Southern California Nevada Conference of the United Church of Christ
Quick News From Jane
Jane Fisler Hoffman, Interim Conference Minister

Hello, dear Southern California Nevada Colleagues,

As you know, much is being said around the country about one of our United Church of Christ congregations and one of our pastors, Rev. Dr. Jeremiah Wright.  I have been hearing from some of our church folk who only know what they are hearing in the news and are concerned about our UCC faith family and who want to understand more fully.  All of this is happening in the context of the national political arena and, in my view, our church and pastor are being used by the media and political forces.  I don't intend to comment on that aspect.  But I can speak personally about the church and the pastor.   Some of you know that my husband and I are still members of Trinity UCC and Dr. Wright was our pastor.  We hold him in high regard and are stunned by the way his long, respected and honorable ministry is being assaulted by selecting a handful of 'sound bites' from thousands of sermons made over 40 years of ministry.  These out of context moments do not begin to express the biblical prophetic foundations and African American experience from which Rev. Wright speaks.  I know that some of you have gone to the Trinity UCC website to seek the complete sermons and were not able to access them but I am told that soon 50 of Rev. Wright's sermons will be accessible there. 

 

Several documents have been linked below which you may find helpful:  a statement by Rev. John Thomas, biographical information about Dr. Wright, and a piece about the African American prophetic tradition.  You may share this with people you know who have questions about all of this.  You can also find more from the national UCC at ucc.org.

 

Finally I just want briefly to voice my own experience as a member of Trinity United Church of Christ. (By the way, I have spoken with several reporters about our experience at Trinity but am never referred to in print, I presume because my experience is POSITIVE!)  Milt and I are members there very intentionally because it is a Christ centered, Spirit filled congregation where the worship is powerful; the preaching is spiritually insightful and prophetic; the welcome to all is warm and embracing; mission is both local and global ; tithing is encouraged and expected; members bring and read their Bibles; and disciples are nurtured in the faith.  Yes, we are among just a few 'white' members.  And yes, sometimes in worship I hear a painful biblical challenge to the white privilege that has been part of my own life and to the racism that is so destructive in our culture.  That challenge has helped to shape  my own journey in following Jesus as I try to live and minister in ways that contribute to a more loving and just world.  But never---NEVER-have Milt or I felt unwelcome or unloved at Trinity because of the color of our skin. To the contrary, we consistently have felt loved and embraced because of our oneness with our sisters and brothers through Jesus Christ.  Our church family has prayed for us when our granddaughter was ill and Rev Wright has pastored me through some personally challenging times.  Milt and I have visited a village in Ghana West Africa where Trinity UCC has helped to build a community center with a library, provided computers for a classroom and a generator for the small hospital and they have strongly supported our UCC related Inanda School, for girls, in South Africa, in addition to significant support of Our Church's Wider Mission.

 

Let me close by telling you one story from our experiences at Trinity that demonstrates the kind of radical hospitality the Spirit offers through the congregation. On one Sunday we went to worship with a group of young Germans, about ten people who had come to Chicago as 'emerging leaders in Germany'.  A friend of mine was hosting them and wanted to give them an experience visiting an African American church.  We were able to arrange for Pastor Wright to meet with them before worship and after he came into the room he greeted them in German and prayed with us, in German.  After sharing some background of the church, the UCC and the African American church tradition, we all went to worship.  The service was, as always, uplifting---lively gospel singing by the 300 voice choir, a moving infant dedication service, etc.  Then, part way through the service, we noticed that Rev. Wright was again speaking in German, welcoming the German guests (in addition to the usual warm welcoming of all guests).  The next thing we knew, the choir was singing God's praise in an anthem in German!  (Wunderbar, Sie Nommen Wunderbar!).   Tears came to some of the guests' eyes and to mine.  Radical hospitality.   A reality quite different from the cruel characterization of the church as hateful or separatist.

 

Do I agree with every word from Rev. Wright's mouth?  No.  (No more than I agree with every word my husband says! )  But I have seen and experienced the dominant direction of his whole ministry which is toward love and justice and peace for all people in the name of Jesus Christ.  That is what I respect.

 

Holy Week Blessings,