Rev. Dr. Cynthia Wilson didn’t waste any time drawing close to the ties between faith and justice in her sermon for the Missouri Conference Celebration of Ministry. She lamented the lack of action to reduce gun violence in her opening prayer.
Wilson is an ordained deacon in the United Methodist Church. She leads The Junius B. Dotson Institute for Music and Worship in the Black Church and Beyond, a partnership between Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary and Discipleship Ministries of The United Methodist Church.
Wilson said a recent Barna survey found that the primary reason young people were not part of a church was that they didn’t find the church to be relevant. She said that could be because when they visited the church, they didn’t hear about issues related to abortion, gender equality, gentrification in neighborhoods of people of color, the prison pipeline, vaccinations, affordable higher education, global warming, diasporic trade, entrepreneurial enterprise, food deserts, health disparities, infant mortality, redlining in certain zip codes, special education, growing autism and asthma, employment or economic development.
“Instead, the first thing they see is a bake sale and a beautifully framed picture of a pastor,” Wilson said. “People come through as C&E (visiting at Christmas and Easter) and see people more interested in speaking in tongues or speaking to each other rather than speaking truth to power.”
She told the new ordinands that she hoped their ministry would take a different path.
“My prayer to you is that you walk boldly into the role of the prophetic,” she said. “Before you enter this season, you wake up, stay woke, get up and for god sake, unapologetically speak up. I pray someone says to you, ‘Pastor, why is it every time you preach you talk about justice, racism, sexism?’ I hope they hear something that powers them to be the body of Christ.”
Some might say that Wilson’s sermon was a bit toward the radical side for an ordination service, but being an ordained pastor in the United Methodist Church is a radical thing, as is made clear by the very vows they repeat during their service of ordination.
This year Rev. Rhonda S. Galbraith and Rev. Mary Day Saou were ordained as deacons. A deacon is called to share in Christ’s ministry of servanthood, to relate the life of the community to its service in the world, to lead others into Christian discipleship, to nurture disciples for witness and service, to lead in worship, to teach and proclaim God’s Word, to assist elders and local pastors at Holy Baptism and Holy Communion, to interpret to the church the world’s hurts and hopes, to serve all people, particularly the poor, the sick, and the oppressed, and to lead Christ’s people in ministries of compassion and justice, liberation and reconciliation, even in the face of hardship and personal sacrifice.
Rev. Sean McIntyre, Rev. Meagan Marie O’Brien, Rev. Danielle Quinn and Rev. Po’ese ’Uikelotu Vatikani were ordained as elders. An elder is called to share in the ministry of Christ and of the whole church: to preach and teach the Word of God and faithfully administer the sacraments of Holy Baptism and Holy Communion; to lead the people of God in worship and prayer; to lead persons to faith in Jesus Christ; to exercise pastoral supervision, order the life of the congregation, counsel the troubled, and declare the forgiveness of sin; to lead the people of God in obedience to Christ’s mission in the world; to seek justice, peace, and freedom for all people; and to take a responsible place in the government of the church and in service in and to the community.