Vibrant worship critical to General Conference

Above, Bishop LaTrelle Easterling gives the sermon during morning worship at the 2024 United Methodist General Conference in Charlotte, N.C. Photo by Mike DuBose, UM News

By Jessica Brodie

CHARLOTTE—Worship was an important part of General Conference, from Bishop Thomas Bickerton’s opening worship on Day One through the closing service on the final day of the gathering.

Each day featured someone new leading the service, with a different Scripture each reflecting a different theme for the day. The overall theme for General Conference was “And Know that I Am God,” drawing from Psalm 46:10, but each day added something to this phrase. For example, Day Two was “In the Hoping … Know that I Am God,” Day Three was “In the Believing … Know that I Am God” and Day Four was “In the Trusting … Know that I Am God.”

Many said one of the more powerful sermons came from Bishop LaTrelle Easterling, who preached on Day Three, which was also known as Thursdays in Black. Thursdays in Black is an initiative of the World Council of Churches that encourages wearing black clothing to call attention to rape and violence against women.

Easterling, herself a domestic violence survivor, shared how the church can often silence victims, making it seem like they are to blame. In her case, the person who urged her to be silent was trying to protect her from being considered “weak,” but even though it was well meaning, it’s not how the church should respond. 

“We live in a society that blames the victim,” Easterling preached, noting we often ask questions that put the victim on defense: Why did you stay? Why didn’t you just leave? What were you wearing? Why were you walking alone?

“Society still blames those who were violated, abused or raped,” Easterling said.

But, she said, speaking to all victims, “You are not to blame.”

She explained that Thursdays in Black celebrates all people who have experienced what she called “heinous acts of abuse and violence.” And to the church, she offered strong wisdom: “See us! Don’t ignore us; don’t look past us. Stop making us invisible. Speak our names. “It’s not enough to bandage wounds. We need to speak to the abuse itself.”

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