Submitted by Pastor Andrew Sanders, Fairfax United Methodist Church

Community is a word that has quite a bit of weight behind it and yet some, I believe, may be feeling a strain on their understanding of it in today’s world. Many people are battle worn coming out of this season. There have been so many ways in which we could feel divided and yet here we are finding a unified Spirit in our churches and our communities.

Last year our five United Methodist Churches in Atchison County came together with the vision of summer camp. Eagle Lake out of Colorado came and supported over 100 kids at camp.

We were amazed once again at the professionalism and safety that the camp provided for 80 kids this last week. The community of Christ was alive and active in the camp. We once again had many volunteers involved with a realization that community is so important during these times. We celebrate when we can come together and we mourn when we cannot. I believe that we can see an example of this celebratory attitude in the book of Acts.

After the Holy Spirit was given to the people, the disciples gathered the followers together and this is what they did: Acts 2:42-47 – 42They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

There was a communal attitude in the recognized body of believers. The community was held together by the common belief in the one true God, Christ is risen Son was Lord and they were now filled with the Holy Spirit to work as a community in the world repeating our testimonies.

What God calls us to work on in this Christian community is equality of others so that they might experience the love and Grace of our Lord. In the spirit of community I was reading news on United Theological Seminary, the seminary that I graduated from. I was proud to read this as signs of our community growing in empathy for others.

In light of the current racial unrest in our country, President Kent Millard and Vice President Steve Swallow have decided to make Juneteenth, June 19, an annual paid holiday for all employees of United Theological Seminary. We have asked Dr. Elvin Sadler to give an explanation of why Juneteenth is such an important day for African Americans in this country.

One June 19, 1865, in Galveston, Texas, General Order #3 was read which stated: “The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free”.

Juneteenth is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States. It has served as a day of remembrance and an opportunity for African Americans to honor their history and celebrate black culture.

In honor and celebration of this historic act, United Theological Seminary, its President, Dr. Kent Millard, and the United community stand in unity and solidarity with all people of color, affirming that Black Lives Do Matter! The Seminary will honor this day as a paid holiday for all members of the United Theological Seminary community. We encourage our community to not just take this as a day of rest, but also as a day to promote racial equality amongst people of color.

“Lift ev’ry voice and sing,

‘Til earth and heaven ring

Ring with the harmonies of Liberty

Let our rejoicing rise

High as the list’ning skies

Let it resound loud as the rolling sea

Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us

Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us

Facing the rising sun of our new day begun

Let us march on ‘til victory is won.”     –J. Elvin Sadler

I believe that we should continue breaking bread with one another, working in ways that better our communities. As we lean into what it means to be a community this July, I pray that it is a United States, under God that hears God unifying us through His Spirit bringing equality to all. This, I believe, is the community that we are all searching for. As Christians I believe that when we see a collective voice move in such as a way as we are seeing we should take notice. This voice that started with “I can’t breathe” seemed to have the breath of the Holy Spirit blown into it. This new voice of equality has echoed around the world. That causes us to re-think what we are doing we demonstrate what it means to be Christian.

I believe that God is using America as a voice. The world has us under a microscope to see how we are handling this inequality and racial biasness that has been ingrained in our culture. I applaud the changes that our President, other government officials and even privately owned corporations are putting forth to change the systems that have been broken for a long time.

I also believe that the majority of our police officers in our country have joined the department to serve and protect the people. I support these officers that uphold the ideals that come with the duty of peace officers. Once again, I believe that through our Christian lens we will find a way as United Americans to serve all people equally, demonstrating that we are the land of the free, and home of the brave.