The First United Methodist Church of Germantown hosted a series of events over the weekend in celebration of Martin Luther King Day.
The weekend started off on Saturday when FUMCOG held a discussion in the church parlor about social justice strategies and racial understanding. The talk entitled, “Makes Me Wanna Holler” was led by Reverend F. Willis Johnson, a senior minister at the Wellspring Church in Ferguson, Missouri.
Johnson is the chairman of Ferguson’s Human Rights Commission and one of several religious leaders who guided community response after an unarmed teenager, Michael Brown, was shot and killed by a police officer in Aug. 2014.
More than 70 parishioners and community members attended the discussion, which Johnson said he hoped would help encourage FUMCOG’s ongoing efforts in social justice.
“There’s over 40 years of history in this church of both commemorating the King spirit and movement, and more importantly, creating space for conversation,” Johnson said. “We can’t fix things that we don’t know and aren’t willing to talk about. I think these conversations are part of the continuum of care, of courage, and of construction for making sure that the movement and these efforts continue to go forward—I’m just here to help keep the ball rolling.”
Johnson’s remarks were informal and touched on a variety of subjects, including how the black community deals with lament over lives lost, and what activist can do to affect positive change in their own communities.
“Sometimes we spend too much time focusing on what ain’t right instead of focusing on what we can do to make things right and righteous,” he said. “You don’t have to come to Ferguson to work. Your work starts where you are.”
The Q&A that followed the discussion revealed several questions from attendees who said they were committed to helping Black Lives Matter and other similar movements for social justice but were unsure of how they could help.
One attendee asked “how do we, as [white] allies, support this movement?”
Johnson offered a simple response to the question, “Be authentic. Be yourself, and look to be in company and accountable with others who have that commonality with you — who are human and love and share in love as you do.”
West Oak Lane resident Carolyn L. Whitaker said she thought the discussion was important but may have reached the wrong audience.
“This is a church that has, for years, been very active. They already work hard, so this was sort of like preaching to the choir. But I’m glad he was here. He did a good job,” she said.
Timothy Folkomer came to the event from Springfield, Del. He was a bit disappointed that Johnson had not shed more light on the details of Michael Brown case; a case that everyone from law enforcement to the general public are still struggling to make sense of.
“He didn’t address the situation in Ferguson, and maybe this wasn’t the format for that, but I was waiting for someone to say, ‘what’s the truth?’ But I think in the end these kind of racial situations come about because people do not view each other as equals,” Folkomer said.
Johnson also delivered a sermon entitled, “Where Do You Stand?” during the Sunday morning service, where he received the church’s 2016 Social & Racial Justice Award.
FUMCOG plans to host several additional events between February and April following the theme of continuing the conversation on race.