From Burton to Standing Rock

Besides our own Helper you should consider subscribing to the newsletter of the South Central Conference of the United Church of Christ. Here is the latest weekly reflection from Rev. Dr. Don Longbottom:

Sunday morning, I drove through dense fog and showed up to preach at St. John’s Church in Burton, Texas. St. John’s is another of our congregations of Germanic origin and grounded in the solid “can do” ethos of rural Texas. I had a wonderful experience, and the fried chicken was enough to melt a former Baptist’s heart however it did not do much for my diet.

Pastor Glen has served St. John’s for 35 years with grace, distinction, integrity and humor. My sermon followed a children’s message delivered by Glen, and I have to tell you we could have taken an offering, pronounced a benediction and called it “church.” All in all, it was a warm and engaging worship service permeated with laughter. I especially appreciated the acapella singing that reminded me of my time among the Mennonites.

It would be a mistake to think in the case of St. John’s that rural means out of the loop. The service itself was a winsome mix of traditional and contemporary music. The makeup of staff includes Pastor Risa, a young Latina coming to the ministry through the congregation’s heavy emphasis on discovering and developing lay persons for licensed ministry. The people themselves were so welcoming and authentic that I wanted to move in like the boll weevil. Thanks folks for making my day. Hard to believe that I get to do this for a living. Please don’t tell the Board of Directors.

Early Monday morning, as is my daily practice, I opened up the internet. Someone had sent me a 7-minute video of our government’s response to the happenings at Standing Rock in the Dakotas. The situation is deeply disturbing to me and should be to all freedom and earth loving Americans. The indigenous peoples in the area are trying to obstruct construction of an oil pipeline that will threaten their water supply and the desecrated ground they hold to be sacred. The video shows non-violent protesters confronted by police dogs, pepper spray, armored vehicles, and snipers armed with high-powered telescopic rifles, and soldiers or police but who can’t tell the difference. Frankly, the video looks more like life in East Berlin before the wall came down than the home of the free and the brave.

As a people of faith, whose moral compass is the life and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth I do not believe that we in good conscience can remain silent. Several of our Conference Ministers from across this nation are traveling to Standing Rock to give non-violent witness to a Christ who calls us to go in harm’s way for what is right and just. Tim Wiersma and husband Donnie from Cathedral of Hope are coordinating a group to go to Standing Rock to witness. They are planning on arriving November 5 and leaving on the 10. If you are feeling called to action, please contact Tim via email or by phone” 214-288-6221.

Whether you are from Louisiana, Texas or Arizona my home state, this much I know. We are a freedom loving people who will not sit idly by and watch injustice have its way. It matters little whether we are Republican, Democrat or any space on the political spectrum… we are Christians first. Followers of Christ to not flee from injustice in fear. According to II Timothy God has given us a spirit, not of timidity but courage. Let us be courageous and faithful in our witness as this time of testing has come upon us. Our nation’s soul hangs in the balance.

Peace and Honor,

Dr. Don

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