By Erik Alsgaard
Worshippers at the Installation Service for the Rev. Gerry Green knew this wasn’t a normal service when they walked in the door of Christ UMC in Washington, D.C. They were greeted with small, white cardboard boxes and told to assemble a snack box for unhoused neighbors. Each box also contained a note: “We hope this brings some light into your day. It’s a simple way of showing you God’s love in a practical way, no strings attached.”
Green stressed “family” as the theme of the two-hour worship service, noting that even in his own family, “we don’t always get along, but when times are tight, we can depend on each other.”
Preaching from 1 Corinthians 12:12-27, where Paul writes about the various parts of the body, Green said that the body of Christ is called to break down walls of division and share the love of God for the transformation of the world.
“We are family,” he sang at the beginning of his sermon. Soon, the entire congregation joined in the 1979 song from Sister Sledge.
“Greater Washington District,” he asked during his sermon, “can we be the body of Christ? Will you accept the challenge to go out of your way and show Christ’s love to someone you wouldn’t ordinarily love that we might become a transforming force in the world?”
In challenging the Greater Washington District, Green said that we gather to worship and praise God, not the building, even though there are some wonderful structures throughout the district, he said.
“We gather not to praise the building nor the structure, but the one who came to give us life,” he said. “Can we be the body of Christ?”
Green said that in being the body of Christ, it’s not about being where we are comfortable or even safe, noting that on
“We may need to bleed a little,” he said, “in being where the least, the last and the lost are. Our mission is not about our comfort and how we’ve been blessed. Our mission is to be a blessing to others.”
Families, he said, don’t always agree with one another, but they don’t have to be disagreeable in the process.
Green’s own family was on display during the service as brothers, grandchildren, children, and his 98-year old mother, Ida Pearl Green, brought signs of being a district superintendent. His mother, for example, along with his brothers M. Howard Bell and Vernon
Green said that he picked the location for his installation service with at least two purposes in mind. One is
Green said that in the regentrification of the community, expensive new condominiums are being built on one side of the street while so-called “affordable housing” exists on the other.
“This is where the church needs to be,” Green said. “Christ UMC needs to be here, in the middle, between the invisible walls of the community.”
The other reason he picked Christ UMC is
In her memory, Green has started, along with others, the Adrienne Terry Fund for Affordable Housing, one of the issues she worked on as part of
Christie Latona, the Washington Region Strategist, introduced the Fund with Green during the service, noting that if every church in the district worked together “as a family,” thousands of dollars could come through to be a blessing for unhoused people.
“There are 43 ZIP Codes in our district,” Latona said, “with 70 congregations. If 12 people from each church contributed $43 per month – less than the price of a cup of coffee per day – we’d have a cash flow of $36,000 per month, and more than $430,000 annually.”
Are you willing, she asked, to give up that cup of coffee “so that others may have a roof over their head?”
The offering at the installation service was the start of the
Green said that the opportunities to establish partnerships throughout the district
“Taking the church beyond the walls and into the community to engage the community in a way that will cause them the love of Christ excites me,” he said during the reception following the service. “But it’s not so much about what we say, but about what we do. When we go out beyond the walls, we need to make certain that we’re going as the body of Christ.”
At the end of the sermon, Green uttered that famous refrain, “God is good.” The congregation responded, “All the time.” “All the time,” Green said, and the congregation responded, “God is good.”
“And the evidence of God’s goodness,” he said, “is you.”