The news this week has appropriately focused on the coverage of the mass murders that took place at the Mother Emanuel AME (African Methodist Episcopal) Church in Charleston, SC last Wednesday night. Here in Boca Raton, largely unnoticed, people gathered on Saturday in the neighborhood just north and west of our East Campus to recognize and celebrate the 100th anniversary of the founding of Pearl City. Pearl City was established in 1915 as a separate community for African American citizens who made a living working on the pineapple farms that operated in this area in the early years of the 20th century. Ten years later, the City of Boca Raton was incorporated in 1925.
Our church was also established in 1925, and when we refer to ourselves as “First Church Boca,” it’s easy to think of ourselves as the “first” church established around here. However, the real “first churches of Boca” were the Macedonia AME (African Methodist Episcopal) Church and the Ebenezer Missionary Baptist Church, which were both organized in Pearl City in 1918. We have shared music and preaching with the Macedonia AME congregation over the years; we have partnered with Friendship Missionary Baptist Church (1949) through the years it served as the site for Boca Helping Hands; we are currently sharing ministries to our homeless population with our neighbors at Ebenezer.
So as we continue to pray for the church in Charleston and the people of Charleston and the families of the victims, let’s pray for our neighbors in Pearl City. Listen for a word from the Spirit this week about ways we might as individuals and a church family deepen our ties with our African American neighbors throughout our neighborhoods and local communities. How might God be calling us to be a healing agent in the racial divide that continues to afflict our great nation?
There is neither Jew nor Greek; there is neither slave nor free; nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:28, The Common English Bible
Precious Lord, send your healing Spirit throughout our land. Bless the Emanuel AME congregation and the city of Charleston and make all things work together for good in the wake of the violence there. Help us, as part of your body in Boca Raton, seek your guidance to live into our vows as United Methodists, “to resist evil, injustice and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves.” We are listening, Lord Jesus. Speak into our hearts we pray. Amen.
From Pastor Tom: On a morning visit yesterday to Boca Raton Regional Hospital, I prayed with two FUMC members who were prepped for surgery and another who had been hospitalized since Sunday and was delighted to be going home that day. I ran into Dr. Scott Beede, also an FUMC member, taking care of his morning rounds. I interacted with a variety of nurses and volunteers; I passed a gurney rolling out of the emergency room taking a suffering woman presumably into surgery. I came home and checked the internet and learned that according to the City of Boca Raton’s 2013 economic statistics, Boca Regional is the second largest employer in our community.
So let’s pray this week for the patients and the employees and volunteers of Boca Raton Regional Hospital. And let’s don’t stop there. Let’s pray for our health care sector throughout Boca and Delray and Deerfield and Boynton. Let’s pray for the hospitals and the rehab and nursing care facilities, for the doctors’ offices and the therapy facilities; for the patients and the people caring for them—including family members—including youth caregivers.
Ask God to give our church a big heart for people in need of physical healing. Ask the Spirit to reveal how we might be a more effective healing presence and partner in our church family and in our communities. Listen. Listen. Listen.
Lord Jesus, you walked this earth with healing in your touch. You came as the Great Physician. Bless those health care providers in our communities; give them wisdom and patience and strength. Bless all who are in need of physical healing, Encourage us to be your hands and feet, serving those among us and around us who need your healing presence. In your saving name, Amen.
Our church serves so many children in so many ways! MECE, Parents’ Morning Out, Sprouts, Sunday School, Upward sports, summer camps, Scouting … the list goes on and on. And this week, over 300 children are on our East Campus Monday through Friday mornings for Vacation Bible School. Our vision process so far has made it clear that we want our future to continue to impact the lives of “next generations.” Pray this week for the children and volunteers in Bible School, and ask God to speak to you about how we might serve children and their families more and more effectively in the years to come.
One day children were brought to Jesus in the hope that he would lay hands on them and pray over them. The disciples shooed them off. But Jesus intervened: “Let the children alone, don’t prevent them from coming to me. God’s kingdom is made up of people like these.” After laying hands on them, he left.
Matthew 19:13-15, The Message
There is not a more precious resource, Jesus, than the lives of the children in our communities. We want children to know your blessing, and we believe you can use us as instruments of blessing in their hearts and lives. Give us all that we need to be a source of blessing to the little ones. Help us hear your call. Amen.
[Pray also this week for the preachers and lay people gathered in Daytona Beach for the Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. May God give this larger body of the church a hope and a vision as we elect delegates for the 2016 General Conference and worship together and conduct other business of the conference.]
Pray for the neighborhood you live in this week. For some of us, that looks like a place with single dwelling houses. Some of us may be in gated communities, some not. Some live in apartments or condos or high-rise buildings. Wherever you live, pray this week for your neighborhood and your neighbors. Perhaps put some motion to your prayers. Take a daily walk in your area or a drive (praying with your eyes open while you are behind the wheel, of course!). Ask God to place on your heart a genuine burden for the lives of the people who live around you, wherever you may live.
And LISTEN. Listen, listen, listen. Give God lots of opportunity to speak to you about your neighbors, those you know and those you don’t.
36 “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” 37 He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the greatest and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” Matthew 22:36-39 New Revised Standard Version
Help us know and love our neighbors, Jesus. Hear our prayers on their behalf and enable us to hear the direction of the Holy Spirit. Help our church become the neighbors you desire us to be. In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—Amen.