Bishop White: Letter to Martin 2015

This year, I am honored to again film Bishop Woodie White reading his annual “Letter to Martin” (Martin  Luther King, Jr.) on the state of race relations and racial justice in America. Bishop White is a retired United Methodist Bishop, was an active leader in the Civil Rights movement, and continues to teach and work for racial and social justice. He is the Bishop in Residence at Candler School of Theology at Emory University in Atlanta, Ga where he teaches, preaches, and works to equip future leaders of the church for the transformation of the world.

Bishop White is a graduate of Paine College in Augusta, Ga and Boston University School of Theology. From 1969-1984 he was General Secretary of the General Commission on Religion and Race of The United Methodist Church. Elected a bishop in 1984, he served the Illinois Great Rivers Area prior to his service in Indiana. He was president of the General Board of Discipleship from 1988-1992 and president of the Council of Bishops in 1996-1997. Bishop White was elected to the Martin Luther King, Jr. International Board of Preachers at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia.

You may link to or embed this video on social media or your church website and it may be downloaded (in vimeo) to use in worship, Sunday Schools, Small Groups, or discussion groups for the purpose of further engaging in the conversation on Race and the Church in America.


The images used here are from various sources including Candler School of Theology, Emory University Libraries, United Methodist Communications, Wikimedia Commons, Twitter, and from news articles. The sole intent is for Fair Use of these images in order to show historical context of both earlier and more recent events.

Many thanks to Bishop White for his writing, his prophetic voice, and his work to aid the church in being a part of racial justice and reconciliation in America and beyond. My personal thanks to Rev. Brian Tillman (Johns Creek UMC), Claire Asbury Lennox (Candler School of Theology), and Joey Butler (United Methodist Communications) for their collaboration, encouragement, and interest in this project.

Full text of the Bishop White’s Letter:

Dear Martin:

I begin this letter mindful of the events that took place in our nation 50 years ago, events that changed the United States.

As you and other leaders of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference accelerated the challenge to the discriminatory practices prohibiting black people from registering and voting in several Southern states, a special campaign was launched in Alabama.

A march from Selma to Montgomery was planned. At the end, the demonstrators were to present the governor with a list of practices encountered by black citizens of the state. Hundreds gathered on Sunday, March 7, 1965.

State officials had determined the march would not occur and banned the planned demonstration.

As the marchers began to move across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, they were met by a sizable police presence on the bridge. Some of the police were on horses. When the peaceful marchers refused to disband, they were attacked by the police, beaten and trampled by horses. Mass hysteria erupted. Wounded and bloody, the nonviolent, peaceful protesters were turned back.

Millions witnessed the brutal attacks on television and in newspaper photos. So vicious were they that the day became known as Bloody Sunday. The nation was horrified to see peaceful citizens so brutalized as they sought to be granted the right to vote in their own country.

Only days later, Martin, you called for a second march. This time thousands responded. Celebrities, church leaders, pastors and ordinary citizens gathered — and the march was fully racially integrated. It ended on the steps of the Capitol in Montgomery, with leaders presenting their concerns, grievances and demands.

Five months later, in August, what is commonly called the Voting Rights Act was law. Congress passed the 1965 Civil Rights Act because of the bold leadership of President Lyndon B. Johnson. For the first time, black citizens anywhere in America had the right to register and the right to vote protected against intimidation, unfair and discriminatory regulations, fear of reprisals or violence.

Imagine, Martin, it was only 50 years ago, that the most basic right of a democracy, the right to vote, was guaranteed to black American citizens! Only 50 years ago!

In a few months, thousands of us will again gather at the Edmund Pettus Bridge. We will remember those who led the way, some even giving their lives, that we might today exercise the right to cast a ballot freely.

Sadly, we will do so in the face of new threats to that right, as many state legislatures enact laws to make it more difficult for citizens to exercise that right.

The struggle continues.

Martin, we are again reminded of the deep racial divide in America. The deaths of a number of unarmed black youth and men at the hands of police have drawn national attention. Those who died in Brooklyn, N.Y.; Cleveland; and Ferguson, Mo., were males in their teens. Two of the deaths — one in Ferguson and the other in Staten Island, N.Y. – went before a grand jury. Neither resulted in an indictment against the police involved. The failures to indict have resulted in thousands demonstrating in major cities across the nation. There is general outrage and anger in the black community and beyond.

