Eastham United Methodist Church
January 30, 2006
3200 State Highway Rt. 6
Eastham, Massachusetts 02642
Reverend Michael E. Davis, Pastor
Dear Partners in Ministry,
I have come home from Liberia, West Africa, more convinced than ever that "partnership" is God's way of changing lives and the world...changing both partners as both give and receive. Founded in 1822 by freed slaves from America, the capitol of Monrovia (named after U.S. President James Monroe) is home to the First United Methodist Church, also started in 1822.
I was there to represent the world-wide United Methodist Church as we joined Liberians to celebrate the inauguration of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf as President of Liberia (and the first woman elected President in Africa....they are ahead of the U.S.) She has been an active, life-long United Methodist and member of First Church, Monrovia. She requested that there be an ecumenical service of prayer at First Church on Sunday, Jan. 15, the day before her inauguration. The church was packed. The service was covered live from beginning to end. CNN was there along with many African and European media.
President Sirleaf, the Vice President (an active Baptist), and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court (also United Methodist) were all there. Next door was the United Methodist school at which they had all been educated. Like Nelson Mandela of South Africa, so many of the new progressive leaders of Africa have been educated in Methodist mission schools. The next time your church is debating its mission share, just think of Nelson Mandela and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and thousands of others whose lives have been transformed and who have given themselves to the transforming of nations and the world!
During the service we sang hymns selected by President Sirleaf: "Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee," "Jesus Is All the World to Me,, "We've a Story to Tell to the Nation," "God Moves in a Mysterious Way," "A Charge to Keep I Have,’Δω and finally the singing of Handel's Hallelujah Chorus (with all the stops pulled out....and great African rhythm). I watched the President as she sang. She sang all the hymns, almost all the words, from heart! And by that I do not mean just from memory...no, by heart...with a heart of feeling, conviction, and deep commitment.
The Liberian United Methodist Bishop, John Innis, preached a stirring sermon titled: "A New Heart For Our Nation" based on Matthew 5:1-2...."Blessed are the pure in heart...." Then came prayers....lots of prayers...these are praying people...prayer has seen them through fifteen years of chaos and war (even the capitol city has been, and still is, without electricity or running water for fifteen years)...but prayer has provided "light" and the assurance of God's "living water." And the United Methodist Church has been there through it all. A United Methodist layman who heads a major electrical firm near Chicago is bringing engineers from his company to Liberia to see if they can help restore electricity....imagine that...all through United Methodist contacts...partners in ministry!
On the flight into Monrovia, I sat next to a young woman from Norway who works with refugees through the United Nations. As we talked, she asked me what I do. I was tempted to say, as some of you will recall from my sermon at our Conference Ordination Service last June, "I raise the dead!" But instead I responded with the tamer, "I'm a United Methodist minister." "Oh," she said, "United Methodist!...like in UMCOR...United Methodist Committee on Relief?....They are one of the best organizations with which we work...they're doing great things in the refugee camps...helping orphaned children, and the hungry.... holding death at bay!" Indeed, we, you are a part of the 21st Century death defiers...the raisers of the dying...through your prayers and offerings, and our brother and sister United Methodists and UMCOR in Liberia and all around the world.
At the end of the service I presented a Bible (following the tradition we use with U.S. presidents) to Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. Before the service started, a security official came over to me and said they had to check the Bible...could be dangerous stuff. In this day and age, I, of course, understood...they did the same with the Bible I gave President Bush (except it took them about a week to check it out...maybe someone was reading it...we can hope). When I gave the Bible to President Sirleaf I told her this story and how I had said to one of the security officials, "Be careful how you handle this Bible...it contains the greatest power in the world!" Yes, the gentle power of God's love...more powerful than all the empires that ever reigned, all the armies that ever marched, all the bank accounts ever amassed....the power of God's love that can change lives and the world. She nodded her head, "Yes!" She knows it....pray for her, Liberia, our world, and our United Methodist partnerships around the world that are bringing Gospel life to so many place of death and dying. (More on Liberia next week)
Bishop Innis's sermon and President Sirleaf's great inaugural address can be found on ALLAFRICA.COM, a wonderful news service run by some United Methodists whom I bumped into on the plane flying into Liberia...God is good....and amazing....all the time!
Pray for the following congregations on the Boston Metro Hope District that I am visiting this week.... partners in critical urban ministries: St. James UMC, Stoneham; Crawford Memorial UMC, Winchester; First Community/Medford, Medford; Mt Bellingham UMC, Chelsea; Saugus Community Brazilian, Saugus; East Saugus, Saugus; Trinity, Lynn; Lake Shore, Lynn; First UMC, Peabody; Essex, S. Hamilton; Wesley, Salem; St. Stephens, Marblehead.
Also, pray for the special clergy session we will be having this Saturday as we seek God's leading to be better "partners in ministry" for the sake of Christ, his church, and the world.
Grace and Peace,