Transforming Roadblocks into Building Blocks
NCJ Commission on Religion and Race learning event
by Rev. Dr. Jerry Devine (Detroit Conference DCM)
Under the quadrennial NCJ CORR theme of Living into the Vision of the Beloved Community the NCJ CORR Executive Committee and the Detroit Conference Commission on Religion and Race designed and hosted the annual learning event focused on addressing key current racial justice issues impacting the church and the world. Unique to this year was that the event was also connected, or wrapped around, a congregational vitality and development equipping and networking event called the REACH Summit. The intent behind the shared space and time was to recognize that in the clearly changing demographic landscape of the United States the United Methodist Church will only grow and be vital if it expands the multicultural competency of its clergy and laity to be in full relationship to the emerging population. And, if the church is to be seen and experienced as relevant it has to be able to address the pressing issues in every community, including issues of race, justice and relationships.
Bishop Deborah Leider Kiesey opened the event and read the pastoral letter from the Council of Bishops addressing the issues of racism and oppression that are on the forefront of the news this past year. Multiple speakers and workshop leaders addressed key areas of concern and interest to help live out the theme of Transforming Roadblocks into Building Blocks. Between the Learning Event and the REACH Summit there were well over 225 participants from the following annual conferences: Michigan Area [Detroit and West Michigan], Northern Illinois, Illinois Great Rivers, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa. Rev. Dr. Cedrick Bridgeforth, national BMCR Chairperson, was the keynote speaker for the Friday evening bridge event that brought both events together.
Rev. F. Willis Johnson, pastor of Wellspring UMC in Ferguson, Missouri, was the keynote speaker for the NCJ CORR banquet, and the Sunday morning preacher when the event concluded at Central United Methodist Church in Lansing, Michigan.