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Dear friend,

“Never forget that justice is what love looks like in public.” - Rev. Dr. Cornel West

Throughout our history, More Light has been guided by the belief that all God’s children are beloved and deserve to live into the fullness of their identities. We believe in a God of abundance who calls us into relationship with one another; by not limiting our understanding of who God is, we refuse to limit who God loves and welcomes into community. Our call isn’t to deem who is worthy or fit to be loved by God, but to love freely and abundantly because we have been loved. We are all created in the image of God, and as God leads us into relationship with one another, we are granted a deeper understanding of God’s image in the world. 

The love we are called into isn’t a greeting-card kind of love, made of paper hearts and empty sentiments, but a living, breathing, earth-moving kind of love that refuses to turn a blind eye to the barriers that stifle love’s movement in the world. This love cannot be contained to our thoughts and prayers, but must be lived in the world by opposing systems that threaten the safety or sacred personhood of anyone.

Part of the journey to understanding the fullness of God’s abundant love for us is acknowledging the ways in which we have fallen short of living into that abundance. We at More Light are committed to recognizing the ways in which the sins of racism and white supremacy - festering wounds that permeate every aspect of our lives - have gone unexamined for too long. We have sought easy solutions and quick fixes to problems that require deep contemplation and intentional action in community. 

The work of addressing and dismantling white supremacy is neither easy nor quick; it requires a commitment to be in community and to listen and to speak even when things are painful or scary to share and to hear. We realize we will likely not see an end to the insidious ways white supremacy permeates the world in our lifetimes. Yet, this is the work of Jesus, and the work we are called to do. 

We invite you to join with us as we continue this journey to understanding our role in dismantling white supremacy. Next week, on Thursday, August 15th, we will host Part 3 of our Racial Justice Teach-In. I’ll join co-Trainers Jessica Vazquez Torres, Rev. Shanea Leonard, and Rev. Dr. Derrick McQueen to discuss ways we can decenter whiteness in our congregations and communities.

We are also looking forward to furthering this important work by participating in the CoInspire Conference at the Montreat Conference Center this October and I hope you will join us there. We are excited to share a special group rate with you because you are part of the More Light family. Montreat is offering More Light Presbyterians a special group incentive. Each registration associated with MLP will get $25 off the full comprehensive or commuter rate. To claim this rate, simply mark MLP in the "Comments" section when you register. Hurry, rates increase on August 26, and conference housing may fill up quickly. If you are planning to attend CoInspire, we’d love to stay connected with you during the conference. If you’d like to be connect with us there, let us know by filling out this form. (Want more information about CoInspire? Click here to learn more about the conference and register.) 

Join us for Part 3 NEXT THURSDAY, August 15, at 3:00 PM Eastern!

As our Lead Trainer for the series, Jessica Vazquez Torres brings a wealth of knowledge and passion around racial justice. As the National Program Coordinator for Crossroads Anti-Racism Organizing and Training, Jessica has years of experience training folks on how to begin the conversation about dismantling systemic racism. Jessica and Alex will be leading all three Teach-Ins, and will be joined by a remarkable team of co-trainers. Rev. Shanea Leonard, and Rev. Dr. Derrick McQueen will be co-trainers on Part 3 for this groundbreaking conversation. Follow the link below to learn more and to register. Have questions, check out our Teach-Ins FAQ page

Part 3 will:

  • Distinguish between decentering whiteness and white silence
  • Discuss the ways white supremacy appears in spaces even when no white people are present
  • Offer a theological praxis for working to dismantle systems that uphold white supremacy and division. 

​If you're not able to participate in the live Teach-In, you can still register. We will send you a rough edit by the end of the week. Everyone who registers will also be able to download an edited version from the More Light Shop which will include a discussion guide. Questions about this? Feel free to send us an email for more information! 

