Dismantling Racism: Lent devotions by our bishops

The Council of Bishops invites everyone to a  season of introspection and self-examination. Each week of Lent and every day of Holy Week, a United Methodist Bishop will offer a short devotion. These times of reflection will challenge and inspire us to follow Jesus through the wilderness, alienation, betrayal and even death.  You can follow these devotions here. 

Virginia Roots, Race, and Discipleship; Starting January 24th, 2021

Thank you to everyone who took part in this discussion series.

As a follow up to our MLK service, the Church and Society group will be hosting a four-part study series called “Virginia Roots, Race, and Discipleship.” This video study has been produced by our conference of the UMC. Pastor Jeff Mickle was instrumental in its creation These studies will take place over several weeks beginning  January 24, 2021, and will be offered Sunday afternoon at 2, and Monday evenings at 7.  

Material for this study can be reviewed at https://vaumc.org/racerelations/

Commemorating the Life and Work of Martin Luther King Jr.

Rev. Sharma Lewis, Bishop of the Virginia Conference of the UMC, was the guest speaker at St. Stephen’s Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Service, Sunday, Jan. 17. You can view a replay of this service  here.

Download the Order of Worship for this service here. 

2020 Race and Faith Discussions

Moving Forward on Racial Justice : Putting Faith into Action

You’re invited to  upcoming online discussions as St. Stephen’s United Methodist Church in Burke, Va., continues to explore how to put our faith into action on racial justice issues. We hope you can participate in online talks sponsored by the  St. Stephen’s Church and Society Committee’s Racial Justice and Faith Group.

Past Events

Call for Prayer and  Fasting for the Healing of the Nation, Oct. 31-Nov. 2

Bishop Sharma D. Lewis is asking the entire conference to join her and the Call to Action Work Group for Racial Justice and Reconciliation for a three-day period of “Prayer and Fasting for the Healing of the Nation,” from Oct. 31-Nov.2, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Bishop Lewis writes : “We are fighting two pandemics—COVID-19 and systemic racism— that have taken the lives of individuals and forced us into a world of pain and suffering.” Read the bishop’s letter in its entirety at Prayer and Fasting for Healing. 

Racial Justice, Policing, and Faith – A Discussion with Fairfax County NAACP President

Sean Perryman,  president of the NAACP in Fairfax County, spoke , Oct. 26th,  during an online event sponsored by the  St. Stephen’s Church and Society Committee’s Racial Justice and Faith Group, part of the church’s continued  look at the social justice issues involved with policing, part of our larger conversation centered on racial inequities.  

In addition to being president of the Fairfax NAACP, Sean Perryman also is  also running to become the Democratic Party’s candidate for lieutenant governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Thanks to everyone who took part!

How do local jails cope with COVID-19? Sept. 17

During this online discussion, you can learn our how area  jails and  prisons are coping with COVID-19. A representative from OAR Nova  based in Fairfax City, will provide an overview of this nonprofit’s work and talk about how you can support OAR’s efforts.  OAR is a non-profit restorative justice organization that  provides human services. OAR’s mission is to rebuild lives and create a safer community with opportunities, alternatives, and resources for justice-involved individuals and their families.

Fairfax Communities of Trust.

Learn about the Fairfax Communities of Trust Committee, a diverse citizen group that focuses on strengthening and building positive relationships between the county’s public safety agencies and the community. 

Virginians Speak: A Dialogue on Policing Reform, Community, & Law Enforcement


“Virginians Speak: A Dialogue on Policing Reform, Community, & Law Enforcement in Virginia,”  co-sponsored by the Virginia Attorney General’s Office and the Virginia Conference of The United Methodist Church, was held online Tuesday, Aug. 11 .  The event featured a panel of prominent Virginians from the  law enforcement, community engagement, and faith communities, including Bishop Sharma D. Lewis.

 View a replay of the event here.

Summer 2020 St. Stephen's Race and Faith Film Discussions

August : “The Hate U Give”

 

An online discussion on  “The Hate U Give,” was held Aug. 3rd. Thank you to all who took part.

“The Hate U Give” (PG-13) focuses on the uneasy balance and the challenges faced by 16-year old, Starr, who has to constantly switch between two worlds: the poor, primarily black neighborhood, where she lives and the rich, mostly white, school she attends. A fatal shooting of her childhood best friend, at the hands of a police officer, brings a collison of these worlds and struggles for Starr and the families and communities impacted and involved. The movie is based on the bestselling book by Angie Thomas.

