When a group of 10 denominations gathers this weekend in St. Louis, a United Church of Christ leader and voice for racial justice will deliver the opening remarks before the group explores issues of race and reconciliation. The Rev. Waltrina Middleton, associate for National Youth Event programming, will preach during opening worship when Churches Uniting in Christ meets Jan. 28–30.
"This is a Kairos moment for the church to be prophetic in witness and works, and that is the prayerful hope of my reflections," said Middleton, whose cousin, the Rev. DePayne Middleton, was among the nine people killed at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C., in June. "I am a family member survivor of a great act of domestic terrorism. But I come to share as a faith leader, a young voice serving young leaders, as an organizer and activist and as a person directly impacted by racial violence."
The UCC is one of the 10 Christian communions that make up the CUIC, a body committed to expressing unity and combating racism together. In addition to Middleton’s remarks, shared worship, fellowship and dialogue will punctuate the event, which is expected to set the tone and direction for the future of the organization.
Middleton's sermon is titled, "Repairers of the Breach: Where Have All the Prophets Gone?" and "speaks to the prophetic call and role of the church to be actively engaged as leaders seeking, doing and building bridges for justice," she said. "Too often as progressive institutions, we take pride in our legacy of being drum majors for justice. But we stop building upon that legacy. How do we work to be conscious, accountable and self-examining in our complacency and complicity in racism that still exists in our society and world? How do we practice what we preach so that it goes beyond theory and sermonic metaphor?"
"In an age in which so much threatens to divide us within society and within the church, it is significant that these 10 churches are coming together to look at ways in which we can both more fully reconcile our churches and work together to heal the sinful division of race within our Christian communities and country," said the Rev. Robina Winbush, CUIC president and director of ecumenical relations for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). "We do this in response to the gospel mandate and as a witness to the world."