The World is OUR Parish
By the Rev. Ronald Myers | Photos by Jesse N. Love, et. al.
He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
-Micah 6:8 (NRSV)
On August 11, 2015, the Puyallup community became like so many communities across this nation. A troubled young man unleashed indiscriminate harm on a neighborhood with a handgun. The violence that was showered on that quiet neighborhood, and resulted in the tragic murder of Richard “Dick” Johnson, ignited passion within Puyallup United Methodist Church to “do something” which would make a difference, and might help to redeem the tragic loss of innocence that was suffered.
The naked truth is that Puyallup hasn’t been immune from senseless violence for years. Our community isn’t unlike many communities across this nation where individuals are the victims of senseless violence every day. We live in a communities where abuse is rampant, and where the most vulnerable are victimized continuously by relationships and circumstances that they cannot control. Unfortunately, too often, we allow the injustice of senseless violence to overwhelm us, and we become immobilized as Disciples of Christ to act on behalf of the (Kin)dom of God.
John Wesley wrote in his diary, “The World is My Parish.” He understood that God’s desire for salvation (wholeness) for the human being was a gift of grace given and shared with the whole world. Unfortunately, good people of faith allow fear and doubt to limit the scope of their vision, and this powerful Wesleyan sayings become, “The Parish is My World.” We look inward in an effort to avoid the harsh realities and pains of the world outside the doors of our sanctuary. We are afraid to get involved.
On the days immediately following the shootings in Puyallup, Puyallup UMC partnered with civic and community groups to offer a witness for peace using our sanctuary as the gathering place for people to pray together. Pastor Karen Yokota called members and friends of Puyallup UMC to create a safe and sacred place of peace. The amazing people of PUMC responded with compassion and grace in opening their doors and hearts to a community rocked by violence and to Richard Johnson’s family. In that moment the world became our parish, and with that one simple act we rose up, and we said that we want to be advocates for justice, kindness and to walk humbly wherever God leads us.
The “Prayer for Peace Service” was a first response, but with that initial response now comes a tremendous responsibility to discern what next steps we will take to help address issues of violence that diminish the common good which is God’s intent for the community of Puyallup. Whenever a people dare to care and to advocate for the injured, the vulnerable, those who grieve, etc., and engage in acts of care and mercy, we must ask the difficult question regarding what we do next in order to serve justice. As we seek after justice, we value the prayers of our United Methodist brothers and sister throughout PNW, and we lean into God’s grace so that we are faithful. We are engaged in the transformation of the world as disciples of Jesus Christ.
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Audio from the Vigil: