Disciples of Christ General Assembly, July 2019, Des Moines, Iowa — Reflections by Rev. Sydney M. Avent, Esq.
The preachers for the three plenary worship services I attended were unique and inspiring. Each preached the text. Rev. Ruben del Pilar reminded us that abiding in Jesus means tarrying with Jesus. Rev. Dr. Cynthia Hale observed that although unity is Disciples’ polar star; it is not our natural gifting. Yet, she noted that we don’t have to manufacture unity; we just have to manifest it. Every one of us is invaluable to God and ought to be to each other. And in the final worship service, Rev. Dr. William Barber elevated for us the fact that leadership by the oppressed, the poor, and the rejected is a prerequisite for systemic change. (The recorded worship services can be found at https://www.disciplesga.org/?sfns=mo)
But preaching was not limited to the plenary worship services. Those of us who attended the Reconciliation Ministry’s breakfast started our Tuesday with a sermon by Rev. David Anderson Hooker who challenged our approach to reconciliation and anti-racism. Recalling that Jesus asked the man at the pools of Bethesda whether he wanted to be whole, Rev. Hooker argued that rather than seeking reconciliation, we should be seeking wholeness. And, rather than seeking anti-racism, we should seek harmony. The focus is systemic and not individualistic.
The post-Assembly rally sponsored by the various Disciples of Christ Justice Ministries was unique in its focus. Although the rally was physically held in front of the state capitol, no demands were made on government. The voices of local Des Moines justice organizations were centered. Rev. Teresa Hord Owens, DOC GMP, and Rev. Dr. William Barber also spoke. All of us were asked to participate in a litany which included confession and repentance for the Church’s/churches’ complicity and active participation in oppression in myriad forms. The focus of the rally was naming the Church’s/churches’ wrongs and committing to the remediation of those wrongs.
Finally, being at the GA made apparent the breadth of opportunities I have had to serve and the myriad relationships I have made across all expressions of the church, local, regional and general, in just a few years. I am grateful!