Two from New England honored for social justice work

August 31, 2015

The Methodist Federation for Social Action and the Reconciling Ministries Network co-hosted “Gather at the River,” Aug. 6-9, 2015 in San Antonio, TX.
During the convocation, two individuals from New England were recognized for their work on issues of social justice. 
The Rev. Becca Girrell, senior pastor at Lebanon UMC in New Hampshire, was honored by MoSAIC (Methodist Students for an All-Inclusive Church) with its Shepherd of Hope Award.
The Rev. Dr. Pamela Lightsey, Associate Dean for Community Life and Lifelong Learning at Boston University School of Theology, received the Reconciling Ministries Network’s Cup of Justice Award. 
Shepherd of Hope Award
In presenting the award, MoSAIC called Girrell: “an individual whose love, witness, and ministry uphold the mission and vision of this young people’s movement,” and went on to say:
Girrell at 2012 General Conference
In John chapter 10, Jesus gives us the image of the good shepherd, who knows the sheep by name, whose voice the sheep can hear, who reaches out even beyond the fold to the sheep who haven’t had the protection of the group. This year’s recipient of the Shepherd of Hope award knows the language of the sheep outside the fold.
“ … an advocate for the use of social media in ministry, Becca has worked consistently over the last quadrennium to use Twitter and other social media outlets to invite deep, intentional, inter-generational, grace-filled conversations on the Internet.
“During General Conference 2012, many young adults – both clergy and lay – were frustrated. We were frustrated that our voices hadn’t been heard … Our Shepherd of Hope, in conversation with a team of young people, realized that there just wasn’t space on the ground at General Conference to talk about what we did want to see our church look like.”
She asked, “How do we keep this good conversation going?”
And so, as a contrast to the “Plan UMC” restructure proposal, the tweet-up Dream UMC was born. A monthly conversation about big issues facing The United Methodist Church, Dream UMC ( seeks to open the virtual floor to voices seldom heard in spaces of debate and power and institution.
 “If the General Church won’t have transparent and open conversations, then we will,” said our recipient. “We don’t need their permission to have dialogue and relationship.”
Over the past four years, Dream UMC has tackled issues of human sexuality, colonialism, and violence against women, they’ve resourced one another for worship and Bible study and church leadership
 “I think it’s a place where people can feel heard,” Girrell said. “For me, a sense of feeling heard reduces the anxiety we feel when we come to the structural conversations (at General Conference).” Perhaps surprisingly, the tenor of these discussions has been more respectful and less ‘screamy.’”
Cup of Justice Award
The Cup of Justice Award is given “for taking bold action to bring about systemic change where injustice, oppression, and exclusion exist.”
Presenters went on to say:
Lightsey, a scholar, social justice activist, faculty member at the Boston University School of Theology, is an ordained elder in the Northern Illinois Conference and chair of the Personnel Committee of the Board of Directors of Reconciling Ministries Network.
“Lightsey has been particularly active in social justice advocacy around global peace, LGBTQ civil rights, and anti-racism. As a queer woman of color, Dr. Lightsey continues to embody the great standard-bearing threshold articulated by activist Audre Lorde: ‘there is no single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives.’”
“Over the past year, her work for Reconciling Ministries Network and Boston University took her to Ferguson, MO, to bear witness the voice of faith at the intersections of queer and black identities reminding us all that racial justice is LGBTQ justice.
 “She has given herself for the well-being of Reconciling Ministries Network, The United Methodist Church, and is even now advancing the work of the #blacklivesmatter movement as she is hosting a Conference for Black Church Scholars in Ferguson—on the one-year anniversary of the murder of Michael Brown.
“Lightsey takes her place as a scholar, preacher, teacher, and prophet—working at the margins—to amplify the voice of the oppressed for the sake of a just church and world.