Bishop tells NEJ: We are an amazing, if 'unfinished quilt'
July 13, 2016
Bishop Sudarshana Devadhar delivered the State of the Northeastern Jurisdiction Address Wednesday, July 13, 2016 on behalf of his colleagues on the NEJ Council of Bishops.
Building his address around the theme of this year’s Conference, Quilted by Connection, Bishop Devadhar opened with Paul’s words to the Ephesians (4:4-6):
“There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling,?one Lord, one faith, one baptism,??one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.”
“As United Methodists,” the bishop said, “we are quilted together in connection because of our common faith tradition founded on the love of God in and through Jesus Christ.”
Paul’s words are also about a connection, Bishop Devadhar said, the one that “we hold with one another in our shared faith in Christ. He [Paul] also makes reference to the one hope of our calling. This is a promise to hold on to and run with, especially in these times.
The bishop celebrated the blocks of the NEJ quilt that are the mission and ministry taking place in the 10 annual conferences of the jurisdiction, including these:
Baltimore Washington’s Inspire DC as a leadership incubator for millennials.
Peninsula-Delaware’s Youth Rally providing inspiration and motivation.
New Jersey’s recruitment of new people through their Ghanaian congregation and the addition of a second Arabic-speaking community of faith.
New York’s First UMC in Flushing having received 59 young adults through professions of faith.
Upper New York’s Leadership Academy.
West Virginia’s increase in attendance, professions of faith and baptisms.
Western Pennsylvania’s process of forming church planters.
Susquehanna’s initiative on Equipping God’s People.
And New England’s pilgrimages to Taizé and how they are providing the entryway for new pastoral vocations.
“What an amazing quilt!” Bishop Devadhar said. “All across the Northeastern Jurisdiction, the rich fabric of our United Methodist heritage is being woven into new and amazing faith communities and ministries that reach out into the future.”
Bishop Devadhar recounted his visit to the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati and the unfinished quilts – those that told unfinished stories – he saw there.
“Bishop [Joseph] Yeakel, addressing this same Jurisdictional Conference 20 years ago, referred to The United Methodist Church as ‘The Unfinished Church,’ Bishop Devadhar said. “It is unfinished in the sense that God is not yet finished with us. It is unfinished because God still has work for us to do and is counting on us to keep going, to keep witnessing, to keep championing the causes that have made a positive impact on our world.”
Doing that, Bishop Devadhar said, requires abandoning “business as usual.”
“We as a church need to be the clear and loud voices of the voiceless, poor, marginalized, LGBTQIA community, and imprisoned who cannot speak for themselves. We cannot keep silent when black lives are being lost in our neighborhoods, and some people are saying we need more walls when we, the church, should be challenging them to tear down all kinds of walls and helping to build bridges,” he said. “We cannot ignore our poor churches that are doing transformational ministries in places that need competent pastors. We cannot remain silent as a church when heroin addiction is destroying families and communities, gun violence is threatening our very being, and genocide and terrorism continue to add to our refugee crisis.
“We cannot remain silent; we need to be active peacemakers or as stated by one of our young adults, Ashley Johnson, ‘If we are really committed to planting seeds of trust that have the potential to positively change the landscape and diet of our society, we’re going to have to get dirty, and we will need all hands on deck.’”
We are called to be one, big, beautiful, pieced-together fabric, the bishop said, but there is work still to be done; we are still unfinished, he said.
“Perhaps we are an ‘unfinished quilt’ because God has more pieces to include in the great mosaic of fabric that tells the story of our faith and lives and history and future,” Bishop Devadhar said. “Perhaps we are an unfinished quilt because God has wonderful new ministries for us if only we would listen attentively to the movement of God’s spirit in our midst. Friends, these are challenging, yet exciting, times to be in ministry. My prayer is that the fabric of our lives remains stitched together as we move forward as people of God in ministry and mission to the Northeast — a quilted connection!”