Daily Devotional | Monday, February 8

Monday, February 8

The author of 1 John 2:9-10 writes: “Whoever says, “I am in the light,” while hating a brother or sister, is still in the darkness. Whoever loves a brother or sister lives in the light, and in such a person there is no cause for stumbling.”

Writing in the epilogue to her powerful 2018 history of post-Vietnam white power movement in America, Bring the War Home: the White Power Movement and Paramilitary America, historian Dr. Kathleen Belew writes: “Understanding white power as a social movement is a project both of historical relevance and of vital public importance. Knowledge of the history of white power activism is integral to preventing future acts of violence and to providing vital context to current political developments. Indeed, to perceive the movement as a legitimate social force, and its ideologies as comprising a coherent worldview of white supremacy and imminent apocalypse—one with continued recruiting power—is to understand that colorblindness, multicultural consensus, and a postracial society were never achieved.”

Last month the flag of the Confederacy was carried through the halls of Congress. Church leaders must struggle with Belew’s words and the scripture above in light of Belew’s conclusion, “that colorblindness, multicultural consensus, and a postracial society were never achieved” not in the world and not in the church.

Source:     Wonder Media Network @ Twitter.com

Action step: today, with brutal honesty fearlessly ask whether you can face your creator and answer the question “do you live in the light?” How is it with your church? How is it with your community? Post-pandemic, returning into the architecture of your church, what changes are demanded by the question “do you live in the light.” A postracial society must first be an antiracist society, a postracial church must first be an antiracist church.


“You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid.” ~ Matthew 5:14

We have seen ourselves as that light on a hill, O God of the ages;

we have believed ourselves to be the shining example of all that is good in the world.

But lately our light has been dim, and our good has been muddied by a hidden hate we try to deny.


We can’t help but wonder how the world sees us now,

We who have held a banner for rights and for equality,

We who have pointed fingers at those who abuse others,

We who have condemned acts of injustice in other lands,

How shines our light now?

Yet, despite our failings, our brokenness and our sin,

you still call us,

each of us and all of us,

to be the light of the world.

Even when we are ready to give up on us, even when our sin is too great to bear,

you still call us,

each of us and all of us,

to be the light of the world.


There is too little light around us and within us right now, God of mercy,

how can you still call us?

How can you still hope in us?

We long to be that light, Loving God. We long to be that hope.

Help us, now especially; help us bring light to a world roiling in the gloom.

Help us claim the hope that we can be light,

as a nation, as a church, as followers of the true Light of the World.

Help us find the way into the light. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Derek C. Weber, July 2020, this prayer was shared on July 22, 2020  by UMC Discipleship’s Praying for Change: Daily Prayers for Anti-Racism E-mail

Daily Devotional | Sunday, February 7

Sunday, February 7

John 8:31b – “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”

Image Source: James Cone, Black Theology and Black 
Power, By Birchett, Colleen; Philadelphia Tribune

In 1969, a year after merger, James Cone, writing in Black Theology & Black Power, laid down an ominous challenge writing: “To carve out a Black Theology based on black oppression will of necessity mean the creation of new values independent of and alien to the values of white society. The values must be independent because they must arise from the needs of black people. They will be alien because white American “Christian” values are based on racism.”
We United Methodists have both succeeded and failed in creating “new values independent of an alien to the values of white society” and in recognizing that American Christianity is truly based “on racism”. Answering God’s call the Greater New Jersey Annual Conference has resolved to dismantle institutional racism within our churches and our polity but are we up to the task?

Action step: today, with brutal honesty answer these two simple questions. “Am I willing to take risks in order to lead my church in adopting and a racist policy.” “Am I willing to search my heart and soul for my own racism?” Prayerfully ask the Holy Spirit to lead you through a time of soul-searching and to reveal those in your congregation ready to journey with you.

Prayer: A Prayer on Privilege

Merciful God, I claim Your promise to be with us when two or three are gathered. You know that each of us has a unique heart and history and so I can only speak from what I have seen and known and become as one who enjoys the privilege of being born white in the United States.

