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Why Celebrate Black History Month as a Church?

Topics: , | | Posted on: 02.09.2018

A post by Duke Kwon, pastor of our sister church Grace Meridian Hill written on Feb 1, 2018:

Today marks the beginning of #BlackHistoryMonth. Why might non-black Christians observe/celebrate Black History Month at non-black churches?

1. To deepen fellowship with our black Christian sisters/brothers by honoring their family stories, learning about the historical and cultural contexts that shape who they are.

2. To cultivate cross-cultural skills in order to love our black local neighbors more genuinely and more effectively; after all, we cannnot love our neighbors well without knowing their stories and without sharing a “common memory” of the past.

3. To learn more of the all too neglected history of the Black Church, recognizing that Black Church History is Church History.

4. To model the gospel ethic of mutuality/interdependency by esteeming a subdominant culture—historically, one devalued/subjugated even in/by the Church—celebrating its people and achievements and witnessing its vast potential to fortify the ministry and mission of the Church.

5. To grow in repentance for corporate sins committed against Black people, often in the name of Christ—sins past and present, of commission and omission—as a necessary step toward true reconciliation and interethnic unity in the Church.

prayer in light of charlottesville

A Grace Downtown Prayer in Light of Charlottesville

A prayer co-authored by Elder Rob Spackey and Cultural Intelligence ministry leader Mazaré Rogers on behalf of Grace Downtown leadership.

 

God our Father and Mighty Reconciler,

In light of the recent white nationalist rally and subsequent events in Charlottesville, VA, as a church we pray…

  • For people of color in Charlottesville, VA in particular and in our country at large

Lord, for many, the public demonstration of torch-carrying white nationalists chanting hate speech is both shocking and all too familiar. It triggers memories from experiences lived and learned about where mobs wearing hoods marched through the streets, crosses were burned, and black people were physically assaulted. For our people of African-American, Asian-American, Latin American, and Native American descent, the demonstration can also bring to mind everyday instances when people have been shown that they weren’t respected or valued as a person made in your worthy image.

Father, as they remember, whisper to them how much you treasure them (1 Peter 2:9-10). Remind us all that you are always watching and always working to dismantle oppressive systems and make individuals into the likeness of your perfect son Jesus Christ (Romans 8:29).

  • For the families of those killed and those physically injured as a result of the rally this past weekend

Father, we lift up the 20 people struck by the car driven into the crowd of counter-protesters. We thank you for their efforts to defend what is right and good. We pray, great physician, that you would grant them a speedy recovery. And for the activist Heather Heyer who died in the car attack and the Virginia State Troopers H. Jay Cullen and Berke M. M. Bates who died in a helicopter crash while bringing aid, we pray that their families would find solace in you amidst their anguish.

Please fill the victims and their families with a Christ-like spirit of forgiveness. While they may be fuming with righteous indignation, let them not be consumed with a spirit of malice or vengeance, for you have radically called us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us (Matthew 5:44-45). While this seems utterly impossible, with you, all things are possible.

  • For the Alternative Right, KKK, Neo-Nazi, and White Nationalist groups

God, you are the only supreme being. And even as the Most High, you humbled yourself and came to earth in the form of the baby Jesus Christ, the savior of the world. The only one who deserves praise for being superior is you. Lord, you promise to humble those who exalt themselves. We pray you will humble the people who consider themselves priceless and others worthless.

Teach white nationalists that as the psalmist says, The earth is the LORD’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein (Psalm 24:1). That includes America and Americans. Open their ears and hearts to the people of color who cry “Ouch!” when they see cultural icons made of fabric and stone elevated above their humanity. May these warriors fighting for supremacy, injustice, and division experience a holistic transformation that leads them to fight for equity, justice, and unity instead.

  • For our leaders, for our country, and for an end to systemic racism

Lord, we pray for Michael Signer, the mayor of Charlottesville; Terry McAuliffe, the governor of Virginia; President Donald Trump; and other leaders. We pray that they would lead with justice, compassion, a clear sense of right and wrong, and the courage to use their power for good. Lord, our country’s history of racial hatred and violence that denies the equal humanity of people of color is shameful and abominable in your sight.

