I have learned to get the general ideas of books by reading parts of it. It comes with reading too much for too many papers. But one trick I learned was reading the first and last lines of chapters before I read the whole book.
This is Black History Month, and I’m reading the book, “I’m Black. I’m Christian. I’m Methodist.” It is edited by Dr. Rudy Rasmus, and the ten chapters are written by different Black Methodist preachers, teachers, and a dean. If you just look at the last lines of the chapters, you’ll get an idea of this book. They go like this:
“We’re Black. We’re Christians. We’re Methodists. And for the record, we’re also friends.” Rudy Rasmus, Senior Pastor. St Johns UMC, Houston, Texas
“I’m free because I’m not afraid of the consequences of naming my grief. I’m Black. I’m young. I’m woman. I’m grieved. I’m free. Are you? Tori C. Butler, Lead Pastor, Good Hope Union UMC, Silver Spring, Maryland
“The call reflects a love that has survived dehumanization, exploitation, and violence to our bodies. The challenge can only be met through divine intervention and human repentance.” Rodney L. Graves, Senior Pastor, McCabe Roberts UMC, Beaumont, Texas
“The people called Methodist still offer a relevant understanding of the gospel to share with a racially torn nation. Salvation is for all. Racism is sin. God loves everyone.” Lillian C. Smith, Senior Pastor, Cheverly UMC, Hyattsville, Maryland
“God is always calling us to challenge ourselves and the structures that serve us more than others.” Erin Beasley, Associate Pastor, Germantown UMC, Germantown, Tennessee
“In my ministry of resistance, I yearn to embody this vision. There are many hard days, but they will not be so forever.” Justin Coleman, Senior Pastor, University UMC, Chapel Hill, North Carolina
“I’ve learned that it takes courage to speak. I’m Black, I’m Christian, I’m Methodist, and I choose to use my voice.” Teaching Pastor, St. Luke’s UMC, Indianapolis, Indiana
“As it is, I’m content to be among a people and their allies who, as the ultimate act of resistance, are determined, come what may, to maintain that inexplicable Spirit-given joie de vivre, irregardless. Pamela R. Lightsey, Dean of the Faculty and VP of Student Affairs, Meadville Lombard Theological School
“No Methodist ministry or lives matter until Black lives matter.” F. Willis Johnson, Lead Pastor, Living Tree Church, Columbus, Ohio
“The results do make it clear: for such identification to have significance to the mission the system needs to change.” Vance P. Ross, Senior Pastor, Central UMC, Atlanta, Georgia
I hope these last lines give you a curiosity and a desire to study. My church is starting a new group to learn about racism, anti-racism, and how to love God’s people. And as we learn together, we are determined to love better, to be forgiven, and to be made new. It is past time for us to attend to the racism in our world. And so, we go on this journey together.
Last lines matter. And sometimes it takes digging deep to get to the last line that we want for our lives.