Conference Minister Calls on Delegates to Dismantle the Stone of Injustice

Conference Minister Calls on Delegates to Dismantle the Stone of Injustice

Rev. Darrell Goodwin preaching
Note: A recording of the sermon can be found here.

In his sermon at the 4th Annual Meeting of the Southern New England Conference, Executive Conference Minister the Rev. Darrell Goodwin called on the more than 500 attendees to not just roll away the stone of injustice, but to dismantle it.

"Now, I’m going to critique even our own theme: Roll Away the Stone," he said.  "My fear is that we will do the work to roll away the stone, and in the society and the world we live in, somebody’s going to try to roll it back. So, my siblings in Christ, I am not interested in rolling away the stone. I am interested in wrecking it, dismantling it and destroying it."

"The stone might be our tradition. The stone might be white supremacy. The stone might be that we are sometimes lulled into sleep by our good deeds. The stone might be that we assume we have done everything that is required of us because we have called a black gay man to lead," he said. "But my siblings in Christ, I’m persuaded that the stone is still in need of some chiseling, the stone is still in need of some breakthrough, the stone is still in need of some people of the living God to rise up and say 'I decree and declare that we need to break the stone.' I’m sorry to tell you the stone will not move itself. The stone is uniquely waiting on our 600 churches, 1400 authorized ministers and 110,000 of God’s faithful."

"When we do our work to collectively roll away the stone, it will mean things like: when I attend churches, I will not be asked 'how might I help you?' I might be greeted with: 'welcome to worship.' When we roll away the stone, we will not have to do workshops on trans inclusion because our churches by default will understand that you aren’t a church if you aren’t welcoming all of God’s people," he said.

The meeting's theme was taken from Mark 16:1-4, which tells of the women going to the tomb where Jesus was laid and discovering that the stone blocking the entrance had been rolled away. The theme was carried through worship, which included an original hymn, Roll Away the Stone, written for the meeting by SNEUCC pastor the Rev. Hannah Brown. Other parts of the meeting also reflected the theme, including breakout sessions that were dedicated to different aspects of rolling the stone of injustice away, and a pre-meeting storytelling event dedicated to tales of rolling away stones in our own lives.

Quilts also played a large part in the meeting: quilts from the Sacred Ally Quilt Ministry which are stitched with the last words of George Floyd before he was murdered by police, were on display for delegates to view and contemplate. Each worshipper also received a hand quilted pocket square (they were distributed in person and mailed to online attendees prior to the meeting).  

"You may have received this pocket square, quilted in love, put together and stitched for each and every one of you," Rev. Goodwin said. "So as you are moving through this day and through this worship experience, every now again I just ask you to touch it, hold it, know that someone was knitting this together, thinking about you."

Quilt squares made for worship participant
Referring to the Sacred Ally quilt display, Rev. Goodwin said the quilts "remind us that the marching and the praying and the movements we did in 2020 are just as important and necessary today. The move of the spirit that ushered us into activism did not go to sleep, but it is yet alive, even in this moment."

Rev. Goodwin then talked about what the quilts mean to him personally.

"One of the first welcomes I received as the Executive Conference Minisiter of the Southern New England Conference was a death threat," he said. "The first message I sent to our Board of Directors was about safety and security at the Hartford office and our Framingham campus. I did this because of how dangerous it is to lead as a black man in America."

"I mention that to you because to me, my siblings in Christ, the quilts aren’t something that I look at and think 'woe is George Floyd.' The quilts are something I look at thinking 'that could be me.' I name that because my husband and I have been stopped by the police numerous times in New England. I name that because sometimes I’m concerned as I leave our  churches when the sun has gone down if I will indeed make it home. I name that because while we are imagining that the work may be done, my siblings in Christ, it is not. This work is necessary for us as a Southern New England Conference to see it as urgent."

Referencing Jeremiah 18, verses 1-4, Rev .Goodwin went on to say that destroying the stone is the invitation to the potter's house, where we can be remade into something closer to what God is calling us to be.

"We are called to do this work together. Unfortunately, it won’t end. We’ll have to keep praying, keep marching, keep standing for justice, even when we’re tired. Even when we’re overwhelmed. We will recognize that the need for justice is so imperative for us that we will be willing to push even beyond what seems like our break.  So we will dismantle the stone and we will go into the potter’s house, and we will be stitched together. We will be refashioned. We will be made anew. And somehow, in the midst of all that we will truly become more of what it means to live the love and justice of Jesus," he said. 

"The world doesn’t offer me hope right now. Our politicians don’t offer me hope right now. But you know where I find hope? In each and every one of you. I have hope that you are willing to get out of your own way, so that the spirit of the living God might envelope us. That somehow all God’s children, no matter who you are or where you are on life’s journey, you might find your way here. In our churches, in our love, in our extravagent welcome. My siblings in Christ, join me in breaking up that stone," he said.

Quilts from the Sacred Ally Quilt Project



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Tiffany Vail

Tiffany Vail is the Director of Media & Communications for the Southern New England Conference.

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