We pray for longsuffering when people of color are faced with inequality and an affront to their dignity. We pray for your mercy on our nation, and pray that you would lead us in paths of righteousness for your name’s sake. We pray for an end to systemic racism that may not look like a racist remark, but more widely undermines people of color’s flourishing in our society.

  • For Christians responding to the Charlottesville, VA event

Mighty Reconciler, help majority culture Christians know how to respond in love to, walk with, and bear the burdens of minority brothers and sisters in Christ. We pray for indifferent Christians who believe that racism is insignificant. We pray that they would yearn for justice and the equal valuing of all people. Jesus walked in meekness and patience, even with those who acted violently toward him. He said that we should love our enemies.

Lord, we pray for Christians of color who are faced with violent and hateful treatment, that they would take comfort from a suffering-servant-Savior, who is able to sympathize with them in every way. We confess our lack of concern for justice, and thank you that your purposes, including complete restoration and redemption, can never be thwarted. We pray for these purposes to be accomplished. Lord, let your good and perfect will be done.

 

In Jesus’ name,

Amen

 

ELokArticleFeatured

“The Waiting Room”- a Faith & Work reflection

Topics: , | Tags: , , , | Posted on: 05.26.2017

“The Waiting Room” hosted by the Faith & Work ministry featured panelists who discussed their struggles waiting for fulfilling employment. They highlighted how the Lord has met them during these difficult times. Below is a reflection from JM, a member at Grace Downtown who attended the event.

On Waiting

Things are pretty good on the work front for me right now. I have a fine job. It pays well. It gives me opportunities to advance. I enjoy working with my team. I’m not in a corrosive or toxic work environment. Given all these factors, one might think that I wouldn’t be drawn to a Faith and Work (F&W) talk about seasons of waiting. Yet I found myself at this event, seated among friends who also resonate with being in a space of waiting – for the next job, the next opportunity, the next step.

Waiting is an ongoing issue for me. I often sense that I continue to wait for something I can’t quite name, something that’s still out in the future. For me, waiting can feel like ongoing tension – like I need to do something to change the uncomfortable dynamic of not feeling satisfaction. It can also feel like a constant burden, manifesting in guilt, bitterness, or even dread. Waiting can make me feel very powerless, and very alone.

Desperate Waiting

The brothers and sisters on the F&W panel described their experiences with unemployment, under-employment, and unfulfilling employment. They spoke of self-doubt, of many sleepless nights, of the disappointment that calcifies into jadedness after one too many unsuccessful interviews. The stories took many forms, but they all pointed to an underlying reality of so many seasons of waiting: desperation.

As I heard these testimonies, I remembered a time in my life when I felt this very kind of desperation. I felt like I was failing, and I couldn’t articulate a clear path ahead in my professional life. Yet looking back, I remember a sweetness in that season – I was learning how to be desperate before my God, and how to depend on him in deeper ways than I ever had before. As I heard my brothers and sisters describe their honest struggles in waiting, I was reminded that part of our responsibility in these seasons is to honestly admit – to God and to ourselves – how desperate the waiting actually makes us. This type of honesty sets the stage for the work God actually intends to do in us during these times.

Faithful Waiting

Periods of waiting can serve as a foundry to form our character to be more like the character of Christ.

When I face a period of waiting, I usually find myself putting in lots of effort to try to enforce my will on my circumstances – through working harder, or through trying to change aspects of my environment, or simply by mentally disengaging when I decide I can’t pull off the changes I envision. But what shone through all the comments of the panelists was how a season of waiting hasn’t had its full effect until it serves to grow my faith. It’s not meant to create space for me to perform heroic efforts, or to guilt myself into somehow achieving superior results, or anything else of the sort. Waiting is a holy space used by God to build more of Christ’s character in us. To use a season of waiting well is to meet God in this dance.

