Lovers Lane UMC Finds A Path Toward Living Undivided

Cohort helps remove divisions 'within our community of faith' and work 'on our shortcomings related to racism, and loving all others' 

Lovers Lane UMC recently hosted a seven-week online cohort, “Living Undivided: Activating communities for racial healing, solidarity and justice.” Underwriting sponsor and church member Beth Emery noted, “Christians need to take the lead in getting all people to see that we are all equal in God's eyes. Living Undivided provides a well-prepared and facilitated way to continue this effort. I am honored to help prime the pump at LLUMC by sponsoring the first cohort – this is in LLUMC’s DNA.”

Indeed, Lovers Lane’s efforts to be an affirming and accepting place for people of all races and backgrounds dates back to what is believed to be the first racial integration of a Methodist church in Texas when Mrs. Bernice Johnson became the first Black person to join.

"I would say from the beginning Lovers Lane UMC has found itself accepting those who were in large part excluded,” said Rev. Dr. Stan Copeland, senior pastor. “First it was alcoholics in the 1940s. Then in 1961, Bernice Johnson was welcomed into the life of the church. This was in a day of great divisions in the country and in Dallas regarding race relations.”

The work of racial justice and reconciliation continues in the church today. Rev. Dawn Anderson coordinated the Living Undivided cohort and saw how this initiative resonated with who Lovers Lane strives to be.

“Our motto, ‘Loving ALL people into relationship with Jesus Christ’ is taken seriously, as we have a diverse congregation including worshippers from 14 different African countries, as well as ministries serving deaf members, special needs families, LGBTQ persons, formerly incarcerated persons and those recovering from substance use disorders,” Anderson said. “So, when our United Women in Faith (called the Bold Women of Lovers Lane) introduced Living Undivided to the congregation, it was a natural fit.”

Amid a climate of division in the country, the church sought to make space for coming to understand each other’s perspectives and find common ground.

“We are a diverse congregation and multi-cultural, but Lovers Lane UMC is far from where we need to be regarding being fully integrated and having the blinders of racism totally removed,” Copeland said. “I think we call that pursuit of Living Undivided ‘going on to perfection.’ Because we aspire to have divisions removed within our community of faith and want to work on our shortcomings related to racism, and loving all others, we have a chance to be a witness of a better way of life together in a very divided world."

Members of the cohort developed meaningful relationships and new ways of communicating as they learned about the history of race relations in the United States and opened non-judgmental conversation with one another.

"Living Undivided afforded me the opportunity to critically reexamine my life's journey and to share those experiences that only a select few had been given,” cohort participant Claude Williams Jr. said.

Fellow participant Ngoni Mukarakate also found it fruitful. "There are many misconceptions about each other that need to be uncovered. For me, this forum opened my eyes to see that we all have to walk some distance and meet people where they are so that we can make each other aware about the realities of living undivided."

Churches and leaders interested in continuing this important work can visit here.

Published: Wednesday, January 10, 2024