THE EIGHTH EPISCOPAL DISTRICT of the CME CHURCH

1616 E. Illinois Avenue,

Dallas, Texas 75216-2538

(214) 372-9073 (Office) (214) 372-2082 (Fax)

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Welcome to the Eighth Episcopal District website. We are pleased you have decided to visit with us. On this site you will find information about the MIGHTY Eighth Episcopal District which is comprised of 226 churches within the state of Texas and Jamaica. It is our desire that you will find this site useful and informative and that you will have an opportunity to learn more about us and the wonderful things God is doing in the Eighth Episcopal District. God bless you as you take this time to visit with us.

 

Senior Bishop and Mrs. Lawrence Reddick 

Creative Thinking for Crisis Times

By Senior Bishop Lawrence Reddick

Dear CME Family,

            In response to coronavirus challenges, the President and the CDC are asking people to not assemble in groups larger than 10.  Many of us, in response, are working diligently to ramp up our streaming services, but also, many of us are simply cancelling services.  My question to you is:  how creative are you willing to be?

            In a church room in Alabama in 1987, two pastors – one white, one black – sat with leaders of their respective congregations, trying to negotiate a purchase.  A contract was before them that had been negotiated by the white pastor and the previous black pastor.  I was the new black pastor, having succeeded a leader who had died, and I was fighting for the interpretation of the contract which had been passed to the congregation by the previous pastor.  The room was tense with racial and testosterone undertones; there were about 5 leaders from both congregations, and a white attorney hired by our side.  Two names should be called:  S. William Harris, our chair of the trustee board, and G. William Noble, our white attorney (and now judge).  

            At an uptight moment, the white pastor, using the tactic of “divide to conquer,” turned his attention away from me and said to the trustee chair, “Mr. Harris, do you agree with Rev. Reddick?”  Mr. Harris, about 75-80 years old, answered like only a very wise old black man would answer:  “I agree with Mr. Noble.”  I couldn’t believe it!  You almost have to be a pre-1970 Southerner to really appreciate his tactic, for he pivoted the effort to divide two black men by spinning the disagreements into the arena of the two white men.  Nothing else was said.

            The heritage of African Americans as oppressed people who came to the U.S. not by “migration” but by “forced enslavement” is a heritage of people who learned to wisely, cunningly, subtly outthink the oppressor, and to speak in creative, nuanced, hidden ways. 

            Now is the time for creative thinking.  It may not be as simple as saying, “We must close.”  Why not? Because people need ministry in crisis.  Meeting this coronavirus crisis, when we’ve been asked to congregate in groups of 10 or less, requires thinking that is more flexible than simply saying, “We must close.”

            Yes, there is a message about God at Christmas, and the message is this:  God pushes beyond all limits in order to reach into human lives and make us whole.

 

            “In the past,” the author of Hebrews says, “God spoke to our forefathers though the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son …” (Hebrews 1:1-2a, NIV).  Although this passage of Scripture says nothing about the manger and the birth in Bethlehem, it tells in its way the core message of Christmas:  “God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself” (2 Corinthians 5:19).  

 

            God broke the ordinary understanding of possibilities when God posited Godself in humanity and took upon himself the form of humanity in Jesus.  To be the Son of God, to be Immanuel (“God with us”), to be the express image of the living God in human flesh – these things broke our limited understandings of God; God broke out of our box to be sovereign.

            Two questions arise for me.  The first is, “What will God do to reach us?”  The birth of Jesus in Bethlehem and His life of fulfillment as the Christ, the Messiah, tells me that God pushes beyond the limits of our understandings to reach us.  For me, the story of Christmas tells me that God will do anything God chooses to reach us.  The second question carries me to a deeper sense of gratitude; which is to say to myself, “What will God NOT do to reach us?”

            I applaud the congregations that are ramped up to provide worship services online, that are streamed for people across the country to see.  But for those who are not capable of it, your creative thinking and prayers for new insights can come up with some new and fresh ideas. 

            If your church cannot stream services, have you considered services by conference call?  Remember, if you try it, that worship does not have to be a structured prayer here, a song by the choir there, a “we have always done it this way” effort.  Venture out!  Make it something new!  (But be sure and plan it!)  Have someone ready with a CD that lifts praise!  Have another person prepared to pray – not a long, lengthy, “in church” prayer (because people’s attention spans may be shorter when they cannot see), let the pastor read a short Scripture and give a short meditation or a one-point message.  It may not match what you would have called “having church” 20 years ago, but it may well nourish your people at the point of their present needs, and what we may all experience from it is God stretching us in the process, enlarging the tents of our minds as to what worshipping God and nurturing God’s people really are. 

          As I arose this morning, I remembered a book – David Yonggi Cho’s SUCCESSFUL HOME CELL GROUPS .1  Cho is pastor of the largest congregation in Seoul, South Korea (some consider it the largest in the world).  When the church was growing phenomenally, he was challenged to find a way to take personal nurture to the entire membership.  He empowered a group of leaders to, in turn, become leaders of cell groups meeting in homes.  So, he nurtured the leaders who, in turn, nurtured the church.  (Yes, it’s the old class leader system.)   Pastor, have you considered meeting with 7-9 people on Saturday morning, ministering to them, and in turn giving them authority to minister on Sunday during regular worship time by way of telephone conference calls to a worship group of just a few?  or to their own family gathered at home?  as they follow through with the very nurturing you gave to them the day before?  Be creative.

          To quote the late Bishop Joseph C. Coles, Jr.:  “Don’t let what you cannot do keep you from doing what you can!”  

          Pastors, Ministers, and Lay Leaders:  I challenge you to pray for God to give you fresh insights that will keep your congregation nourished, spiritually blessed, and encouraged during this time of crisis.   Do more than just close your church doors. 

                                                                                    Lawrence L. Reddick III          

1David Yonggi Cho was born Paul Yonggi Cho in 1936.