Saturday, April 26, 2008

Shalom Speech at General Conference Reception

Ashton Depot, Forth Worth:

As the new National Director, I’m delighted to provide leadership to the Communities of Shalom initiative of the General Conference of the United Methodist Church, now in its 15th year. I feel called and drawn to shalom ministry for at least three reasons:

1. I love the original idea of “shalom zones” emerging from the social unrest in LA in 1992. To identify just four square blocks, or one square mile, or one particular neighborhood…and work together toward shalom with all who live in the area, is a compelling vision. It’s about transforming the world one community at a time.

2. I’m challenged by the radical nature and prophetic spirit of shalom. Bishop Felton May’s shalom ministry in D.C., organizing tent revivals for social justice, and recovery from addiction through personal transformation and community development, is right on the mark. The Shalom movement is radical, edgy, prophetic and unavoidably political in how it goes about spiritual and social transformation.

3. I’m convinced that for communities of shalom to succeed, it has to engage in systemic and sustainable change. Shalom is holistic in its mission of community transformation. Shalom is not content with bandaids of relief, food for the hungry and a cup of cold water in Jesus’ name. Shalom requires the slow, hard work of Systemic, sustainable change, Asset-based community development, focused on Health and wholeness, motivated by Love for God, self and neighbor, requiring broad-based community Organizing, and working together Multiculturally with every sector of the community for peace and renewal. And what’s that spell: SHALOM!

What to expect from shalom@drew.edu ?

• Greater emphasis on interfaith engagement in the work of shalom, salaam, pas, mir, and peace.

• Greater emphasis on the ecological implications of shalom, as suggested by Jeremiah’s instructions to not only “build houses” but “plant gardens” (Jeremiah 29:7)

• Curriculum revisions and development of the classic ShalomZone Training that already has gone through a number of revisions and adaptations since 1992.

• And relational development of new National Partners of Communities of Shalom beyond Board of Global Ministries of the United Methodist Church in order to move shalom beyond Methodism while continuing to engage and power local UM churches as initiators and catalysts for shalom ministry.

Together, we want to fulfill the mission and vision of shalom: to seek the peace of the city where we have been sent, until all the world experiences shalom; transforming the world one community at a time.

In the words of community developer Bob Lupton:

“Can you imagine neighborhoods with secure streets, healthy relationships, effective and affirming schools, clean air, and a thriving local economy? Can you picture neighbors sharing meals together, children laughing and playing freely, and the elderly being valued, honored and cared for as the norm in our communities? Can you fathom vibrant churches in every neighborhood being beacons of light and hope because of their deep concern for the well being of all community residents, not just their members? Can you envision people being drawn to the love and power of God because of the clear witness of Christians fully committed to Jesus Christ?”

Communities of Shalom exist to co-create with God this kind of world. And to this end, we are bold to pray, as Jesus did: “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” AMEN.