Active Waiting

Of course, life is full of choices, and these choices involve risk. God doesn’t shield us from the presence of these risks. He gives us wisdom to guide our paths, but this wisdom doesn’t function like a set of clues to a game that enable us to achieve all our objectives. Instead, this wisdom gives us the basics that we need to actively wait. Even while we wait and depend on God for outcomes, actively waiting involves willingness to take risks. Risks like being humble in environments where everyone seems to be out for their own self-promotion. Risks like honoring uninteresting tasks when we’re tempted to view them cynically, in the hope that God can use our love and creativity to achieve good outcomes through them. Even risks like signing up for another interview.

I came away from the F&W panel realizing in new ways that we’re all waiting for something, or for several things. For many of us, this involves waiting for next steps in our work. We’re not alone in this waiting, and we’re not powerless. Hearing from Grace Downtown members who are at varying stages of their professional journeys helped me remember this, and their stories helped me recover aspects of what it means to wait well.

Community Life

Leadership Candidates

Topics: | Tags: , , | Posted on: 05.25.2017

On June 18, we will join together with members of our extended church family from Grace Mosaic and Grace Meridian Hill for our annual Network-Wide Members’ Meeting. As part of this special meeting and worship service, we will vote on welcoming new members into leadership positions at Grace Downtown.

Ahead of this meeting, please take some time to get to know the candidates. On this page, you’ll find introductions to each of the candidates who Grace Downtown members have nominated for leadership.

Announcement

Get the New Grace Downtown App

Posted on: 05.25.2017

Download it from your App Store today!

Grace Downtown is excited to announce our new mobile app. Listen to sermons, share prayer requests, access the event calendar and give online. Stay connected with this easy-to-use tool.

iOS App Store
Google Play Store

Global Partners

Spend a week this summer in Kiev

Topics: | Posted on: 05.23.2017

One of our global partners, Radstock, is looking for people to spend one week in Ukraine this summer working with a local church doing student outreach.

Big City Church (Presbyterian) in Kiev is launching their third church plant, City Heart, this summer in the old town area of Kiev, Ukraine.

The launch of the new church is 5 day English camp that draws mostly non-believers. They are looking for Christians of all ages who speak English to come, hang out with Ukrainian young people (ages 16 to 30), befriend them, and be involved in activities from volleyball to teaching English to sharing your faith.

When: The camp is August 7-13th.
Cost: Flight plus $400 ground costs.

Interested? Want more information? Contact Kara Callaghan, karacallaghan@radstock.org.

Announcement

Volunteer at the Capitol Hill Pregnancy Center

Topics: , | Tags: | Posted on: 05.10.2017

The Capitol Hill Pregnancy Center, a partner ministry of Grace Downtown, is looking for labor and delivery nurses, midwives, childbirth instructors & doulas who would be interested in teaching our Childbirth Classes. You would not need to create the curriculum.

The CHPC is also looking for doctors, nurses and sonographers who would train to do sonograms at the CHPC. Training will be provided.

For any questions or interest, please contact Lina Gentry, Director of Client & Volunteer Services, at volunteers@CHPC.us to begin the application process.

Community Life

Smell Like The Connect Team

Topics: | | Tags: , , | Posted on: 02.15.2017

“But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life.”
2 Corinthians 2:14-16

What do you smell like? Do those around you smell death or life? This is a very sobering question because many times we live like our being in the world is neutral by default. Yet from Christ’s vantage point, nothing is neutral. We are either the fragrance of life to those visiting Grace Downtown or the fragrance of death. As we think about welcoming guests into our community and connecting them to our various ministries, let us remember that people can smell us. They can smell our hospitality or indifference. They can smell Christ in us or our own self-promotion. And so the question: What do you smell like?

Imagine a world where you lived to your full potential, surrounded by numerous fans and colleagues that loved you and worked toward your success. Imagine never feeling lonely, every interpersonal interaction filled with laughter. Imagine being known and not having to hide anything. Imagine feeling connected to everyone you meet, every part of creation you encountered—the sky, birds, animals, plants. This is what life is like in the kingdom of God. This is the world Jesus Christ provides, heaven on earth. This is the world we were created to be in, totally connected to God, each other, and all of creation.

