Civil Rights Tour: Love in Action

Collaborative Reflection: Lan Davis Wilson (Associate Director of Diversity, Mission, and Justice) and Rev. Dr. Aleze Fulbright (Dean of the Cabinet)

As the Indiana Annual Conference began its work around Diversity, Mission, and Justice, around three years ago, Bishop Trimble had a vision for leaders within INUMC to genuinely experience a Civil Rights Tour. While there were many delays to the realization of that vision, on January 11-15, 2024, Bishop Trimble, members of the Cabinet, a few of their spouses, and our Associate Director of Diversity, Mission, and Justice, left the comforts of Indiana to explore the rich history through an Alabama Civil Rights Tour. Human Relations Sunday, observed on January 14, 2024, was followed by the commemoration of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday on Monday, January 15, 2024. On this day, many Indiana United Methodists offered themselves for service and witness in various places throughout the Annual Conference. While not deployed for service in Indiana, the travelers of the Alabama Civil Rights Tour visited the historic sites that spanned across Montgomery, Birmingham, and Selma. They heard the horrific stories of this country’s troubled past, experienced the historic areas where lives were lost, and lamented about the possibility of history repeating itself.

Bishop Trimble shares, “the Civil Rights pilgrimage to Alabama was both timely and transformational for me. This experience was a call to reflect upon our United Methodist Baptismal Covenant to “resist evil, oppression, and injustice in whatever forms they present themselves…” It is one thing to read about the Civil Rights struggle in textbooks, or from historians, but it is another thing for me to have the opportunity to walk across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, where many paved the way for voting rights for Black Americans. It would be my hope and desire that all Indiana United Methodists would also have this pilgrimage experience, but more importantly that we might recommit ourselves to our anti-racism work and pursuit of Beloved Community.” 

The term “justice” can create discomfort for some in The Church. However, when we define justice as “making things right”, it becomes difficult to parcel out faith and justice, as they are a hand and glove connection. As Mr. David Robinson (Chief Financial Officer and Director of Administration) shares, “It is impossible to pull yourself up from your boot straps when the institution of racism stole your farm, lynched your family, and denied you attendance at an equally funded educational institution.” 

We spent time in prayer and devotion to begin and close each day reflecting on the Scriptures, contemplating on the words of Dr. King, and pondering on what the Divine Conscience (the Holy Spirit) spoke to us each day.  In Dr. King’s essay on “On Being a Good Neighbor,” using the story of the Good Samaritan from Luke 10,  Dr. King says, “It is not enough to aid the wounded man on the Jericho Road. It is also necessary to change the conditions of the road which made the robbery possible.” This pricked our hearts and minds to identify what Jericho Roads of injustice exist within our communities and what we can do to fix the road(s). We were reminded each day that  the lack of civil rights and continued injustice are not things of the past; they are ever-present. Rev. Shannon Stringer (Director of Conference Ministries) shares, “Injustice flourishes in isolation, but it is conquered in partnership.” Many of our greatest partnerships exist within the United Methodist Connection, our Ministry Partners Network, our congregations, and our individual and collective relationship throughout our communities. 

Often, in our congregations, we have provided charity, but the question remains: have we initiated movements towards systemic changes to the ills of injustice? We do good, but are we making it right for all of God’s people? Those who participated in this transformative experience are now moved to action. The Indiana Annual Conference will begin hearing passions arise, projects implemented, and an expanding witness as United Methodist followers of Jesus Christ. 

Click here to view photos from our Civil Rights Tour.