Bishop David Bard’s online letter inspires a preacher and congregation in Clarkston.
“Where can I count on finding hopeful news—every week? the answer is: ReadTheSpirit,” said author and peace activist Brenda Rosenberg in a meeting with our staff on Friday. “What you publish is so important! Don’t forget that!”
Over more than 10 years, ReadTheSpirit has published thousands of columns about religious and cultural diversity—and innovative approaches to peacemaking. Our online columns and published books come from a dozen different faith perspectives, including Judaism, Christianity, Islam and many other global traditions.
So, as world events cascaded over the weekend, as Editor, I decided to share a powerful sermon I heard on Sunday morning (August 13, 2017) at Clarkston United Methodist Church north of Detroit. While the context here is specifically Christian—we offer this as an example of swift and inspiring response from religious leaders.
Bishop’s call to prayer
This response began on Saturday with a Michigan-wide online letter from Bishop David Bard. As this coming week unfolds, many other statements from religious leaders are likely to cascade into the news—but Michigan’s Bard was swift enough to allow clergy preparing for Sunday worship to consider reading his message aloud.
That’s what happened during the Sunday morning sermon by Clarkston’s the Rev. Rick Dake. Here is the text that Bard released on Saturday, which then was read by Dake (and presumably other clergy) on Sunday:
This week, I invited Michigan United Methodists to join in prayer for our United Methodist Church during its season of discernment. The prayer I offered included a prayer for the world. God loves extravagantly in Jesus Christ.
The brokenness and woundedness of this world has become painfully evident during the week. Rising tensions between the United States and North Korea raise new concerns about war. Last night and today in Charlottesville, Virginia, virulent racism raised its ugly head as white supremacists marched in that city resulting in tragic violence and death.
Again, I invite us all to prayer, and in our praying to deepen our commitment to love, to justice and to building community for the common good. I think of the words of Jesus, “Blessed are the peacemakers.” I think of the words of the poet W. H. Auden, “All I have is a voice… We must love one another or die.”
Peace and Grace,
David A. Bard
Pastor’s call to storytelling
In Clarkston, a large congregation in a suburban area north of Detroit, pastor Dake took that bishop’s letter and made it the centerpiece of a full-throated, prophetic call to action. But not to violent action. Rather, Dake’s entire message on Sunday morning was about countering the rampant stories of right-wing groups that demonize vulnerable minorities and incite violence.
Everyone can respond to this sermon. Yes, Dake framed his appeal in Christian terms. If you read this column, today, and you are one of our many readers from other faith groups—consider how this might sound within your own tradition.
Dake directly addressed threats of nuclear war traded between North Korea and President Trump—and also the right-wing violence in Charlottesville, VA, that led directly to one woman’s death, many serious injuries and a tragic helicopter accident that killed two more people.
“It is unthinkable today to gather in the name of Jesus Christ without condemning the principles of the Alt Right!” Dake declared as he began laying out his basic theme. “We must condemn these stories that seek to condemn others and that terrorize people. … Instead, we must proclaim stories that provide hope.” It is time, he said, “To stand up and declare which stories are right and which stories are wrong.”
Then, he read aloud the entire Bishop Bard letter from Saturday. Dake pointed out that Bard is encouraging each person of faith to lift a “voice.”