A special thank you to all those who attended Bridging the Divide Unity Walk, Thursday, June 18, 2020.
Our brothers and sisters from Epworth, Faith, Israel United Methodist churches and Seaside Jewish Congregations gathered at Epworth at 6:30 p.m. to hear from our very own Bishop Peggy A. Johnson — bishop of the Philadelphia Area of the United Methodist Church—Peninsula Delaware Annual Conference/Eastern Pennsylvania Annual Conference — give words of support, encouragement, and a prayer. At 7 p.m. we walked on the sidewalk South of Coastal Highway, east of Rehoboth Avenue and northeast on Church Street to Faith United Methodist Church, Rehoboth Beach, Del.
It was a beautiful sight to behold as we circled Faith U.M. Church as a symbol of support and stood, sat or knelt in prayer for 8 minutes and 46 seconds. The purpose of this Unity Walk is an affirmation of Epworth United Methodist Church and Seaside Jewish congregations standing in unity, solidarity and cooperation with Faith and Israel United Methodist churches.
Rev. Marjorie Belmont-Burns greeted everyone and thanked them for attending, she thanked Pastor Bob Paulen and Bridging the Divide for organizing the event.
Rev. Belmont-Burns quoted Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends.” She thanked Rev. Vicki Gordy-Stith, pastor, and the Epworth family for their Statement of Solidarity. Since 2017, we have been remembering the words of our friends from Epworth United Methodist Church.
In 2017, Pastor Bob Paulen approached Rev. Vicky Starnes former pastor of Epworth U.M. Church and Rev. Belmont-Burns, pastor of Lewes Charge, because it was laid on his heart that we (Epworth, Faith and Israel United Methodist churches) should form a ministry that would break down the racial wall within our faith community.
“Our purpose of BTD (Bridging the Divide) is to create and increase diversity and solidarity, fight racism by building a multi-racial, multi-ethnic, and multi-cultural community connected through our churches.” Our first group event was watching the documentary “13”. From there we studied “The New Jim Crow” book, “Vital Conversations (from GCORR) General Commission on Religion and Race, Reconciling Ministries Bible Study.”
We have exchanged pulpits, held two Unity worship services, the event Revisit Rosedale, developed a covenant and formed friendships. Rev. Belmont-Burns spoke about the friendship that has developed between Nettie Green (member of Epworth) and herself. They shared meals and have long conversations about life and race relations. They both had “hard” challenging relationships about race because they want to understand one another, as well as listen to each other; they are now “besties.”
Rev. Belmont-Burns shared that at our January 2020 retreat, Bridging the Divide had decided to have a healing service on Good Friday. The Healing Service was chosen because although we (Epworth, Faith and Israel) have held various studies and events, Faith and Israel have doubt, suspicion and distrust that stems from the merger of the Peninsula Conference (white) and the Old Delaware Conference (Black). Promises were made to the Black churches, but to this day they have not been fulfilled!
When the covenant was introduced to Faith and Israel, there was much conversation. But the main questions were: “Are they (Epworth) trying to take our churches and our property?” The doubt and mistrust still linger, and until we are healed it will continue.
Our country is at a crossroad — and this is the church’s “golden” opportunity to show our country there is unity in our diversity. We believe the church can show the world that we can live together, pray together and have unity! Now is the time for the church to rise up and be the church! But first we, the church, must take the time to look within. As Michael Jackson said, “Take a look at the man/woman in the mirror.”
Rev. Belmont-Burns quoted a passage of scripture from Psalm 133:1: “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers and sisters to dwell together in unity.”
Special thanks to Rev. Dr. Vicki Gordy-Stith for greeting everyone and thanking us for attending the Unity Walk; Bishop Peggy A. Johnson for opening remarks; Rabbi Beth Cohen from Seaside Jewish Community for remarks; Lay Leader Carson Farmer, who led us in singing “We Shall Overcome”; and Rev. Dr. Vicki Gordy-Stith for the benediction.
There were approximately 100 diverse persons in attendance (adults and children).
This is only the beginning for the four faith communities. We will continue finding ways in which we can show America and beyond that we can “dwell together in unity.”
Rev. Marjorie Belmont-Burns, Pastor
Lewes Charge (Faith & Israel U.M. Churches)
Diaz J. Bonville, Lay Leader