This film can be viewed on most of the major online platforms.

Questions for discussion:

1) Starr got two talks growing up: one about the “birds and the bees,” the other about what to do if she got stopped by a cop. Which talks were/are important in your family? How does your response reflect your social location?

2)  When Starr loses her childhood friend, Kahlil, to a police shooting, she’s surprised by her response and her initial fear of speaking up. How have you responded to recent police shootings of black people?  How do you imagine you’d respond if you were an eyewitness, like Starr?

3. Talk about the two worlds that Starr lives in: how she navigates between them and the reactions of her friends. 4.  There is a tension in the book between the anti-racist philosophies represented by civil rights activists Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Huey Newton, co-founder of the Black Panther Party. Who were you raised to admire? What does this tell you about the values your community prized—or feared?5. What did you most identify with or what did you most learn from watching this movie? 6. What actions can individuals and our church take to further racial justice in our personal relationships with others and in our community?

July Meeting : “13th”

This documentary highlights racial inequalities and injustices throughout the history of the United States with a focus on the penal  system.

Discussion Questions for “13th”

1.  Before watching “13th“, jot down some images and terms that come to mind when you hear the word “prisoner.”  After watching 13th, review your answers. How have your images changed?

2.  Crack vs Cocaine- same drug (one powdered, one cooked) but used in different racial communities and carry different sentencing.  Share how this contributed to mass incarceration.

3.  Think about the power of media and the power of words (“super predator,” criminal”) and how they impact the perception and criminalization of people of color, both in the past and the present.  Give current-day examples.

4.  According to the documentary, President Clinton built the infrastructure for mass incarceration: mandatory minimums (taking the discretion away from judges), militarization of police (SWAT teams), 3-strikes law, and truth-in-sentencing laws (must serve 85% of sentence). Discuss the role of politics and crime and how it impacts our communities today.

5. The impact of incarceration does not end when one returns to society as there are numerous collateral consequences that follow the returning citizen. This does not reflect our God (repent, forgiven, forgotten, healed) but we call ourselves a “Christian nation.”  Your thoughts?
6.  How should the church address the systemic injustices associated with mass incarceration?  What can our church do?

These questions were adapted from Amy L. William’s study guide which can be found at https://prisoninstitute.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/13th-Film-Discussion-Guide_By-Amy-Williams-1.pdf

June Meeting : “Just Mercy.” 

“Just Mercy” is the true-story of Bryan Stevenson and his legal work defending individuals who were wrongly condemned. The focus of the movie is on his first, and most incendiary, case that of Walter McMillian who, in 1987, was sentenced to die for the murder of an 18-year-old girl, despite a preponderance of evidence proving his innocence and the fact that the only testimony against him came from a criminal with a motive to lie. The movie follows the labyrinth of legal and political maneuverings and racism they faced in working for justice.

Discussion Questions

In the film, during a conversation between Walter and Bryan, Walter says “In Alabama […] you’re guilty from the moment you’re born.” What do you think he meant by that statement? Is that changing? What can we each do to change that?
How does this film influence your thinking about the death penalty? In what ways does your faith impact your thinking about the death penalty?
Please share your ideas on what our church and our local community can be doing to reduce poverty and ensure justice? What can we as individuals do? What can our church do?  What can we do in Burke/Fairfax/Annandale/Springfield?
Bryan Stevenson stated that “the opposite of poverty is not wealth; the opposite of poverty is justice.” How do you see poverty affecting people’s lives in Just Mercy? How do you see justice, or a lack of justice affecting people’s lives in the movie?
Did you find any examples of hope, resilience, or redemption in the film? Where?
How does Stevenson’s countercultural understanding of vocation—God’s call on each of our lives—challenge us to reconsider how we define success? Dr. Martin Luther King also challenged us to reconsider how we define success when he said, “We are prone to judge success by the index of our salaries or the size of our automobiles rather than by the quality of our service and relationship to mankind.”
What are some of the different meanings of the word “just” used throughout the movie? How does Micah 6:8 [And what does the Lordrequire of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God]use the word “justice” and what impact does this verse have in growing our faith and walk with God.