As I try to understand the ways in which I benefit from that history, or deprive others of life and happiness and all the things I take for granted, I pray that You will open my heart, my mind, my imagination, and my eyes to see this country as it is and not as I want it to be or think that it is.

Even as I utter words with the best of intentions about “the poor,” “those who are dispossessed,” “those who are disrespected,” “those who are subtly or overtly treated as less than,” those who fall in that thoughtless, painful category of “you people”, I feel that I am distancing myself from these “others,” and contributing further to the fissures that divide all of us from each other and You.

Help me, O God, to acknowledge honestly the ways in which white privilege in America is perpetuated, the ways in which racism thrives systemically, and the ways in which our “Common Prayer” furthers these divides.

Dear God, I trust your Spirit to guide us in our common life and enlighten us to the injustices of white privilege in this country. Make our common prayers occasions for your Spirit to break into our hearts and lives, that we may ” nally see our world with a glimpse of your love and light.

I pray that we may all be healed of our hurts and divisions, so that we may become agents of the reconciliation and peace that you desire for this world. This is my prayer. Amen.

Rainey G. Dankel, printed in the The Anti-Racism Prayer Book compiled by The Anti-Racism Team of Trinity Church Boston in 2014

Daily Devotional | Saturday, February 6

Saturday, February 6

In Mark 14:7 Jesus says, “For you always have the poor with you, and you can show kindness to them whenever you wish; but you will not always have me.”

In Jesus rebuke of Judas’ patriarchal denigration of the woman anointing Jesus’ head with nard is a chilling indictment of humanity’s toleration of poverty, which we could eradicate the way we did smallpox. As demonstration again in John 9, humans seem primed to see the misfortune of others as earned; “[a]s he walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Privilege is born in the misguided belief that “what I have, I earned”. We accept this ignoring the evidence to the contrary that surrounds us. Poverty is criminalized as “we” protect “us” from “them” ignoring our participation in the sin of systemic poverty. We easily accept that “they” are poor because “they” have not done all that “we” have to escape poverty.
In Chapter 12 of How to be an Antiracist, which examines class, Ibram X. Kendi, raises questions that resonate with both the disciples’ question “who sinned?” and Jesus’ “you can show kindness to them whenever you wish”.
“When a policy exploits poor people, it is an elitist policy. When a policy exploits Black people, it is a racist policy. When a policy exploits Black poor people, the policy exploits at the intersection of elitist and racist policies – a policy intersection of class racism. When we racialize classes, support racist policies against those race-classes, and justify them by racist ideas, we are engaging in class racism. To be antiracist is to equalize the race-classes. To be antiracist is to root the economic disparities between the equal race-classes in policies, not people…Pathological people made the pathological ghetto, segregationists say. The pathological ghetto made pathological people, assimilationists say. To be antiracist is to say the political and economic conditions, not the people, in poor Black neighborhoods are pathological.” Jesus’ “you can show kindness to them whenever you wish” sets up an if/then proposition convicting us of the cruelty and evil present in our active and passive participation in criminalizing poverty. In this case the then in the if/then is implied; if we can show kindness to them whenever we wish, then why don’t we?

“Homeless Jesus” Photo Credit: Sculpture Timothy P. Schmalz/Methodist Central Hall

Action step: today, with brutal honesty, identify three prejudiced beliefs you hold about “those poor people”. Identifying ways in which these were formed by art, politics, the press, the church, or your family of origin. Then look for contrary evidence in those same places – art, politics, the press, the church, and your family of origin – where this privileged view of poverty is not supported.

Prayer: Litany for Social Justice

We pray for the strength of heart and mind to look beyond ourselves and address the needs of our brothers and sisters throughout the world; for the rural and urban poor; for the rebuilding of our communities; and for an end to the cycles of violence that threaten our future.

God of generosity and compassion, hear our prayer.

We pray for all nations, that they may live in unity, peace, and concord; and that all people may know justice and enjoy the perfect freedom that only God can give.

God of liberty and freedom, hear our prayer.