Is America again to have two societies, one black (or non-white), and one white, separate and unequal? And composed, as many hold, of two justice systems, one for white citizens and one for non-white citizens?

Is there the belief that black life is not as valued in our nation as white life? Indeed, a new slogan has emerged: “Black Lives Matter.”

A national conversation on race is emerging. With it is coming the revelation that white and black citizens view race dramatically differently. Even in these two widely known incidents of unarmed black young men meeting death as the result of police action, a significant number of white citizens conclude the deaths were clearly the fault of the black men, while black citizens believe they were caused by an underlying racism that views white and black people differently. White life is valued more than black.

Perhaps, Martin, that is still what is at the heart of the great racial divide in America. Still, it appears, the matter of one’s worth as a human being is finally about the color of one’s skin — not the content of one’s character, morality, ability or competence. Indeed, there seems no correlation between scoring a winning touchdown or basket, or between one’s abilities, political positions or party and one’s determined ultimate worth as a human being. Could it be that in the minds and hearts of so many, skin color determines worth and value?

We continue to face a lot of work in this nation on the issue of race. At times, we appear to move backward and forward simultaneously. The truth is, Martin, the events of the last 50 years are evidence of how far we have come on our journey to become “one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” But, the last 50 days are evidence as well of how far we have yet to go!

But, I still believe, Martin.

We shall overcome!

Woodie

The Trinity: Life Together

Last semester, the student leaders at Emory Wesley and I met and decided that we should cover some pretty exciting topics in Monday Night Worship this semester–“The Trinity,” “Race and the Church in America,” and during Lent: “The Long March to Redemption” (hooking off of Mandela’s “Long Walk to Freedom” and other social justice influences partnered with Jesus’ walk to the cross in Lent).

For the first series on the Trinity, we’re going to be doing a 4 part series on The Trinity with staff and students Screen Shot 2014-01-06 at 5.04.10 PMgiving homilies on the overall Trinity and the 3 persons of The Trinity. The students are excited about the series and are really engaging well with the topic, songs, and the way we’re addressing this theological behemoth. We’re not trying to answer all the questions, but really we’re trying to help students ask the RIGHT questions. We’re halfway through the series and things are going pretty well thus far.

Here’s the first night of the series where I preached about how the Trinity shows us how God is in relationship and we must also seek to be in relationship in a homily called “The Trinity: Life Together.”

01.13.14 Monday Night Worship // ” The Trinity: Life Together” from Emory Wesley on Vimeo.

faithful mentors

I’m writing this post today in response to a DAY OF BLOGGING for Exploration 2013, a United Methodist Event for people discerning a call to ordained ministry. They asked us to respond to the question: “Who influenced you in discerning your Call to Ministry?” So here it is:

For many in ministry or clergy roles we simply “walk alongside” and  “live life” with the people whom we guide and work with in ministry. This is what the many faithful mentors in my journey have done with/for me–they’ve simply been there as I have experienced (thus far) the full stretch of human life–good times and bad.

auburn samford hallMy specific call to ministry and working with college students came during my freshman year at Auburn University when I went on a Weekend Mission Trip with Auburn Wesley Foundation and Alabama Rural Ministry (ARM) to Mobile, Alabama to work at St. Francis Street Mission. The trip was led by Lisa Pierce, the founder and director of ARM

On the trip we worked with a man named “Mr. Johnny” where we fixed his roof and shared some good times and even a few jokes about coffee, roofing, and life. On Sunday morning instead of GOING to Church we went and DID Church: we worked in the soup kitchen and sang songs with the men, women, and children, the poor and homeless, who were in the mission that day. It was an eye opening experience to DO Church instead of just attending church/worship on Sunday morning.Emory Wesley students at ARM on Spring Break 2013 I came back from that trip feeling called and knowing that I wanted to do those kinds of things, and help others to do those things as my vocation. Lisa’s facilitating that trip and encouraging me to go has helped shape the direction of my life for the better. We still stay in contact and it is a great joy to bring Emory Wesley college students on trips to do work with Lisa and ARM.

Over the course of my time at Auburn the Auburn Wesley Director, Rev. David Goolsby, guided and mentored me in ministry and helped shape me into a leader in the Auburn community. I had the opportunity to help lead music and liturgy in worship, experiment with different styles and types of worship, lead small groups, reflect theologically and dream about church models, plan and lead mission trips, and many more opportunities for transformation and service. David is still a mentor of mine, officiated our wedding, and is a thoughtful guide and ‘guru’ of campus ministry for many.

