In light of the George Zimmerman, Trayvon Martin incident and the tensions that have surfaced thereafter, Bishop Minerva G. Carcaño has made a commitment to be present with young people throughout the California-Pacific Conference. This past Monday evening, the Bishop convened a gathering of about 12 young people, ranging from 12 years old to post-college age, from across South Los Angeles at Faith United Methodist Church where Rev. Gary Williams is the Senior Pastor.
After a fun dinner in the fellowship hall, the Bishop engaged the group in conversation around a conference table with the first question, “How are you feeling since the verdict was announced?”
Most of the responses from the youth were of disappointment and dismay. And, when asked about their thoughts on the matter, more than a few of the adults who accompanied the youth made mention of how this incident reminded them of experiences in the past, both public and personal, that involved racial discrimination and the adaptation that became necessary to survive. The Bishop wondered how many of the young people have experienced something similar. So, when the Bishop inquired this of the youth, multiple hands were raised.
Then, the Bishop asked the group to consider what might be able to be done as Methodist disciples of Jesus Christ to further the cause of love and justice about which the young people enthusiastically offered a number of reflections and ideas:
“I know that we are all mad, but are we more mad because Trayvon is dead or because Zimmerman was acquitted?”
“Maybe we need to start petitions on laws such as the one in Florida.”
“I think we have to think about how to forgive Mr. Zimmerman.”
“Do you think we can have a day of social action or prayer?”
“Churches need to think about how to get young people out of a system that leads them to prison and into the Church.”
The Bishop shared with the group that the Bishop’s work as the President of the General Commission on Religion and Race would be strengthened by this time spent with young people. But, before the night would close, an accompanying adult in the back raised her hand to say, “Bishop, I am so grateful that you are here. When I heard that you were at Urban Kids Camp, and then that you were going to be here tonight, my heart was warmed.”
Applause immediately filled the room.
Another person could not help but affirm the phrase, “Open hearts, open minds, open doors,” as a way forward in bringing all different kinds of persons to the table of God.
The Bishop agreed and asked the room to stand and be led in prayer together by the pastors who were present: Rev. Derrick Lewis Noble of Crenshaw UMC and Pastor Royce Porter of Crossroads UMC.
Rev. Gary Williams of the hosting church, Faith UMC, says, “It was a powerful evening of sharing at our church which has always been proud of being Black and Christian. I am so appreciative of this opportunity for our young people to sit with the Bishop and reflect on their feelings. I hope that this will be the first of many conversations with young people from across our Annual Conference.”