We pray that the Holy Spirit may embrace the most vulnerable members of our society; we pray also for an end to the growing disparity between the rich and poor; and for the grace and courage to strive for economic justice.

God of all gifts and blessings, hear our prayer.

We pray for an end to prejudice throughout our country and the world; that we will respect all people as precious children of God; and that racism, sexism, and all other forms of discrimination will be forever banished from our hearts, our society, and our laws.

God of fellowship and equality, hear our prayer.

We pray for all immigrants, refugees, and pilgrims from around the world, that they may be welcomed in our midst and be treated with fairness, dignity, and respect.

God of outcasts and wanderers, hear our prayer.

We pray for all prisoners and captives; that a spirit of forgiveness may replace vengeance and retribution; and that we, with all the destitute, lonely, and oppressed, may be restored to the fullness of God’s grace.

God of absolution and mercy, hear our prayer.

We pray for all children and families, and particularly for the orphaned, neglected, abused, and those who live in fear of violence or disease; that they may be relieved and protected.

God of children and families, hear our prayer.

We pray for the reconciliation of all people, and for the Church throughout the world, that it may be an instrument of your healing love.

God of outreach and restoration, hear our prayer.

We pray for all who have died as a result of violence, war, disease or famine, especially those who died because of human blindness, neglect, or hardness of heart.

God of eternal life and resurrecting love, hear our prayer.

Almighty God, you have promised to hear what we ask in the name of your Son. Watch over our country now and guide our leaders in all knowledge and truth and make your ways known among all people. In the passion of debate give them a quiet spirit; in the complexities of the issues give them courageous hearts. Accept and fulfill our petitions, we pray, not as we ask in our ignorance, nor as we deserve in our sinfulness, but as you know and love us in your Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Episcopal Church Office of Government Relations, https://episcopalchurch.org/posts/ogr/episcopal-litany-social-justice

Daily Devotional | Friday, February 5

Friday, February 5

Today we look at Leviticus 21, a difficult passage too often abused through literalism. In Bring the War Home: the White Power Movement and Paramilitary America, historian Dr. Kathleen Belew writes: “Ideas about women, sexuality, and birth in this period (the 1970’s) were deeply intertwined with racial ideology, and not just on the fringe. American white supremacy had long depended upon the policing of white women’s bodies. In order to propagate a white race, white women had to bear white children. While white men’s sexual relationships with nonwhite women mattered less to white supremacists, especially if such activity was secretive, profitable, or part of systematic violence against communities of color, for a white woman to bear nonwhite children was tantamount to racial annihilation.”
The place of women is still debated in parts of the church by people employing arguments relying on poorly understood readings of scripture. We must approach scripture free of such prejudicial readings. White supremacists have abused scripture quoting out of context Leviticus 21 in support of fetishizing and suppressing women and as a false biblical foundation of anti-miscegenation laws.
“He shall marry only a woman who is a virgin. A widow, or a divorced woman, or a woman who has been defiled, a prostitute, these he shall not marry. He shall marry a virgin of his own kin, that he may not profane his offspring among his kin…”
To answer this misinformation we go beyond these cherry-picked passages seeking to understand the original context and intent. The challenge in this case is that expanding the passage forces a confrontation with the ableism of the following verses. Leviticus 21 states that the Aaronic priesthood should not include: “…throughout their generations…anyone who is blind or lame, or one who has a mutilated face or a limb too long, or one who has a broken foot or a broken hand, or a hunchback, or a dwarf, or a man with a blemish in his eyes or an itching disease or scabs or crushed testicles.” Racist, misogynistic, homophobic; and ableist interpretations of scripture abound and remain a problem for the church.

                                     Photo courtesy of LA Johnson/NPR

Action Step: today, with brutal honesty ask if your study of scripture has become lax. Where might you improve in ways that challenge basic assumptions about race. Are you frozen in any one decade or century’s biblical interpretation? How can you allow scripture to breathe more and challenge you in new and fresh ways?  Think about the women in your church and in your community.  How has the misinterpretation of scripture over time aided to the continuing policing of white women bodies and the criminalization of bodies of black women and women of color?


