Guest Commentary: Rev. Jay D. Cooper
History reminds us that unless we learn from the past we are likely to repeat it. No other appropriate words could apply to the way Montgomery has witnessed strides toward racial reconciliation than these. Although we should all acknowledge that more may be done to bridge the divide between all boundaries we create for ourselves, we should also celebrate the sacrifices and efforts of those who have paved the road toward justice and peace. This reality could not have landed any more closely to home than it did on February 6th.
Student/Pastors from our conference who attend Candler School of Theology at Emory University are afforded the opportunity to participate in The Teaching Parish Program. This twenty-hour per semester program allows students to study leadership models for ministry. Some of the requirements include secular and congregational analyses, system theory models, ministry acts, homiletical praxis, and theological reflection papers. Under the leadership of Dr. Karl K. Stegall, the Teaching Parish group meets five times each semester to fulfill these requirements in keeping with the Contextual Education requirements of Candler.
On February 6th, however, Dr. Stegall heightened the program to a new level by inviting the group to attend a field trip. Much to our surprise we were offered the chance to engage in a private tour of Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church and its parsonage. These historical sites launched the ministry of Dr. King and the Civil Rights Movement. After being greeted with radical hospitality our group viewed a video which explained the history of Dexter Avenue Baptist. We were also privileged to experience the events of the Civil Rights Movement through mural artwork painted on the wall of the fellowship hall. Our assignment for the day, however, was to divide Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech into seven parts so that each student would be able to preach a segment of the August 28, 1963 speech, which has been heralded as the greatest speech of the 20th century. It is fair to say that none of us who embarked on this journey were ready to encounter the exhilaration and humility of preaching Dr. King’s speech from Dr. King’s pulpit. Imagine a group of seven white seminary students preaching from Dr. King’s pulpit. To think that we could preach from Dr. King’s pulpit in a city that was once ravaged by racism and intolerance was indeed a profound experience. Thus, we do well to learn (and remember) the mistakes and events of the past lest we repeat them. Praise be to God who is the author and sustainer of reconciliation and peace!
As each student read her or his assigned portion of the speech our imaginations raced with the indelible truth that we were living into a dream cast so long ago. For twelve minutes or so we glimpsed the possibility of a dream that foretells of a humanity who is “caught in an inescapable network of mutuality.” Brought to life was the notion that, “I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be, and you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be.” In that moment we were all reminded as church leaders that we must no longer be the tail lights in the community, but that the church must now be the head lights, illuminating the dark places of injustice and intolerance wherever these may exist. We caught a glimpse of the dream which calls for “justice to roll down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.” Mostly, though, we longed for the day when all God’s children may experience the freedom of equality and the hope of renewal.
As we celebrate Black History Month I would encourage our churches to consider making the trek to Montgomery to visit Dr. King’s church on Dexter Avenue and the parsonage on Jackson Street. Not only does history come alive in these hallowed places but as Christians we recognize that we are called to proclaim with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength that: “one day all God’s children, black men and white men, Jew and gentile, protestant and Catholic will join hands and sing together that familiar old spiritual…‘Free at last, free at last, thank God Almighty we are free at last.” Until the day this dream is fully realized may we love one another as we have been loved by our God.
World Without End…
The following information was shared with us from the Legal Department at the General Council on Finance and Administration regarding housing allowances for clergy:
In December 2010, the U.S. Tax Court issued a controversial decision in a case involving the clergy housing allowance. The decision held that a ministerial taxpayer could apply the housing allowance exclusion to more than one home. The IRS appealed the decision to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.
On February 8, 2012, the 11th Circuit reversed the Tax Court’s decision and held the housing allowance can only be applied to one home. We won’t bore you with the details behind the fairly short opinion, as the result was not at all surprising. Almost everyone (except for the taxpayer and a majority of the Tax Court!) had thought the housing allowance could only be applied to one home. So we are back to where we were.
This return to the status quo may be important information for any clergy who were planning on claiming an allowance for two homes on their 2011 returns or who requested designations to reflect the cost of two homes for 2012.
If you have questions you may call the Conference Treasurer or ask your personal tax preparer or CPA for further information.
Name: Hannah Gipson
School: Prattville Christian Academy
Years Attended Prattville United Methodist Church: 17
What mission trips have you participated in with PUMC? Nashville 2009; Hinton NC 2010, 2011; Choir Tour 2010, 2011
What was your favorite trip and why? The mission trip to Nashville was by far my favorite. Through helping and serving the homeless, my eyes were opened to the many ways that God works in people’s lives. I had an awesome time and learned so much about God and His love for His people.
At what point in the trip was it evident God called you to be a part of the trip? It was evident to me God had called me to be on this mission trip when I met a young, homeless couple named Tammy and Pete. They shared with me their story of becoming homeless, and how God had been with them every step of the way. Through their story, I realized that God called me to be on this mission trip, not only for me to try to make an impact on these people, but because He knew that they would make a lasting impact on me.
What was the biggest challenge on the trip? The biggest challenge of this trip was stepping out of my comfort zone, and actually trying to get to know the homeless people we came in contact with.
How are PUMC Mission trips different from say school or family trips? Mission trips differ from just a school or family trip because they help build faith, character, and lasting relationships.
Why is it important to you to develop a sense of giving and caring at a young age? A young person that is caring and giving can impact and set a huge example for people more than adults sometimes can.
The Resurrection Run is a big fundraiser for youth missions. Tell the AWF Conference more about that. The Resurrection Run is the most important fundraiser for youth missions. It’s a 5K/10K race on March 3 through historic downtown Prattville, Alabama. All of the proceeds go to the youth missions programs. It’s an awesome, fun way to support the youth group. More details and registration can be found online at www.resrunfumc.com.
