Subject: NCC Newsletter: The Alabama Pilgrimage, 150th Annual CUS Meeting and "God's Terrible Springtime"

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The Alabama Pilgrimage, 150th Annual CUS Meeting and "God's Terrible Springtime"
NCC Newsletter
March 25, 2022
WCC Pilgrimage to Montgomery, Alabama  
On March 21-22, 2022, the World Council of Churches (WCC) held a virtual Pilgrimage for Justice and Peace to Montgomery, Alabama themed, “Humanity Marching Forward in Unity, Love, Justice and Peace.” Organizers from the National Council of Churches included Rev. Dr. Angelique Walker-Smith, National Baptist Convention USA Inc., Ecumenical Officer to the NCC, and Sr. Associate for Pan African & Orthodox Faith Engagement at Bread for the World; and Bishop Teresa Jefferson-Snorton, Christian Methodist Episcopal Church and Chair of the NCC Governing Board.

The visit was a celebration of the positive aspects of community and a deep immersion into the negative wounds of racism. The opening discussion between Rev. Dollie Howell Pankey, Social Concerns and Human Justice Coordinator of the 5th Episcopal District in Birmingham, AL, Christian Methodist Episcopal Church; Rev. Dr Kathy McFadden of Old Ship African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church in Montgomery, AL; and Rev. Dr. Cromwell A. Handy of Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church in Montgomery, AL centered on the question, “How can we sing in strange lands?” Their responses emphasized that survival occurred because those persecuted knew they did not have to sing alone. They persevered because they knew God is strong and they were on the winning side.

Dr. McFadden explained that the octopus symbol used for the visit was designed with each arm representing the categories impacted by systematic racism: Generational Wealth, Housing, Education, Civic Engagement, Healthcare and Food Access, Xenophobia, Justice System, and Media.

In addition to personal stories, several videos were offered to inform on the topic, “Resistance and Resilience: Black Lives and the Violent Injuries of Enslavement, Lynching, Land Loss and Mass Incarceration in Alabama and the USA.” These included: “Montgomery, Alabama, USA” by the Equal Justice Initiative, “Lynching In America: Anthony Ray Hinton's Story,” and "How southern black farmers were forced from their land, and their heritage" from PBS NewsHour.

As racism is systematic in the US and some now consider being called a “racist” a badge of pride, what can the World Council of Churches do? During the second day panel discussion, “Sharing aspirations – what do we hope for?,” Daniel Swartz from Faith in Action Alabama, explained that scripture calls us to be political but not partisan and Rev. Keenan Winters, pastor of First CME Church in Montgomery, noted that the church tries to get people engaged in “what” but they need to understand the “why.” He asked, “Do we understand how the kingdom is manifested here on earth now?” Dr. Olivia Cook, Executive Director of the Center for Economic and Social Justice and Assistant Professor of Political Science at Miles College in Fairfield, AL, spoke about racism being a sin but churches being places of healing then she called for people to ask for forgiveness, lean in, and understand their individual gaps and the actionable steps that can be taken.

After explaining that many work under the assumption that their organizations are not racist but what is happening internally supports racism, Bishop Jefferson-Snorton summarized the ideas from the day’s panel discussions to be reported to the WCC. She reiterated the call for the use of internal racial audits that would examine all structures and proposed that measures should be determined and then shared within the church in order for everyone to be held accountable. 

There is "Room for All" at Annual CUS Meeting
As director of this ecumenical project, Rev. Dr. Tammy Wiens, NCC Director of Christian Education and Faith Formation, writes about the annual CUS meeting:

Memphis Theological Seminary (MTS) hosted the 150th annual meeting of the Committee on the Uniform Lessons Series, March 8-10, 2022. Their state-of-the-art hybrid classroom was perfectly suited for the committee’s two- and half-day meeting, drawing more than 30 participants representing a diverse range of denominational partners and publishing houses. About half of those in attendance traveled to the MTS campus with the other half joining via Zoom.

In addition to the business of electing officers and getting Committee approval of each stage of curriculum development, the primary task of the CUS annual meeting is its collaborative writing project. We were enriched for the task by the teaching of Dr. Dennis Edwards, New Testament professor at North Park University and the preaching of Dr. Jody Hill, president of Memphis Theological Seminary. This year age-level teams were responsible for writing the Knowing, Loving, and Serving elements of the Learning Objective for 2026-2027. Though our committee numbers are small, the task of developing the Guide to Lessons and the Home Daily Bible Readings reaches thousands of congregations across the United States and throughout the world.

During the closing worship service, several committee members shared stories of how CUS has played a role in the history of Christian education as a tribute to our sesquicentennial anniversary. Further acknowledgement of the 150-years long contribution to the Christian education is planned for this year’s Christian Unity Gathering in October.

Dr. Wiens shares what she most values about CUS, “it is the space we create for one another. There is room for those who traveled to Memphis and room for those who joined us through Zoom. There is room for the Nigerian Baptist Convention and the for the Disciples of Christ in Puerto Rico. There is room for women and men, for the old King James and the new NRSV, for the big box publisher and small church editor. CUS is the embodiment of the space Jesus makes available to us now and will make perfect in the age to come.” 

If you are interested in learning more about the various lines of curriculum that use the CUS outlines, please email
God's Terrible Springtime
An article, "God's Terrible Springtime: Lessons after 9/11, Lessons for Today," by Dr. Tony Kireopoulos, NCC Associate General Secretary for Faith and Order and Interfaith Relations, will appear in the March/April issue of Ecumenical Trends published by the Graymoor Ecumenical & Interreligious Institute.  