God of liberty and justice, who hears the silent tears of those wearied by continued inequality and violence: open the ears of everyone in our society to hear the truth of continued racism in this stony land, so that we may return to the places where we will meet you, places of love and respect for all your children;

in the name of the One who was slaughtered for us, your Son Jesus Christ. Amen.

Drawing from “Lift Every Voice and Sing”

Sr. Heather Josselyn-Cranson, OSL

     Source: Google Images

Daily Devotional | Thursday, February 4

Thursday, February 4

Genesis 1:26 “God said, ‘Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness…’”

The four letters of the genetic code —A, C, G, and T—are projected onto Ryan Lingarmillar, a Ugandan. DNA reveals what skin color obscures: We all have African ancestors.
Photo courtesy Robin Hammond, National Geographic

What if we believe what were taught at the expense of what we actual observe? In Race, Monogamy, and Other Lies They Told You: Busting Myths about Human Nature, Princeton primatologist and biological anthropologist Agustín Fuentes, eviscerates the myth of biological races. “[W]e find more genetic variation between a population of deer from northern North Carolina compared with one from Florida than we do between human populations from Central America, central Asia, and central Africa. Even more to the point, if you compare any two people from anywhere on the planet and then any two chimpanzees, the chimpanzees would have 75 percent more differences with each other than would the people. None of the examined variations map onto the traditional race categories. There were no genetic patterns that identify and lump whites versus blacks versus Asians; these patterns were looked for extensively and found not to be present.”

Fuentes is not ignorant of the power race plays in American life, on the contrary he argues that the myth that race describes genetically separate, mappable, groups distinguishable from one another results from erroneous assumptions, historic forces, and pseudoscience, which hinder our examinations of the real causes of disparities in health and wealth in America.

Action step: today, with brutal honesty observe your internalized understandings of “race markers” identifying how you are programmed to identify both race and gender through the interpretation of visual cues. Choose to see beyond these pretextual and subtextual assumptions in search of our shared divinity. Then bravely apply that to someone from whom you feel isolated or estranged, begin to see our sameness one person at a time.

Prayer: I Need Courage by Howard Thurman

The concern I lay bare before God today is my need for courage:

I need courage to be honest:

honest in my use of words;

honest in accepting responsibility;

honest in dealing with myself;

honest in dealing with (others);

honest in my relations with God.

I need courage to face the problems of my own life

the problems of personal values:

they are confused; they are often unreal;

they are too exacting for comfort.


I need courage to face the problems of my work.

Sometimes it seems I am working at cross-purposes with my own desires and ambitions…

Sometimes I am arrogant instead of simply taking pride in doing my work well.

Sometimes I’m doing what I’m doing just to prove a point that is not worth proving after all.

Here in the quietness I lay before God my need for courage, for the strength to be honest, for the guidance to deal effectively with the problems of my own life.

From For The Inward Journey; The Writings of Howard Thurman



Daily Devotional | Monday, February 1

Dear Beloved PUMC Community,

For Black History Month (February), the Capital District Antiracism Team, of which I am a part, has created an Antiracist Daily Devotional. Each day there will be scripture, images, readings, a prayer, and action steps meant to encourage and challenge us as we continue to address structural racism and the ever-present stain of white supremacy. You are receiving the first of 28 devotionals today, but we won’t send more unless you tell us you want us to. If you are interested in receiving these every day, please email Tyler@princetonumc.org.

Peace and Love,

                                                      Source: Google Images

Monday, February 1

In Matthew 5:33-37 Jesus says “[Y]ou have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but carry out the vows you have made to the Lord.’ But I say to you, do not swear at all…Let your word be ‘Yes, Yes’ or ‘No, No’; anything more than this comes from the evil one.”

