By Kimberly Woods
Apologies to those who may have expected an immediate response . . . I needed time to process this experience fully
As I sat at my table preparing to hear another presentation, I became aware of a distinct noise from outside the exhibit hall. The presentation had started, but something greater was brewing. My fellow delegates started to recognize the sounds and we found ourselves turning to the entrance to the hall, watching as a group was chanting and marching out onto the plenary floor. This group was protesting/demonstrating for BlackLivesMatter, reminding us that the decisions we make here at General Conference reflect not just our lives, but the lives of those on the margins.
I recognized many persons in the demonstration, friends and colleagues from a number of locations. As the marched around the exhibit hall and prayed around the Communion Table, their message was clear: We are here, we matter. They were a presence, a force, but respectful in their presentation. I was very grateful for our presiding chair who allowed them to demonstrate rather than banning or silencing the movement.
I have had time to reflect on this demonstration and the events which have transpired since that day. It has barely been 48 hours, but tensions have remained high, rumors have flown, and persons have feared for the future of our church and our denomination. While I am not a person who fights for social justice by protests and outward demonstrations as this group did, I empathize with them and am proud of their actions. In the time between that demonstration, that visible cry for change and reconciliation, I have had time to recognize what truly matters for our church.
Love. It sounds simple, but love is what matters for the future, for the present life of our church. We are called to one another, to love God, and to show this love wherever we go. Keeping God at the center, keeping love at the center, is vitally important to our ministry and our lives as Christians. While we debate legislation, let us not forget what matters most. Let all of our actions be taken from a place of love and not hate, as was chanted that day on the plenary floor. Let us not bring our preconceived notions to the table, but come with open hearts and open minds to hear what our siblings in Christ have to say to us. We cannot change if we have already decided against changing. But God can and will change us, for the better. We just have to be open to that change in our lives.
So go forth in love and let us be mindful of what matters most.