The article was adapted from a presentation Dr. Kireopoulos made at the public event hosted by the Institute this past October entitled, “God’s Terrible Springtime? Ecumenical Purpose and Opportunity in Times of Upheaval.” 

Dr. Kireopoulos writes, "... I confess that I had never before heard John Mackay’s term, 'God’s terrible springtime.' But upon hearing it, I was more than intrigued; my mind started to roll immediately with thoughts and images prompted by this phrase. These thoughts and images, however, went beyond the crises of the last couple of years – the pandemic, racial strife, economic uncertainty, climate change – and took me back to another starting point, namely the attacks of September 11, 2001. If we are to consider ourselves as living through one of “God’s terrible springtimes,” for me this distinct time-period began with 9/11."

Register for "Housing, Land, and Debt"
Get Involved with Ecumenical Advocacy Days
As a sponsor of Ecumenical Advocacy Days (EAD), the NCC encourages you to participate in this year's event on April 25-27, 2022. 

From the event: "EAD 2022 calls us into solidarity to restore, protect, and expand voting rights in the United States and to realize human rights around the world. As people of faith, we know each person to be created in God’s image, imbued with dignity and having a voice that demands to be heard, heeded, and treated justly. We arise in unity, holding up a mirror to leaders of nations, putting injustice on display and tearing down the veil of oppression that obscures the beautiful, God-born light shining from within us all.

As such, we demand that the U.S. Congress enhance voting rights in the United States; outlaw all practices that limit Black and Indigenous people and other communities of color striving to fully exercise their right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”; withdraw U.S. assistance from militaries, police, and other forces that restrict civil space; and support actions around the world that aim to fulfill human rights for all.

At Ecumenical Advocacy Days 2022, we will unite to amplify our Christian voice in advocacy for civil and human rights in the United States and abroad. Won’t you join us?"

This Week's Wordle
Each week, the NCC offers a faith-related Wordle. We've customized the games to be religion-based in each Friday's newsletter. Instructions on how to play can be found by clicking the "i" for information. Please share this newsletter with your friends, family, and faith community members who may enjoy completing these special Wordles!
COVID-19 Pandemic Response:
New Calculator and Guidelines to Determine Quarantine Times
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has published guidance on how long to quarantine and isolate to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The website page includes a "Quarantine and Isolation Calculator" to help individuals determine how long they need to isolate, quarantine, or take other steps to protect their communities. 

As churches and faith groups gather again in person, this tool can insure that religious communities know how to keep each other safe. Share, post, and refer to these guidelines in order to prevent the disease from harming people who are immune-compromised or have other medical conditions that could cause severe illness or death. 
From our Partners:
Sign and Share a Letter of Spiritual Solidarity to Ukrainian Religious Leaders
The National Faith Organizing group formed around voting rights advocacy in 2020, has collaboratively written a letter "in solidarity, friendship and faith" to be sent to religious leaders in Ukraine. The letter will be translated into Ukrainian, Russian, and Hebrew and distributed to faith leaders "on the ground" in Ukraine. The interfaith group is circulating the letter for signatures and encourages further sharing within religious networks in order to build a substantial show of support.
CWS Efforts to Help Ukrainians
Church World Service (CWS) has deployed a team to Moldova to meet with their partners in the country and determine how to expand their response to the Ukrainians displaced by the war. 

CWS has experience serving migrant and refugee populations in Europe, specifically Bosnia and Serbia, and has "technical expertise in the areas of forced migration, migrant assistance and protection, child protection, disaster and emergency response, coordination and refugee integration and community sponsorship." The organization has resettled 1,107 Ukrainians in the US since the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014.

In addition to raising funds for their Ukraine Crisis Response, CWS has issued a call for advocacy to Congress to stand with vulnerable Ukrainians and uphold protections for displaced and at-risk populations.
Racial Equity and Justice Report Released by The Episcopal Church
In a press release this week The Episcopal Church announced a report produced by the Presiding Officers’ Working Group on Truth-Telling, Reckoning and Healing. which was created to "sharpen the church’s focus on confronting its past complicity with racist systems and the lingering legacy of white supremacy embedded in institutions like the church."

The report includes a resolution to be considered at the church's 80th General Convention in July to form a new Episcopal Coalition for Racial Equity and Justice which would receive an allocation of an estimated $2 million a year "for the coalition to coordinate and expand churchwide racial healing efforts." Six additional resolutions call for "a forensic audit of DFMS assets to identify those tied to racial injustices; a comprehensive review of the Book of Common Prayer, 1982 hymnal, and other liturgical materials to identify 'colonialist, racist and white supremacist, imperialistic and white nationalist language and content;' an investigation into the church’s operation of Indigenous boarding schools; the development of best practices in hiring and workplace equity; and guidelines for language to describe people of color in the church."

The release describes 92 recommendations, "most of which would be 'moved forward and amplified' by the new coalition. Those include ways to cultivate truth-telling, reckoning, and healing at each level of the church. Suggestions range from 'research and share the full history of historically Black churches within your diocese' to 'commission artists, poets, liturgists, and musicians of color to create new hymnody, prayers, and liturgies.' The recommendations include training and learning opportunities for children and adults and contain multiple links to dioceses that are already working to facilitate truth-telling, reckoning, and healing."
Job Listings

Mobilization Manager - Churches for Middle East Peace is looking for someone who is who is familiar with advocacy work, detail oriented, and a self-starter. Learn more. 

Associate for Campaigns and Development - The Franciscan Action Network is looking for someone to work primarily on advocacy and network building, particularly from Franciscan Justice Circles, with some work on development as well. Learn more.

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