Ibram X. Kendi, the son of, not one, but two Methodist pastors, puts it differently but calls us to the same ferocious honesty in How to be an Antiracist: “What’s the problem with being ‘not racist”? It is a claim that signifies neutrality: “I am not a racist, but neither am I aggressively against racism.” But there is no neutrality in the racism struggle. The opposite of “racist” isn’t “not racist.” It is “antiracist.” What’s the difference? One endorses either the idea of a racial hierarchy, as a racist, or racial equality, as an antiracist. One either believes problems are rooted in groups of people, as a racist, or locates the roots of problems in power and policies, as an antiracist. One either allows racial inequities to persevere, as a racist, or confronts racial inequities, as an antiracist. There is no in-between safe space of “not racist.” The claim of “not racist” neutrality is a mask for racism.”
As leaders we must have a firm positionality on race and racism. Too often we answer “no” to the question “am I racist?”, without examining our deepest truth. Am I a racist? The answer is “yes” when I do racism or when I ignore the Biblical call to oppose racism and to dismantle it no matter the cost to me personally or the church corporately. There are few places in 21st c church life where the command to let our word be yes when it is yes and no where it is no is more urgent.

Action step: Today, with brutal honesty, identify an instance of either active or passive racism in your living. Look at the media you consume, your approach Christianity, and the art you consume and do so without guilt or shame. Then let your mind and heart sit with the observation. Give the Holy Spirit of God an opportunity to convict your heart.

Prayer: A Prayer for Guidance from “The Book  Of Common Prayer”

God, by whom the meek are guided in judgment, and light rises up in darkness for the godly: Grant us, in all our doubts and uncertainties, the grace to ask what you would have us to do, that the Spirit of wisdom may save us from all false choices, and that in your light we may see light, and in your straight path may not stumble; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.




Letter To The Congregation: GNJ Leadership

Dear Clergy and Congregational Leaders,

Blessings for the new year. Thank you for your ministry and service to God, the church, and the world as we celebrate the Epiphany.

The following are essential actions and information for this week.

1. Small Groups for Epiphany on Wednesday – All
As we transition to a new year, God will be revealed to us anew. All are invited to share in small group sessions on Wednesday, Jan. 6 at 9:00 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. to explore how God is speaking to us through observing, quieting and curiosity. Please share this invitation with your congregation.
Zoom link for small groups   Webpage for more information

2.  January 10 Epiphany Services – Pastors, SPRC, Worship Leaders
The second Epiphany service created to provide renewal time for our clergy is available for download and will be broadcast live on GNJ’s YouTube and Facebook pages at 9:00 a.m. on January 10. All congregations are encouraged to provide a time of renewal for your pastors by using this service on January 10 and inviting worshipers to join in a small group session on January 13. For more information.

3.  Special Annual Conference Session – All Clergy and Lay Members to the Annual Conference
A special annual conference session will be held remotely from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. on Friday, January 22 to review a shared billing plan and adopt any necessary budget changes. The session will be conducted over Zoom and registration for the session will be open later this week. Look for an email on January 8 with a report outlining recommendations. Two information sessions will be held on January 12.  For more information.

4. Second Round of PPP Funding – Pastors, Treasurers and Finance Chairperson  
Congress has passed additional funding for PPP loans which includes forgivable loans for churches and nonprofits whose income was 25% less in at least one quarter in 2020 as compared to 2019. Last year, GNJ, its congregations and ministries received more than $8 million in PPP funding. The Small Business Administration will be issuing guidance on the application process this week and GNJ will inform and resource you as details become available, but you should prepare to act quickly as soon as the application process is open. All congregations, including those who received funding last year, are strongly encouraged to apply. For information on key provisions of this new funding, visit our web pages here.

In Christ,

GNJ Leadership

Quick links to information in this email:
Small Groups Zoom link
Info on Small Groups
Download for January 10 Renewal Service
Special Annual Conference Session
Info on PPP Funding

Letter to the Congregation: Annual Conference Legislation

November 4, 2020

Dear Friends:

Please join us this Sunday, November 8, following worship at 11:30 a.m. to hear about and participate in a discussion about two new pieces of legislation that were passed by our GNJUMC Annual Conference in October.   This session will be via Zoom at: 


Or dial in:  929 436 2866, Meeting ID: 853 667 0465, Passcode: 7862       

At this year’s virtual Annual Conference of the GNJUMC in October, a number of new pieces of legislation were discussed and approved.  We would like to provide an overview of the Conference and details on two specific pieces of legislation:  A Journey of Hope and A Resolution in Support of Black Lives Matter.

