MLK’s legacy remembered at BMCR celebration
By Lindsay Peyton
“Legacy Moving Forward” was the theme of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration, presented by the Black Methodists for Church Renewal (BMCR) on Jan. 17. In the virtual event, Bishop Scott J. Jones said, “We want to remember his legacy and continue our prayers that someday the sin of racism will be eradicated, justice will roll down like waters and righteousness like an everlasting spring.”
The event continued with passing the gavel from Frankie Watson, current president of the BMCR’s TAC Local Caucus, to Rev. Keith Somerville, Senior Pastor at Riverside-Houston UMC.
“I’m excited because I know God is up to something big,” Somerville said. “And together, we will have a greater future.”
As president, he wants to work to identify, recruit and train individuals to engage in reconciliation and to work with the Conference to address injustice.
A main priority, Somerville continued, will be to have a presence whenever there is an opportunity to stand with others who are marginalized. He asked viewers of the MLK video to recommit to BMCR: “I want you to show up. When we call on you, come. Be with us. Stand with us.”
Somerville asked Watson to continue to serve BMCR as vice president and Juanita Jackson to remain in her role as treasurer. “Their knowledge, experience and passion for the Caucus is needed and very much appreciated,” he said.
A new secretary Ruby Reese from St. Mary UMC in Houston will join them.
Watson has been involved with the BMCR for years before becoming president of the local chapter, starting as a volunteer while still in college in 1973. “We had a chapter at Texas Southern University,” she said. “I was able to get involved at the grassroots level.”
Watson explained that the BMCR was formed in the late 1960s, when a group of Black Methodist leaders met and planned a national conference. “They strategized and prepared for the end of racial segregation and the anticipated formation of the new UMC at the 1968 Uniting General Conference,” she said.
Since that time, Watson added, the BMCR has consistently served as the voice of Black United Methodists and an advocate for the growth and development of Black churches. Currently, the caucus represents more than 2,400 Black United Methodist congregations and approximately 500,000 African-American members across the U.S.
Watson became president of the local chapter in 2019. She is drawn to the organization’s role in advocacy.
“There was always a need to have individuals who look like me take a seat at the table where decisions are made about the future of our church,” she said. “Our mission at BMCR is to raise up prophetic and spiritual leaders who will be advocates for the unique needs of Black people in the UMC.”
During her three-year term as president, Watson focused on unity. “Right now is the time for all of us to really live out the meaning of unity, so that the world will know that we are Christians by our love for one another,” she said.
Watson expressed her appreciation to Bishop Jones and the TAC office staff for their constant support throughout her presidency. “They came to all of our activities – and I mean all,” she said. “Bishop Jones was right there in the midst of it.”
Watson said that Somerville possesses all the attributes needed to lead BMCR for the next three years. “He followed through every time we called on him,” she recalled. “And that’s a quality of a good leader – to know the calling and then lead by example. He does that.”
Somerville officially assumed the role of president on Jan. 1. His goal is to continue building the presence of the BMCR in the Texas Annual Conference. In addition, he hopes to foster more relationships with the community and create new opportunities for others to get involved.
“As much as we can in this COVID era, we need to gather, so we can lift up one another,” he said. “God didn’t just call one of us. God called all of us. We all have passion and energy.”
And everyone has a role in moving towards equity, Somerville continued.
“Everyone can become a member of BMCR, if they too share the belief that careful consideration is given to the many social problems that affect not only the local Black church but also the Black community,” Watson said.
She added that there are opportunities for all to join the advocacy efforts, attend ministry activities, become engaged and help identify future leaders. “BMCR continues to be a necessary force for change and accountability in the UMC today,” she said.
There is much work that remains, Watson said. “There is no waiting for tomorrow. Our time under God is now.”