What are some changes some people will see this year from previous years? People can definitely expect to see more organization due to the church’s experience with putting on the run. There will be electronically tabulated race results, and it will hopefully be larger in scale as people have come to know the Resurrection Run as a solid, well run event year after year.
How fast do you think Nick, your youth director, will run…..or will he finish at all? I’m sure he’ll finish… But it might take a few hours… or days.
I heard it poured last year during the run but was still a success! How did the youth group come together and work as a team to still make it a success? We got our rain jackets, umbrellas, set up tents, and worked together to do what we needed to do. A little rain never hurt anyone.
What words of advice would you give to those reading this throughout the conference in regards to supporting youth groups? The youth are the future of the church, so it is incredibly important for us to have support. You can support youth groups through your service, money and many other ways.
In ten years you hope to be…… graduated from college, teaching elementary school, and married with children.
(Rev. Joe Bullington) - That’s the way the Passover Seder ends, and it’s appropriate for the Alabama-West Florida Conference; Bishop Paul Leeland invites the conference to join him in January of 2013 for a pilgrimage to the Holy Land.
It will be a life-changing experience for all who participate. You’ll never read the Bible in the same way again after you have walked in the places where God unfolded His drama of redemption. Its scenes will come alive after you have bowed at the manger in Bethlehem, worshipped on the Sea of Galilee, followed the Palm Sunday crowd down the Mount of Olives, knelt in the Garden of Gethsemane, walked the Via Dolorosa, wept at Golgotha, and sung at the empty tomb.
And you can experience all this with people you know and love. Brochures are available on the conference website here, and also in the Episcopal Office. Pastors and lay leaders are invited to become Tour Hosts to invite their church members to join the pilgrimage. To become a Tour Host, contact Rev. Joe Bullington at firstname.lastname@example.org. Register by mail using the form on the brochure, by phone at 1-800-247-0017, or online at www.eot.travel.
Next year in Jerusalem!
As we celebrate Black History Month, probably the most notable leader in the Civil Rights Movement is now properly memorialized in our nation's capital thanks to one of our outstanding leaders in the Alabama-West Florida Conference. Mr. Frank Jenkins, III, a member of Metropolitan United Methodist Church, where he serves on the administrative council as well as several conference committees, was appointed to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Foundation’s board of directors upon its formation in 1998 and has served from inception to dedication as chairman of the audit committee.
This memorial took over 28 years to accomplish and its history is worth noting. A small group of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Incorporated members developed the idea for the memorial in 1983 to honor their Alpha brother, Dr. Martin Luther King. A year later, they presented their idea to the General Convention of Alpha Phi Alpha and the Fraternity embraced the memorial as a national project. Sadly, the idea was not embraced by the American public for several years so the plan was tabled.
Diligent Fraternity members continued behind-the-scenes work in the 1990s where the dream became a reality. Under the leadership of Alpha Phi Alpha's 29th General President, Milton Davis (a Tuskegee, Alabama attorney), the United States Congress passed, then President Bill Clinton signed legislation authorizing the Fraternity to establish a memorial in Washington DC dedicated to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Later in the decade it was established that the memorial would be located in the National Mall where other significant leaders of our country are memorialized such as Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson and war veterans; a place for the brave few.
On May 28, 1998 the Washington, DC Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation, Incorporated was founded. This organization was solely responsible for the planning, building and fundraising of the memorial. At this point, two Montgomery leaders were appointed to help guide the committee. Attorney Tyrone Means and Frank A. Jenkins III of Montgomery donated valuable time to lend their expertise to this committee. As mentioned, Jenkins, a CPA, served as chair of the audit committee and Means was legal counsel. Jenkins expressed his gratitude for this honor by saying, "On behalf of the board of directors of the Washington, DC Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation, Incorporated, I thank all of our brothers and sisters from the United Methodist Churches and from around the world for the contributions to the completion of the Memorial."
General Motors generously initiated the fundraising campaign with a grant of $10 million in 2001. The 31st General President of Alpha Phi Alpha, Harry E. Johnson, Sr., implemented a new fundraising plan to raise $120 million.
906 design entries were submitted from 52 countries. ROMA Design Group of San Francisco, CA was granted the project. Their design incorporated four themes Dr. King embraces which were Justice, Hope, Democracy and Love. Countless approvals by the National Capital Planning Commission, the US Commission of Fine Arts and the National Park Service were required during the design process. A celebratory groundbreaking finally happened on November 13, 2006 with three presidents in attendance (then President George Bush, former President Bill Clinton and future President and then US Senator Barack Obama). Master Lei of China was announced as the sculptor on January 15, 2007. On June 5, 2007, the Foundation announced that the McKissack/Turner Construction/Tompkins Builders/Gilford Corporation Design-Build Joint Venture was selected as the contractor for the project.
In 2008, the National Park Service, the National Capital Planning Commission, and the Commission of Fine Arts granted full, final design approval for the project. The construction permit was signed by Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar on October 29, 2009. Construction finally began along the Tidal Basin in December of 2009; thirteen years after legislation approving the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial was signed!
The actual development phases of the memorial from construction until completion—which took almost two years—were mobilization; infrastructure; art work and landscaping. What made the Memorial come to life were the donations from people from all backgrounds. Seven-figure checks to envelopes with one-dollar bills combined to form this phenomenal structure that represents the struggle for equal rights. The Memorial has raised $117,000,000 of the requested $120,000,000 as of October 16, 2011.
President Obama had the honor of speaking at the dedication of the Memorial on Sunday, October 16, 2011.
It was a small dream of six Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Members that took 28 years to accomplish. Nobody knew it would take this long. But Dr. King strongly believed in dreams, no matter how hard they were. He had one, too.
*Based on information from the August 28, 2011 Commemorative Program