Tuesday, June 23, 2015

#IAmBethel -- This Is My Story

AFTER THE BENEDICTION…ENGAGE!  -  A few faithful friends-n-kin begin sharing the #IAmBethel story where they live, learn, work and worship. They know it takes a Whole Village to raise a child.  They know the Christian church will grow around the little ones Jesus valued most.  But putting faith to work means bridging the gap between generations and diverse people of faith. Oh, and IT’S GOT TO BE FUN FOR THEM.

By Eric Stradford, U.S. Marine Corps, Retired

AMWS, June 23, 2015, Acworth, GA – Friends-n-Kin here and around the world are discovering America—this time with a new attitude about achieving “a more perfect union.”  Last week some 2.1 billion Christians worldwide awakened to a Kairos Event on their Chronos Timeline.    

At a time when family and close friends are hurting the most, Mother Emanuel A.M.E. Church, Charleston, SC is demonstrating 21st Century Southern Christian Leadership.  Their intentional, prosocial behavior is galvanizing diverse people of faith and law enforcement to value and protect lives where Americans live, learn, work and worship. 

Last night, The Reverend Leela Brown Waller, senior pastor of the historic Bethel AME Church joined The Freedom Church's J.R. Lee to declare an end to racism where they live, learn, work and worship.  Waller called on her AME kinfolk from Youth Achievers USA Institute (YouthUSA), to help Bethel AME Acworth share its story, “#IAmBethel.”    

Originally established as a “beyond-the-church-walls” ministry at Ebenezer AME Church, Ft. Washington, MD, YouthUSA develops economic programs in support Positive Youth Development.  Since 1996, the YouthUSA brand has focused on engaging American youth, ages 7-24, as economic beneficiaries.  YouthUSA’s  @FutureCorps7 handle establishes a pro-social venue with program support for local AME Churches in developing future Class Leaders.   

YouthUSA co-sponsors the National Learn-2-Earn Partnership  as an economic response to a credible national security threat.   According to The President of the United States, a “gulf of mistrust” exists between some Americans and others.  The political assessment just begins to acknowledge a history of behavior where citizens of color are systemically valued as “minorities” -- one among numerous terms perpetuating a less-than-equal human capital value.     

In the American tradition of proportional response, the Charleston, SC attack again brings terror to Our Street, USA.   Nine murdered members of the African Methodist Episcopal Church in South Carolina underscores the urgency for an appropriate, sustainable response.   Add to this slaughter, the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO, Eric Garner in Staten Island, Akil Gurly in NY, Tamir Rice in Cleveland, OH, Freddie Gray in Baltimore, Trayvon Martin in Sanford, FL and countless others, even children can see a pattern of behavior that needs to be changed.

“The AME Church will join with other faith communities to stress the need for the United States to face, discuss and meet head on the problem of race in this country,” said Bishop John R. Bryant, Senior Bishop of the AME Church.  Informed and engaged AMEs affectionately see Bryant as #IAmBethel’s “Rambo-n-the-Bush.”   His “boots-on-the-ground” presence models a story of servant leadership that is respected (or revered) worldwide.

Granting the troops unprecedented access through a variety of sources to include social media, @BishopJohn4th is tweeting a body of believers toward achieving the “more perfect union” envisioned by framers of the U.S. Constitution.  

This week, the #IAmBethel story presents national news reporting with its greatest challenge since Ben Franklin became wealthy publishing Poor Richard's Almanac.  CNN’s live coverage of Sunday’s worship service at Mother Emanuel in Charleston cut to commercial during some of the most significant elements of the service.     

The media’s insensitivity toward Christian values in their zeal to balance time and money will need to be bridged by some serious Christ-centered, Biblically based learning. Lifelong learners at one Vacation Bible School will investigate Colonial American behavior and its impact on 21st century national security.  In 1787, Richard Allen, a former slave of African origin, started a conversation on Race in America.  When fellow Christians at Philadelphia’s St Georges Methodist Episcopal Church refused change, Richard Allen prayedAllen and his historically disadvantaged friends-n-kin got up off their knees and moved their conversation on race into a blacksmith shop.  Diverse communities of faith have since sweated through my-way-or-the-highway worship models with hopes of declaring once and for all, #WeAreOne.
Richard Allen’s vision of the future is evidenced by a lineage of 132 elected and consecrated servant leaders and local stations serving believers among 2.1 billion Christian friends-n-kin.   The first station was dedicated as Bethel in 1794 on a lot purchased by Allen in 1791 on the corner of Sixth and Lombard Streets, Philadelphia.  Today, Mother Bethel AME Church stands as the oldest parcel of land in North America owned by families of freed slaves.

Up to now, AMEs have taught future leaders through litanies and hymns with multi-generational messages such as, “This is my story, this is my song.”  But now, with so many angry voices demanding justice, emerging AME Class Leaders will need to apply two centuries of training to some “boots-on-the-ground” intervention.

#IAmBethel is not limited to the subject of race in America. It speaks to a culture of fear and intimidation, and parallels the story, #IAmAmerican.  It presents one immediate option for #HealingAmerica.   

The President of the Council of Bishops of the African Methodist Episcopal Church invoked an American Dream Deferred on behalf of historically disadvantaged heirs on five continents around the world. “The arrest of Dylann Storm Roof, the assailant and alleged murderer does not end this matter. In fact this matter makes even clearer that race is a major problem in our nation that must be dealt with,” said Bishop Julius McAllister. 

Evidence-based outcomes are measured on five continents in regions like South Carolina, USA. “African Methodist in South Carolina are strong and faithful, we will not shy away or lessen our commitment to equality and social justice,” said Bishop Richard Franklin Norris, Presiding Bishop of South Carolina. “This will make us stronger and more determined to advance God’s kingdom on earth. This tragedy will not weaken, but strengthen us. African Methodism will become stronger because of this tragedy,” Norris said.

“The nation can no longer live in denial and act as if it does not exist. Every week there is some incident which involves the negative consequences of race,” McAllister added.  In one voice, the Council of Bishops held true to historic values for #HealingAmerica.

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