I am thankful and grateful to God for mentors like Lisa and David who helped me to hear God’s call in my life. I’ll end with a word from David in my own paraphrased Goolsby-ism: “May we seek to be faithful to God as God is faithful to us.” Amen.

For more info about Exploration 2013 click here: ExploreCalling.org!

2011 Baker Award: Rev. Kristin Stoneking (making of the video)

This summer, while out in California, we had a little side project…a VIDEO project. Our task was to help capture and tell the story of Rev. Kristin Stoneking who had received a scholarship award for her doctoral studies.

I love learning about video and film making. Below is my reflection on a video project I worked on this summer & early fall to help tell the story of a friend who is a scholarship recipient working on her PhD (w/ some technical jargon):

THE PROJECT: This summer I was able to travel out to Sacramento, CA for Youth 2011, an every-4-year gathering of United Methodist youth ages 13-18 to help represent Collegiate Ministry. While out in California we had a little side project…a VIDEO project. Our task was to help capture and tell the story of Rev. Kristin Stoneking–Campus Minister and Director of the CA House at the University of California in Davis, CA. She has received the Bishop James C. Baker Scholarship which aids United Methodist collegiate ministers in advanced degree or doctoral studies.

(BELOW THE VIDEO IS MY ‘THE MAKING OF’ PORTION)

Special thanks to Kristin and the CA House as well as Allyson Collinsworth of Scholarships and Loans at the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry of the United Methodist Church. Interview, filming, and editing by Michael McCord & Joseph McBrayer.

THE SETTING: The CA house is a remarkable residential, intentional, and mutli-faith community in Davis where students live, learn, and serve together. It is a really neat, older house that has some cool spaces in it. For the interview we decided to use her office (looks scholarly–just out of focus books are always a nice background). The office is located on the second floor of the house and faces south out over a main road that runs beside campus. The natural light was good but we wanted a little extra so we took the lampshade off of a desklamp and moved it closer. In interviews, the best way I’ve seen to frame the shot is to put the subject’s head in the top-left or top-right quadrant with them looking across the line-of-sight of the camera to the interviewer–it is supposed to help the viewer to feel more like they are there–like they are just sitting on the couch next to the interviewer. Kristin sat in a classic wooden chair like the kind you’d purchase from your alma mater and we framed the shot of her from just above the waist up (allowing for some hand movement when she raised her hands to gesture, but not when they were at rest).

CAMERAS & AUDIO: For the interview we used a standard sony HD camera that our agency provided shooting in 1080 at 30 frames per second–this is the camera mounted on a tripod, which framed the standard “interview” shot. This camera also received the audio off of the wired lapel mic (a low-end Audio-Technica lapel mic). In video, audio is one of the MOST overlooked and neglected things. To me, audio is just as important as the video…well, its at least very important. For the second camera I used my Canon 60D DSLR shooting 1080 video at 30 fps (the camera has manual ISO & aperture settings which I used at 1.8 and 60–you most often want the ISO to be at least double the fps). I shot this video off to the left side of the subject using a shoulder mount (Cowboy Studio’s $30: plastic, lightweight, & affordable!) and the built in audio (which I removed from the clip afterward). The idea of the second camera in this situation was for us to give the video some live-feeling movement (very popular in film, tv, commercials, etc) and to utilize the out of focus caused by the shallow depth of field in the DSLR lens (a 1.8 50mm Canon lens).

DURING FILMING: While we were filming we just let the camera on the tripod roll the whole time so that we’d capture anything we said that could be helpful (this is ideal when filming interviews as some side comments may end up being quite sincere and be full of wisdom or little sound bites that prove useful). For the shoulder mounted camera I broke up the filming into two big chunks (the whole interview lasted only around 20 mins) as I had to set down the camera a few times to help fix the lapel mic. One of the big things for the interviewers to remember during an interview (especially one where the subject is the only one on camera) is to resist the temptation to agree or comment on what the subject says while the subject is still speaking or too quickly after they finish. The main reason is so that the subject finishing what they were saying and you don’t have to go back to take out audio because the interviewer agreed, applauded, or sighed–especially if the interviewer is not in the shot or the video at all. Another helpful thing is for the interviewer to think on your feet to hear something that the subject said that was especially good or where they may have stumbled on a word–in either case, ask them to rephrase or “could you say that again”–this ‘on the fly’ thought process is especially helpful if you have one person filming and one person interviewing.