In John 10:10–11 Jesus says, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that hey may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” This is the gospel. This is the good news we want people to experience and know. How do we do this? By being present. Henri Nouwen, an internationally renowned Dutch Priest who died in 1996, said the following regarding the ministry of presence:

“More and more, the desire grows in me simply to walk around, greet people, enter their homes, sit on their doorsteps, play ball, throw water, and be known as someone who wants to live with them. It is a privilege to have the time to practice this simple ministry of presence. Still, it is not as simple as it seems. My own desire to be useful, to do something significant, or to be part of some impressive project is so strong that soon my time is taken up by meetings, conferences, study groups, and workshops that prevent me from walking the streets. It is difficult not to have plans, not to organize people around an urgent cause, and not to feel that you are working directly for social progress. But I wonder more and more if the first thing shouldn’t be to know people by name, to eat and drink with them, to listen to their stories and tell your own, and to let them know with words, handshakes, and hugs that you do not simply like them, but truly love them.”

When we seek the other person’s well being more than our own, we are truly present. The Connect Team is not about busyness, impressive projects, and fulfilling your desire to be useful. No. It is simply about showing people what the gospel smells like by your presence, conversations, smiles, and stories. We are not connecting people to ourselves, but to Christ in us. Do you smell like Jesus?

The Connect Team helps newcomers connect to Grace Downtown and better understand the Christian faith. If you’re interested in learning more about their work or joining the team, email Pastoral Fellow Andrew Russel at andrew@gracedc.net.

Announcement

Black Heritage Month

Topics: | Posted on: 02.01.2017

February is the month our country takes special effort to honor the rich heritage of African Americans. Their story, one of resilience in the face of great adversity, is a testament to God’s faithfulness and deliverance. No one culture can comprehensively display the beauty of the image of God. So as the multi-ethnic family of God, let us join in celebration and solidarity with one another. Here are a few events happening in the city this month to educate, unite, and uplift us.

 

Sat Feb 4- Black Renaissance: Resilience

A celebration & evolution of black culture through music, dance, fashion, spoken word, visual art, and film.

Date: Saturday Feb 4

Time: 8:30-11:00 pm

Location: Anacostia Arts Center, 1231 Good Hope Road SE

Tickets: blck.eventbrite.com

 

Wed Feb 8- “13th” Movie & Discussion

A viewing of the film, “13th,” which addresses the fact that Black and Latino Americans are over-represented among prison populations. Click here for more info.

Date: Wednesday Feb 8

Time: 6:30-9:30 pm

Organizer and Host: Christ Our Shepherd Church, 801 North Carolina Ave SE

 

Thurs Feb 23- Books to Brushes: Strengthening Literacy Through Art

Children and teens will read and discuss a black history related book and paint pictures inspired by it. Click here for more info.

Date: Thursday Feb 23

Time: 4:00 pm

Location: Francis A. Gregory Library, 3660 Alabama Ave SE

 

Mon Feb 27- Racial Unity and Justice Potluck (Little Lights)

Meet others interested in racial unity and justice in DC. Potluck and time of fellowship and prayer.

Date: Monday Feb 27

Time: 6:30-9:00 pm

Location: Little Lights, 760 7th St SE

Articles

Hope for Change: Experiencing Transforming Grace in 2017

Every January 1st, hope is high. After a few weeks of holiday cheer (and a few dozen cookies) many of us are ready for a change. With the New Year, it’s a natural time to reevaluate things: our eating habits (detox, detox, detox), our exercising habits (wake up, wake up, wake up), our scheduling habits (slow down, slow down, slow down). However, the stats remind us as few as 8% of people will actually make lasting change. Why not attach our hope for change to something–Someone–who has a proven track record?

Our Winter Term theme is all about change: Transforming Grace (or what the Bible calls “sanctification”). While change is never easy, “what is impossible with men, is possible with God” (Luke 18.27). The battle begins by believing that we can change, so we’ll study the Framework of transforming grace (understanding God’s commitment, provision and plan to change us). The next question is how to change. We’ll study the Means of transforming grace (grasping the daily resources given to us for change). Lastly, as Christians have been studying godly change for a long time, we’ll study the Story of change–mining church history for wisdom.

Why not truly invest in change for 2017 and join us for an experience of Transforming Grace at Winter Term? See Winter Term Details for more information.

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