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KEEPING THE FAITH | This may be a good time to reevaluate our ministries

We are so anxious to return to the building and get back to “normal,” but maybe this is an opportunity to reevaluate our ministries, our message and “how we do church.”
RevLewisMacklin032020
The Rev. Lewis W. Macklin

Pastor Michele Teague-Humphrey of Imani United Church of Christ in Cleveland shared some thought provoking observations. 

Churches in America were closing at a great rate long before the coronavirus hit. Mainline denominations were decreasing in membership long before the coronavirus hit. People began walking away from the faith or the church long before the coronavirus hit. Church buildings were empty long before the coronavirus hit. So we cannot summarily blame everything on the pandemic.

Despite all our preaching, teaching, singing, dancing, revivals and conferences, church attendance and membership were in a great decline in America. The Rev. Teague-Humphrey contends this has been a season and time for us — the church, pastors and spiritual leaders — to seek God’s voice and lead. We are so anxious to return to the building and get back to “normal,” but maybe this is an opportunity to reevaluate our ministries, our message and “how we do church.”

Perhaps, God is doing a new thing in a new era and is calling for the church to break from our narrow view of ministry that we may do ministry afresh and anew with new passion, energy and a greater sense of purpose. God has been speaking. God has continued to move. We must listen and move with God. A new church is emerging to prepare us for what is ahead.

Matthew 5:13-15 asks some rhetorical questions while asserting truth: “You are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt if it has lost its flavor? Can you make it salty again? It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless. You are the light of the world — like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house.” 

We have had a year to prepare during the pandemic. Are we ready to emerge better and stronger?

May the memory of the righteous be a blessing

Our community recently lost three faith leaders: the Rev. Michael Write, Bishop Loran Mann of Pittsburgh and Sister Jerome Corcoran.

Revelations 14:13 is appropriate in reflection of each of their lives and contributions: “Write this down: Blessed are those who die in the Lord from now on. Yes, says the Spirit, they are blessed indeed, for they will rest from their hard work; for their good deeds follow them!” 

The indelible witness of love in action by each of these individuals was well pronounced and impactful.

I Corinthians 3:7-9 clearly says, “It’s not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What’s important is that God makes the seed grow. The one who plants and the one who waters work together with the same purpose.”

Hence the various efforts of faith organizations, and their leadership should be seen as a complement to sacred and secular responses to promote peace, foster unity and quell incidents of violence within our city.

Special events

NOW Youngstown is continuing its mission of establishing unity, restoring hope and rebuilding our community by sharing the gospel in an engaging way. The team gathers at various locations in the city on Tuesdays from 6 to 8 p.m. It also sponsors special events such as National Night Out on Aug. 3 at Wick Park and Faith & Family Day from noon to 5 p.m. Aug. 21 at the Youngstown Foundation Amphitheatre.

The organization is also hosting CRY: Come Revive Youngstown at downtown’s Wean Park. Internationally renowned worship artist Eddie James is scheduled to perform June 30. The gates will open at 6 p.m. The first half-hour will be a community time of prayer; then the

concert will begin. Admission and parking are free. There will be a love offering collected. The family-friendly event will take place outdoors, and attendees are asked to bring chairs or blankets. The event is being brought to the city through a collaboration between NOW

Youngstown, Community Initiative to Reduce Violence and Kingdom Reign International Ministries. For more information about NOW Youngstown activities or events, email nowyoungstown@gmail.com or call or text 330-623-7553.

Father’s Day Prayer event

Like our treasure and talents, time is a gift from God. As fathers, in order to develop meaningful relationships with those we love and value, it’s vital that we give it our time and attention. The African American Male Wellness Agency and its Fatherhood Coalition are presenting a Father’s Day Prayer Service at 3 p.m. June 20 at Wean Park for men and their families. A cookout and car show will follow. Open grills will be available for cooking. For more information, call Bryant L. Youngblood Jr. at 330-744-9070.

'Stop the Violence'

Area pastoral groups and faith leaders of the Greater Youngstown community along with civic and organizational leaders recently addressed the escalating violence in our community. The “Stop the Violence” campaign will engage the entire community in the process of restoring peace to our streets and neighborhoods. The campaign will last throughout summer.

II Chronicles 7:14 serves as the backdrop to this effort: “If my people, who are called by My name, will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

The efforts will be launched with a communitywide prayer vigil at 6:30 p.m. June 23 in the parking lot of the former Bottom Dollar Store, 2649 Glenwood Ave.

There is also an effort to organize a continual 24-hour prayer and fasting schedule throughout summer. Ministries are encouraged to participate by taking one-hour time slot commitments. You can call New Bethel Baptist Church at 330-747-2125 to be included on the master list.

During June, there will be a saturation of the “Stop the Violence” messages throughout the community. Houses of worship are asked to post “Stop the Violence” messages on marquees and share information online.

“Stop the Violence” yard signs will be prominently displayed in neighborhood yards. You are asked to join the community in weekend prayer walks and holy ground marches in targeted areas of the city.

Training and resources will be provided to area ministries to be centers for conflict resolution and mediation.

We cannot let negativity attempt to charge the atmosphere. Before you criticize or dismiss these efforts, ask yourself: “What am I doing constructively to address these issues? How can I offer tangible support?” The enemy wants to project the illusions of division in the body, defeat in the community and despair in the family.

I conclude this week’s collection of thoughts by offering a prayer for resolving conflicts and seeking peace among others. May it remind us to pursue with passion the call for peace.

Dear Lord,

Hear my prayer and grant me the peace that goes beyond all understanding. Let a wellspring of joy rise from my heart until it overflows. Lead me to Your path of peace. Let me hear songs of praise and know peace within my soul. Please help me rise above circumstances and embrace Your loving kindness and comfort. Fill my soul with Your everlasting love and reveal Your glory to me once more.

I also bring before You today every challenging circumstance that has arisen in my life. I pray that You would soften my heart and the hearts of those I interact with. I pray that You bring peace to us in the midst of any conflict and chaos, and that You would be near to each of us. I know that You are a loving and gracious God, and I pray that You would help me to be as loving and gracious toward all I encounter.

May I find humility in You, and may I be the first to forgive, to make amends and to move forward in a healthy way. You have placed me among others, and I pray that I would glorify You through all of my actions and conversations. Help me to see others the way You see them, and give me an extra measure of grace and patience today as I keep the faith. Amen.

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— The Rev. Lewis W. Macklin II serves as the lead pastor of Holy Trinity Missionary Baptist Church, chaplain for the Youngstown Police Department and local coordinator for the African American Male Wellness Walk of the Mahoning Valley. He resides in Youngstown with Dorothy, his partner in marriage & ministry. They share the love and joy of 6 children and 7 grandchildren.

— All biblical citations are New Living Translation unless noted otherwise.