“Change Us, That We May Effect Change”

By The Reverend Alan Bentrup

Canon for Evangelism and Mission, The Episcopal Diocese of Upper South Carolina

Leaders from seven Christian denominations gathered in Charleston, S.C. on Thursday, January 17, for the 2019 Fellowship of South Carolina Bishops’ Annual Prayer Service. The service, held at Vanderhorst Memorial Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, included music from a combined choir from local churches; a time of prayer for public education, social justice, and social equality; and a sermon by Bishop James B. Walker, presiding prelate of the Seventh Episcopal District of the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, which includes South Carolina.

Bishop Walker’s sermon, pulling themes from the book of Joshua, touched on the connection between Rahab, the Israelites, Jericho, and the walls we build around us. “We have a lot of walls in South Carolina, walls that we use to separate us from others,” said Bishop Walker. “We use walls to create ‘us’ and ‘them,’ but God’s kingdom doesn’t have an ‘us’ and ‘them.’ God’s kingdom only has people of worth.”

In particular, Bishop Walker’s sermon touched on the power and possibility of education as a way to tear down the walls that separate us from each other. The story of Rahab shows that she received an education from someone who invested time in her, he said. “And none of us would be where we are without that same gift of education.”

As part of the annual prayer service, bishops and leaders from African Methodist Episcopal, African Methodist Episcopal-Zion, Christian Methodist Episcopal, Episcopal, Lutheran, Roman Catholic and United Methodist churches, highlighted the collaborative work of these denominations in the area of public education in South Carolina. This ecumenical work, led by the South Carolina Bishops’ Public Education Initiative, began in April 2014, when they issued a joint pastoral letter pledging “our commitment to support the full flourishing of public education in South Carolina.”

Prior to the Annual Prayer Gathering, the bishops and steering committee met to continue planning their Listening Post, scheduled for February 11 in Allendale, S.C. At the Listening Post, the bishops hope to hear first-hand from residents and community leaders in Allendale on the hopes, dreams, and challenges facing their schools. You can learn more about the work of the Public Education Initiative by visiting bishopseducation.com.

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