A Journey of Hope directly addresses the sin of racism and the oppression and enslavement of African Americans and Native Americans in the Greater New Jersey Area.  A Journey of Hope establishes financial resources and sets specific actions and goals for increasing leadership diversity, ministries, and policies and procedures within our Conference.  While having goals that go into future years, we at PUMC can begin our participation in this work now.  Here is a link to more information about A Journey of Hope:  https://www.gnjumc.org/2020annualconference/journey-of-hope/.

A Resolution in Support of Black Lives Matter calls us to recognize, engage in self-examination, engage in acts of mercy and justice, and to dismantle the sin of racism in GNJ.

Our Conference has taken a bold stand in passing legislation that affirms that racism is a sin and that, as Christians, we are called to dismantle it.  At the session on November 8, we will review the legislation and begin a dialogue on what this means to PUMC as we live this charge.

Please plan to join us.


Pastor Jenny Smith Walz

Pastor Skitch Matson

Edwin Francisco, Lay Member to Annual Conference

Iona Harding, Lay Member to Annual Conference

Emelia Timpo, Lay Member to Annual Conference

Juneteenth Listening Sessions with Bishop Schol

Since the death of George Floyd, Bishop John Schol has been working with individuals and groups to identify the next steps for building on the work Greater New Jersey conference is doing to overcome racism and deepening and expanding the ministry to address institutional and structural racism.  Our work as United Methodists of Greater New Jersey is to work to end all racism in the church and to be witnesses to transform the world.

Listening sessions are scheduled for Friday, June 19 and Monday, June 22 to hear your hopes for our future.

Here is call in information for the listening sessions, Zoom calls.

Friday, June 19, 11:30 a.m.
Zoom Link  or Dial-in: 1 646 876 9923 / Meeting ID: 970 1267 4283

Monday, June 22, 7:00 p.m.
Zoom Link or Dial-in: 1 646 876 9923 / Meeting ID: 917 8620 2983

GNJ-CAPITAL:  Silence is NOT an Option – Prayer Vigil INVITATION! June 7, 2020, 4:00 PM





Dear Clergy and Congregational Leaders of the Capital District,

This week, we have another destructive virus that has painfully reminded us that, for way too many years, it had inflicted undue pain and death on our Black siblings and other siblings of color. Racism requires our attention! Our hearts are breaking for the growing number of Black men and women killed by police, most recently, George Floyd, and, for the inequities against people of color that plague our nation. 

As Christ’s followers, and United Methodists, we believe that racism is a distorted value system that assumes that one race is innately superior to the others that translates into wrong mindsets, behaviors, policies, and systems.


I invite all Capital clergy and laity to join our resident Bishop, Rev. Dr. John Schol, and I, this coming Sunday, June 7, 2020, at 4:00 PM for a special peaceful public witness of our faith and prayer vigil in solidarity with the African American community and other people of color. This public witness will be a statement of presence, prayer, and reflection in the community. We will practice responsible physical distancing measures and will model the highest standards of Christian love.

Our special guest and speaker will be Rev. Gil Caldwell, a United Methodist, and renowned Civil Rights Activist. Other guest speakers include Bishop John R. Schol, Willingboro Mayor Hon. Tiffany Worthy, Charlene Walker from Faith in NJ, Rev. Geralda Aldajuste, Rev. Vanessa Wilson, Rev. Rupert Hall & Rev. Laura Steele.


If you feel comfortable, bring a poster that expresses the Christian values of Peace with Justice, and invite a friend. We welcome children and youth. The new generations need more than ever, positive spaces to express their hopes and aspiration for a better society and world. 

In consideration for others – we request that all persons participating from United Methodist congregations wear a face mask.

 We’re together on the journey.

Paz, Héctor

Rev. Héctor A. Burgos | Capital District Superintendent

O: 732.359.1085 | C: 609.661.1768 | E: hburgos@gnjumc.org