Special -- Do Not Be Intimidated: Churches Uniting in Christ Sunday
The inauguration of Churches Uniting in Christ (CUIC) occurred on January 20, 2002, a mere four months after the tragic events of September 11, 2001. In the United States that was a time of terror, suspicion, and foreboding. Yet in the midst of that alarm, nine churches* gathered in Memphis, TN, on Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend to commit themselves to a new relationship characterized by faith and hope. What audacity!
The Rev. Michael Kinnamon, then the General Secretary of the Consultation on Church Union (COCU), the predecessor body to CUIC, spoke eloquently. "…let it be recorded that in an age of fearfulness Christians gathered in Memphis, Tennessee, to celebrate the love of God that casts out fear – to demonstrate fearlessness in the way we live as churches with one another."
The First Letter of Peter encourages Christians to break with the social fabric of their community saying, "Do not fear what they fear, and do not be intimidated" (1 Pet. 3:14 NRSV). Racism is a social evil woven through the fabric of our society and even our churches. It takes audacious courage to unravel and break the systemic, institutional, and internalized threads of racism and white privilege in the social fabric of our day. But CUIC congregations are not intimidated. The Marks of Participation in the CUIC relationship state, "The participating churches will recognize a particular and emphatic call to 'erase racism' by challenging the system of white privilege that has so distorted life in this society and in the churches themselves."
"Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you" (1 Pet. 3:15 NRSV). We are not called to defend ourselves as CUIC, but rather to engage others in our hope that through our one faith in Christ we may make a visible witness to the unity of the church, that working together we will become whole and undivided, that living and working in the CUIC relationship we will weave a different social fabric.
Let us pray together with all congregations who participate in the CUIC relationship:
Comforting and loving God,
who strengthens us with courage and emboldens our resolve,
cast out our fears of one another,
of differences we don't understand,
of traditions and customs that confuse us.
Reconciling God, who calls us to be one in Jesus Christ,
to make one witness to our common faith,
provoke us to tear down dividing walls of racism,
to prevail over barriers erected by privilege,
and to cross chasms created by ignorance and indifference.
who admonishes us to love one another even as we have been loved,
help us realize that in coming together before you and
working together on Christ's mission we have nothing to lose
but our separation from you and from one another.
Forgiving God, who patiently waits yet continually yearns for us to overcome the sins of disunity and racism,
stir us to confess that racism diminishes all of us, and remind us that our radical hope springs from our resurrection faith.
Renew our commitment to our relationship with one another in Churches Uniting in Christ;
Refresh our vision of unity in Jesus, and Rejoice with us as we give you thanks and praise for all your gracious gifts to us and through us.
In the name of Jesus whom we confess to be the Christ, Amen.
*The nine CUIC member churches were: African Methodist Episcopal, African Methodist Episcopal Zion, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Christian Methodist Episcopal, The Episcopal Church, International Council of Community Churches, Presbyterian Church USA, United Church of Christ, and The United Methodist Church. In 2006 the Moravian Church Northern Province joined CUIC as a full member. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America affiliates with CUIC as a Partner in Mission and Dialogue.
Do Not Be Intimidated: Prayer for Churches Uniting in Christ Sunday was written by the Rev. Patrice L. Rosner, Director of Churches Uniting in Christ with offices on the campus of Eden Theological Seminary in St. Louis, MO.
Copyright 2008 Local Church Ministries, Worship and Education Ministry Team, United Church of Christ, 700 Prospect Avenue, Cleveland, OH 44115-1100. Permission granted to reproduce or adapt this material for use in services of worship or church education. All publishing rights reserved.