ATLANTA - The 20 U.S. churches acting as resource centers for black United Methodist congregations will meet this fall to provide training and workshops for selected partner congregations.
The Great Event, set for Sept. 18-20 in Atlanta, will focus on covenant relationships to enhance black churches. The congregational resource centers of the denomination's Strengthening the Black Church for the 21st Century initiative, along with the partner congregations, will have opportunities for building relationships, obtaining ministry resources, and attending workshops and worship.
The agenda and workshops will emphasize church vitality. The gathering is being designed "so that every partner church that comes to this event will leave different from when they entered the city of Atlanta," said Cheryl Stevenson, executive director of the Strengthening the Black Church initiative. Nearly 500 partner congregations are involved with the ministry.
Strengthening the Black Church, begun by the 1996 General Conference, seeks to strengthen black churches in the United States and to revitalize the more than 2,500 African-American congregations in the denomination. Its governing committee develops programs and strategies to help predominantly black United Methodist congregations become more effective in ministry. The initiative's work is done through a 20-member coordinating committee, and representatives of the 14 churchwide agencies serve as resource people.
The Great Event will be a "spirit-filled experience that will change the way clergy and laity think about doing ministry," Stevenson said.
Reviewing the initiative's work and efforts to strengthen and link black churches, Stevenson challenged the committee to celebrate the initiative and Black History Month - February - with hope and determination.
In addition to planning for the Great Event, the committee also:
- Reapproved St. Luke "Community" United Methodist Church in Dallas as a congregational resource center.
- Approved a conditional reinstatement of Hope United Methodist Church in Southfield, Mich., as a congregational resource center.
- Received a presentation from Cedric Foley of the United Methodist Publishing House on the development of products that reflect African Americans and their journey.
- Visited Ousley United Methodist Church in Lithonia, Ga., to show support for a Feb. 7-9 Strengthening the Black Church training event for partner congregations from the Southeast.
- Continued working on plans for the 2004 General Conference in Pittsburgh. Mongolia gets major emphasis from Korean United Methodists.
By Albert H. Lee