense of service that came through loud and clear in our Mission Gatherings of 2016 gives us some of the connections we need to start living into the wholeness God so ardently wishes for us.

Our deep hope in God’s healing presence leads us to action.

Mission First!

Disciples are on the move toward new ways of being God’s hands and feet in the world through our work on Mission First! The Mission Council met late last year to identify common themes arising from the mission gatherings. We found many Disciples are hearing a call to mission with and for children, youth and young adults through efforts at inclusion, speaking up for the vulnerable and addressing racism. The Council affirmed welcome and accompaniment as hallmarks of our participation in God’s mission. At some of the gatherings – in the MidAmerica Region, for example – people found others who share their missional passions and formed connections to work together immediately. The Administrative Committee is preparing a proposal on how we might implement what we learned from the governance portion of the Mission First! pilot effort.


As called for in General Assembly resolution 1328, the Racist Language Audit Task Force presented their report in 2016. General ministries, regions and the General Board, have already started to address the issues surfaced. Governing documents are being translated, sometimes for the first time, into French, Spanish and Korean. The National Convocation, at the 2016 Biennial Session, committed to renewed support for Reconciliation Ministry and calls upon the rest of the church to do the same.

New starts

In 2017, we look forward to new beginnings with our next General Minister and President to be elected in July at the General Assembly, along with our new moderator team. We anticipate gathering once again at the Lord’s Table to be united as ONE, celebrating Jesus’ prayer on our behalf that the world may believe.

Called to Live in Hope

After nearly 12 years, serving as your general minister and president, I still believe we are a church whose time has come. We are a gifted people, called for such a time as this. Refining our missional focus across the life of the Church, renewing our commitment to racial justice, catching the Spirit in new ways to further our part in God’s work of healing and wholeness – we enter 2017 ready to be and to share the good news of Jesus Christ, witnessing, loving, and serving, from our doorsteps to the ends of the earth.

With hope in Christ undimmed, I greet you in this New Year. May we all resolve to live right now in “the assurance of things hoped for!” (Hebrews 11:1)


Rev. Dr. Sharon E. Watkins

General Minister and President

Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada

[1] Brian Wren. Chalice Hymnal. Chalice Press. #132.

6 Responses to “New Year’s greetings from Sharon Watkins”

  1. Emily Wheatley:

    “Our ability to respect (and engage!) a diversity of faithful opinions is needed now more than ever.”
    I so very much agree with Sharon’s statement, but I seem to hear lately more one-sided opinions from DOC ministers than ever… we rightly talk about respect, engagement, and embracing, but the congregations get to hear & observe more personal “judging” than optimistic Word-based guidance/action these days.

    • Rosalie Liles:

      I whole heartedly agree with Emily Wheatley. I have been COB of Heights Christian Church in Houston the past two years. I pass the office to another in two days. Then I will start my hunt for a church which teaches the word of God I grew us with. I want to leave worship uplifted. I am tired of feeling guilty for the “wrongs” of the world and feeling depressed when I leave church on Sunday. Our minister is a great speaker but she leans way too far.

  2. Amy E. Booker-Hirsch:

    Thank you Sharon for the insightful letter and your service to the Church. May New Year’s bring many surprises to you and Rick and family.

  3. Thank you, Sharon, for your New Year’s message. More than ever we need to lift up our faith and hope in things eternal, while temporal and earthly cares weigh heavily in this new year. God bless you and God bless my church and its members.

  4. Rev. Denise Linam Hamilton:

    Sharon, thank you for addressing this situation. I am addressing this separation between the US and Canada which you have addressed. I have extended family in Canada but their concern has been for my safety. They thought I might return to live there again and were wanting to know if I was coming. I told them no, that I am staying here where my people are and fighting for the United States. Our Democracy is important and most of the friends I know are also speaking out and we will go to jail if necessary in hopes of protecting our country. These Canadians now fear what our country might do. They fear Donald Trump and rightfully so. I hope their fears will go unfounded, only time will tell on that. Canada has now become the progressive way with the election of their leader so I think they will continue to do the right thing. However there is a problem with the US and how we are now viewed Worldwide. We now have become their enemy and with our Electoral College making Trump our President, we are hated even more now. This problem seems to have no end. All of us need to do what we feel is right and speak out for our country’s sake and do what we can to improve it. That includes lots of prayer too. May God gives us needed strength to do what is needed and turn this around.

  5. Rev. Dr. Sharon E. Watkins

    Dear Rev. Watkins.

    Happy New year to you, and may God bless you and ALL Disciples in the work to build a more peaceful world. While your words are encouraging, they sound (to these old ears, at least) so very, very….corporate. Jesus Christ preached love within a very radical context. It is my hope and prayer that more Christians will come to recognize a greater need for urgency in their discipleship, and respond with a more….radical love.
    Again, God’s blessings to you and your flock.

    Pax et Bonum,

    Jerry Thompson