Nurturing a Culture of Adaptive Leadership for Sessions and Boards Group Coaching Cohort

I’m excited to share an opportunity for growth and learning that combines three of my passions: working with amazing, productive Sessions and boards, coaching support to get clear about your role in facilitating the change you want to see, participating in a group learning environment to build relationships and share wisdom. Beginning this fall, I will be teaming up with Rev. LeAnn Hodges, a pastor at a great More Light Church in Laurel, MD, in partnership with NEXT Church to co-coach a group of leaders on “Nurturing a Culture of Adaptive Leadership for Sessions and Boards.” The group will meet monthly over zoom together from September-February 2020 Each participant will also receive one-on-one coaching during the course of the program. 

Topics will include:

  • What is your strategic intelligence? Identifying your leadership style.
  • Equipping lay leadership: Leading from a place of abundance and humility.
  • Setting a group culture: Aligning purpose with process.
  • The art of getting the right people in the room: Nominating and on-boarding new members.
  • Pay attention to power: Power dynamics and the impact on group culture.
  • How to run a life-giving meeting: Getting it done while having fun.

Details for the group:

  • Nurturing a Culture of Adaptive Leadership will meet on the third Thursday of the month from 2-3:30pm ET, starting Sept 19 through February 2020. 
  • Group sessions are 90 minutes and take place via Zoom video. Each session will have a specific focus detailed above.
  • Groups will have between 6-10 people. Note: this group is almost sold-out, please register ASAP. 
  • Individual sessions are 45-50 minutes and are scheduled at the coach’s and participant’s convenience, via Zoom or phone.
  • Total cost: $550, which may be paid in two installments (the first up front and the second due Jan 31).

To register or learn more about this group and two other group learning offerings on “Leadership Essentials for the Church that is Becoming” visit the Next Steps Coaching page on the NEXT Church website. 

We are consistently amazed by the ministry and witness of our More Light Churches. We are launching this new feature to share some of the stories of how More Light congregations continue to live out abundant inclusion in their congregations and communities!

Edgewood Presbyterian Church, Birmingham A
Pastor: Joe Genau

Edgewood is a multi-generational church with a number of younger families, as well as a great group of active retirees.  They are a progressive church that feels like a traditional church. Folks travel as far as 45 minutes from the north and from the south to worship at Edgewood.

Joe has seen the number of welcoming churches in Birmingham expand and is now focusing on how to position Edgewood among that joyful expansion.  The congregation has a culture that is open to change, with a willingness to take chances, which Joe hopes will help them discern what’s next.

Edgewood has teamed up with four other Presbyterian Churches to form the Birmingham Youth Group which holds a youth gathering on Sunday evenings.  The group rotates between the five churches each week, while the hosting church provides leadership and programming. Some of the other churches are more conservative theologically, but interaction between the five churches has gone well.  The Birmingham Youth Group has provided a safe place for those youth in the conservative churches learning and becoming more open to new ideas.

Joe was part of a group of pastors that helped birth the UKirk Birmingham campus ministry, which serves several colleges and universities in Birmingham. With the existing Christian groups on those campuses being mainly evangelical and very conservative, the emergence of a More Light campus ministry has been a revelation for many of the college students. 

Edgewood has been involved in queer issues since well before joining MLP in 2011. More recently, the congregation has become deeply involved in racial justice, immigration, and refugee issues.  

Edgewood has used its Christmas bake sale and Pentecost Offering in the past two years to support the Magic City Acceptance Center.  MCAC is an afternoon hangout and safe space for queer teens, offering events, support, and training specifically for young queer people.  

After moving to Birmingham, but before becoming Edgewood’s pastor, Joe served as a chaplain at Children’s of Alabama for three years. He is thrilled to serve one of the two More Light Churches in Birmingham, Alabama!

We are so encouraged by all of the ways the More Light community is shining in this critical moment. We are so honored to be part of this work with you!

In abundant hope,

Alex Patchin McNeill
Executive Director
More Light Presbyterians

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