Oklahoma Conference of the United Methodist Church

Church & Society retreat: Crowd called to do justice every day


Leaders Carrie Newcomer and Brian McLaren

The Oklahoma Conference Board of Church & Society asked: How does faith connect with social justice?

More than 100 people gathered to learn answers to that question in a Board-sponsored retreat April 19-20 at Canyon Camp. Theme was "Doing Justice, Loving Kindness, and Walking Humbly With God."

"We were inspired by the prophetic leadership of plenary speaker Brian McLaren and by gifted musician Carrie Newcomer," said Mark Whitley, who chairs C&S and is pastor at Verdigris UMC.

"God calls us to connect our faith to social justice not just by thinking about social justice, but most importantly by doing social justice," Rev. Whitley summarized. "Social justice must be lived, even in small ways, each and every day. Social justice is nothing more and nothing less than God’s divine will realized in human society."

He continued, "When all creation benefits from our efforts to make it ‘on earth as it is in heaven,’ we are doing social justice as God commands."

Bishop Robert Hayes Jr. joined the retreat as guest preacher on Friday evening.

Rev. McLaren led a workshop based on his book, "Naked Spirituality," presenting a model for spiritual growth. He taught one-word prayer practices associated with four stages of spiritual growth: simplicity, complexity, perplexity, and harmony.

One participant said McLaren "opened my eyes to things I have experienced but could not articulate." Another attendee described the leader as an "out-of-the-box thinker."

Newcomer’s workshop was titled "Our Lives as Sacred Story: A Creative Exploration of the Heart and Spirit of Our Experience." Those in her workshop composed lyrics, about the spirit of life in Oklahoma, that were put to music by the songwriter. Then the song was performed by Newcomer and that group for other retreat participants.

"She struck a deep chord within me" was an especially apt response from one attendee.

The retreat closed with Communion, sending everyone forth to do God’s justice in the world, Whitley said.



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