"...things will never change and they will never get better if we're not willing to take the next step out of our own comfort zones, and to truly embody God's agency of change and justice," remarked Gunning Francis.
The beginning of the Lenten season is traditionally marked by a dark cross made of ash placed on one’s forehead. Ash Wednesday is a time where we reflect on the mortality of our human bodies and embrace the uncomfortable as many of us enter into a season of “giving up” for 40 days. Though rather than giving up french fries, many in the Indiana Conference are choosing to give up prejudices and preconceived perceptions. Instead, they are embracing a unique opportunity to learn more about and appreciate the other. 

Bishop Julius C. Trimble opened the time of learning and discussion, during the Lenten Bible study at Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis, and shared, “Together we are far more than a collection of individual tribes. We are the people of God,”  reminding us of our call as Christians to engage in our political, social, and spiritual selves, and our commitment to look out for the most vulnerable. 

Led in discussion by Dr. Leah Gunning Francis, author of Ferguson and Faith: Sparking and Awakening Community, attendees engaged in questions such as “What do we see when we see a young black man?” 

“The Lenten season is often marked by something we aim to give up, though Isaiah 58 calls us to think of Lent differently. If we are to give up anything, we should give up anything that causes us to disregard the other. What would it mean to think about how we can give in to the ways of doing God’s work and God’s justice with more intentionality,” said Gunning Francis. 

This opening session was the first in a 6-week Lenten study journey where participants are able to create time and join in a sacred space to discuss issues that can often seem taboo to talk about in the Church. At the end of the first session, participants were challenged to take the week and reflect on their awareness of the messaging that surrounds persons of color and how we may speak into those situations and see everyone as a child of God. 

"We know that sometimes these conversations can be difficult and uncomfortable, but the people who are here are committed to staying in these devoted places and realizing that things will never change and they will never get better if we're not willing to take the next step out of our own comfort zones, and to truly embody God's agency of change and justice," remarked Gunning Francis.

"I hope that all United Methodists within Indiana and our guests within our communities will come and join us every Wednesday at 12:30 p.m. as we continue the conversation and continue to figure out how we can be a beloved community, talking with one another about this critical conversation, ” said the Rev. Dr. Aleze Fulbright, Director of Leadership Development.

You can find more information about the Bishop’s Lenten Study here. 

Catch more of what's happening in the Indiana Conference in the Weekly News tomorrow morning