Just Mercy

February is “Oscars Month,” when movies take on a lot of attention, as well as Black History month.  March is Women’s History Month. February 28 is the centennial of Oklahoma’s ratification of the 19th amendment. We plan to celebrate all of these things during the month of February at University UMC.


I was inspired by an interview on Fresh Air last week with Bryan Stevenson, author of the memoir Just Mercy, from which the recently released film was adapted. https://www.npr.org/2020/01/17/797283146/just-mercy-lawyer-asks-america-to-reckon-with-its-racist-past-present


Though I’ve not yet seen the movie, I’d like to weave in some scriptures and the lives of some great people of faith who have championed racial and gender equality, and base my February sermon series on the twin themes of the film -Justice and Mercy. I’d also like to see some movies on race, mercy, and justice with you! Apparently, I’m not the only person who is        inspired by this story presented in Just Mercy. I read recently that Kanye West and Kim Kardashian, who have successfully raised awareness about prison reform and have had an audience with the president on the matter, were so inspired by the film that they rented out theaters around America for people to see the movie for free. Three theaters in Oklahoma City were paid for several showings of the movie just this week. I don’t know that I can rent out the whole theater, but we can certainly all plan to go together to a matinee on February 16, can’t we? We’ll release the venue and time as we get a little closer to the date. Maybe we can fill a whole theater! The movie stars Jamie Foxx,        Michael B. Jordan, Brie Larson, and Tulsa’s own Tim Blake Nelson and is rated PG-13.

A movie I CAN set the date and time for, and even invite a scholar who specialized in the life of the subject of the film, is Harriet, which was released last year and is out on Blue-Ray next week.

At my Order’s Meeting on January 21, the preacher, Rev. Victor McCullough, Heartland (Oklahoma City) District Superintendent, based his sermon around “Stand Up,” the single from Cynthia Erivo that I assume rolls during the credits of this movie. It is a powerful song. Check out the lyric video on youtube.  While watching, the wheels started    turning for this whole series, and I thought how       fortunate we are to have Dr. Kristen Oertel as part of our church, as she has made Harriet Tubman a focus of her own historical research and publication. She mentions the impact of UUMC in the                         acknowledgements of Harriet Tubman: Slavery, the Civil War, and Civil Rights in the 19th Century. Now would be a perfect time to let her share some of that research with us around the viewing of the movie. We’ll be  inviting other youth groups, churches, and the campus community to come and see it together in the Great Hall on February 9 at 5:00pm. Since we’ll be overlapping the dinner hour, we’ll be building a sign-up genius to make this great—I’m thinking hot dogs and other “theater-type foods.”  Admission for the film and talk will be a jar of peanut butter (which is inexorably associated with another great figure remembered during Black History Month, George Washington Carver) for our food pantry.

At the end of February,we’ll celebrate the long-fought-for justice that was achieved in the 19th   amendment on the last Sunday of the month as we   prepare for the centennial of the ratification of that amendment in Oklahoma on February 28. Many             Methodists were involved in the push for women’s suffrage, and the lives of Sojourner Truth and Mary McLeod Bethune, both black women who fought for women’s suffrage and more, will be celebrated.


I’m looking forward to all of this, and I hope you’ll join me in worship and at these special events to witness as to how our lives of faith, cultural awareness, justice and mercy, and education all intersect.

Another way Justice and Mercy will be accentuated during the month of February: Two services will bookend the month in which we will continue decrying the injustice of the Traditionalist plan that took effect January 1, 2020 and “keep the fire tended” of Holy protest and resistance while offering the view of a church more guided by justice and mercy for the LGBTQ community. On Saturday, February 1st, 1-2pm Boston Avenue UMC will host a service celebrating “LOVE: A Worship Service Celebrating Commitment and Connection” and continuing the theme of the “Resist” service that protested the Traditonalist plan which was hosted by St. Paul’s UMC on January 5. Then on Sunday, March 1st, we’ll host a service continuing this effort right here at UUMC at 5:30. That service will be called “Lament: A Worship Service Expressing the Pain of Injustice.” Services to follow in this monthly series will include themes of “Light” and “Witness” at New Haven UMC and another venue. The purpose of the services is to keep up the efforts to find another way forward in anticipation of our General Conference in May 2020.