B-ROLL: Before and after we filmed the interview Rev. Kristin gave us a tour of the CA House and the residential spaces behind the main house. We filmed with the DSLR & shoulder mount the whole tour looking for moments that might make good cutaways while Kristin was speaking. The B-roll before the interview was based upon what Kristin was showing us and her explaining the community (giving us a sense of the space & context with which to better ask questions) and after the interview was based upon what she said in the interview (specifically focusing on things she’d spoken about that ‘jumped out’ to us after the interview).

POST-FILMING & EDITING: This is the hardest part. Editing and working with the video you’ve captured is likely one of the hardest parts because *most times* the video you have is all you’ll have to work with. Moral: take LOTS of video on location. On occasion you can go out and re-create something that might work well to supplement an element that you’re missing, but in the majority of situations it is all about what you have on your hard drive or camera at the end of the shoot. I use iMovie (w/ the ‘advanced features’ turned ON) to create most all of the videos I work on–again, I’m not a professional and I’m still pretty slow using Final Cut. This project was challenging in part because we were creating it for another section of our organization (Scholarships and Loans). We communicated the goals, constraints, content, and needs of the project before we filmed itand after the interview we worked closely by email to discern and collaborate on how the project proceeded. There were 2 draft versions of the video which helped us to reach the final version of the interview and the comments and ideas generated from the first two drafts helped the final version to be more polished, more engaging, and better edited.

Well, that’s all…and that was a LOT. I hope that it might be helpful for those who are interested in filming and interviews–especially in the non-profit realm of the world. Feel free to contact me for more info or to collaborate on a project. There is a wealth of resources in the area of ‘how to’ and there are many excellent film makers out there helping to ‘tell the story’ of all the amazing things that are happening out there. May it continue.

A Day of Prayer for Exploration 2011

Today is a day of prayer for Exploration 2011. Exploration is a gathering of people ages 18-26 who are discerning, wrestling, or just trying to figure out their call into ministry. It is a weekend of people gathering from all over the church to pray, worship, teach, learn, listen, and hang out with other people who are asking some of the same questions about ordained ministry in the United Methodist Church. Exploration 2011 will be held in St. Louis, MO at the Millenium Hotel  November 11-13. Registration is online and TODAY is the last day of earlybird registration!

And now, a prayer for exploration 2011:

God,
you know all people and you have made all people in your image,

 you love us and know us and we thank you for your love and call upon all of our lives:
for all of us: a call to work, live, and love people.

And today we especially pray for those who are discerning your call on their lives
to Ordained Ministry as Elders and Deacons in the United Methodist Church.
We pray that you would guide, equip, lead, and develop them into servants of the whole church and the whole world.

We pray for exploration 2011–that your Spirit will be obvious and apparent to all who gather.

In the name of Jesus the Christ, Amen.

Video making & Prepare 2011

I have always loved taking pictures–since being a kid and capturing images using one-time-use cameras to “borrowing” my mom’s film camera…

I have always loved taking pictures–since being a kid and capturing images using one-time-use cameras to “borrowing” my mom’s film camera (a Canon EOS Rebel…which I STILL have in my possession…oops).  Recently I’ve really enjoyed shooting video on my Digital SLR camera–formerly a Canon T1i and I have recently upgraded to a Canon 60D! (Christmas & Birthday until I’m 35 or so…). The video quality and the shallow depth of focus on these kinds of cameras is changing the way films are being made. Last year an entire episode of the TV show House was filmed on a Canon DLSR camera! They are also the tools of choice for amateur and aspiring film makers–both in the commercial and non-profit film world.

This spring and this summer I have had the privilege of working with a Design Team for Prepare 2011, which is a new collegiate minister training event (both meanings in there–it is both a NEW event and for those NEW to the field). The design team is made up of campus ministers and chaplains who are experienced veterans of ministry with college students. Prepare 2011, a mentor-based training event for those new to ministry with college students, will be held July 17-19th in Nashville, TN (a few days before the United Methodist Campus Minister Association gathering July 20-23 in Nashville, TN).

At a planning session back in April a few members of the design team allowed me to film a couple of quick takes about what to expect at Prepare 2011 and why new campus ministers and chaplains should come to Prepare. Using my Canon T1i and a 50mm 1.8 II lens I quickly captured a few minutes of video (literally we filmed the whole thing in 5 mins) and then created the following promo video. Enjoy.