Witness is a word that is not widely used in the United Church of Christ. It may be a bit more prevalent here in the South where we have strong roots of testimony and evangelism. As I read through the lectionary for Lent, I am becoming more aware that all of the activities of Jesus and the disciples were a witness to God’s love for the world and the power of the Holy Spirit to change all things through the faith of the one sent to redeem all creation.
This witness has been especially weighing on my heart, mind, and prayers as current events unfold around us. My daily prayers have included those who are bearing witness in Selma on the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday including churches from Birmingham and Atlanta and leaders from Chicago Theological Institute. My daily prayers have included the life of Kelly Gissandaner as she continues to request a reprieve for her pending execution and the 500 clergy who signed a letter to Georgia governor, Nathan Deal to ask for clemency. And for all the concerned people who are gathering and rallying and holding services to testify to the injustice of the death penalty and to honor the life of a woman who has become a witness to the redemptive power of faith.
Many of our churches have stood in witness and solidarity with the LGBTQ community as marriage equality continues to be a legislative and legal issue. I hope you have seen recent posts on the SEC website and Facebook page about the actions of Circular Congregational in Charleston and Open Table in Mobile. Currently 19 of our 54 congregations are Open and Affirming Churches and two of our new church starts were planted as Open and Affirming. This Conference and its churches are a witness to the culture around us.
The Southeast Conference has stood as witness to the call in Micah 6:8 to do kindness, love justice, and walk humbly with God. It resulted in the loss of congregations during the civil rights movement as legislation was passed with many UCC clergy and churches as leaders in the fight for justice that has continued with the struggle for civil rights for all. We lost churches when the General Synod adopted a resolution on marriage equality but stood in witness to the sanctity of marriage in all circumstances and continue to lead in that social and legal change within our communities and states.
As we continue to heed our Christian commitment during the season of Lent, I hope you will consider what sins of the world you are willing to witness to so that indeed the realm of God may be on earth as it is in heaven. May you have courage in the struggle and faith in the journey.