First United Methodist Church

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News & Devotions

Devotion from Arnetta Rodgers, Our Gracious Host Pillar Leader

“Lord, I want to be a Christian…”

“Lord, I want to be a Christian… inna my heart, inna my heart…”

That’s how we sang that old Black spiritual at Howard University, my alma mater.

These days, those words present a personal struggle and a challenge. How to be a Christian? Events of the past few weeks have removed a scab from my people… a scab that has covered wounds that have pained us for over 400 years. My hearts aches.

Growing up, our children experienced numerous incidents of racism: questions regarding their competence in swimming (two of our sons were nationally ranked swimmers)… “Black people do not know how to swim” was the underlying message. Though accomplished academically, athletically and professionally, throughout their lives they have continued to experience racially motivated challenges. While a graduate student at University of Virginia in Charlottesville, my son was threatened by a policeman who placed a gun in my son’s mouth. He was the only Black among a group of white students celebrating the end of the semester at a party in the white students’ apartment. A neighbor had complained about the noise at the party. While a student at West Point, another son and his friends while stopping at a rest stop, were challenged/harassed by state patrolmen, for no apparent reason.

“Lord, I want to be a Christian in my heart, in my heart…”

“Lord, I want to be more holy inna my heart, inna my heart…”

Events of recent weeks present personal challenges. Throughout my life, I have benefited from the encouragement, support and friendship of whites… “Betwix and between…” Knots. We have always lived in integrated neighborhoods, often in neighborhoods where whites clearly did not want us as neighbors. Our children had/currently have white friends. Professionally, my husband’s best friend was a white man who supported my husband when others did not. I currently live in a white residential community. My sons are runners. When they come to visit, my heart skips a beat when they go for a run in my neighborhood… I know there will undoubtedly be questions/concerns whether they ‘belong’ in my neighborhood. One of my daughters-in-law is white. When she and my grandchildren come to visit, there are ‘stares.’

“Lord, I want to be like Jesus, inna my heart, inna my heart…”

“Lord, I want to be like Jesus, inna my heart.”

I need your prayers. You need my prayers, too. Let us pray for one another. Amen

#402 in the United Methodist Hymnal