Advent Guide 2023

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To God Be The Glory! “Glory to God in the Highest and on earth, peace to those on whom his favor rest.” Luke 2:14 The scripture above defines the actions of the multitude of the heavenly host with the angel praising God in announcing Jesus’ birth to shepherds in the fields. This year of 2023 we are listening for those same words. We started this year with the remnants of COVID; we’ve labored through illnesses, heartfelt deaths, major earthquakes, hurricanes, collapsed government, injustices, civil rights bashings, voter suppression, chaos and confusion, war and genocide. Yes, we long for peace on earth. We are gasping for clean air, calm resolutions, affordable housing, equality, fairness, and equity. We long for peace in this world, and the end to senseless wars and miscarriages of justice. The members and friends of Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church use this booklet to share their reflections of the times and their lives in this season. We prepare for Advent; we await the new birth, the change. We are hopeful and watchful. Our feelings extend far beyond the season of Advent. We pray for peace for all. The messages are as diverse as the communities in which we reside. Our reflections parallel the events of our times and the seasons with which we contend yet, they are words of Hope, Peace, Joy and Love. We hope you will find this booklet useful for your daily devotions. We invite you to join us as we meditate and pray for peace through Advent and beyond. God Be With You! Yvonne L. Bolling Director, Commission on Christian Education

December 3, 2023

WOKE! Mark 13:24-37 Advent is not the beginning of Christmas. And, to be honest, Christmas is not Christmas. Corporate interests and marketers stole Christmas long ago. What remains is a bonanza for retail sales and a hollow festival of conspicuous consumption. Mark’s gospel tries to get our attention amid the holiday clamor on the first Sunday of Advent. Suffering. A dark sun. A dark moon. Falling stars. A shaken heaven. This ain’t Santa. This is the Son of Man returning to inaugurate God’s reign of justice and peace and beauty upon the earth. No one will remain the same. Nothing will remain the same. Mark’s language can’t be trapped on greeting cards or used to sell cars or computers. There is no birth story for American Greetings or Hallmark to manipulate. Advent is the season to open our eyes and to see that God is always coming. Sometimes in the clouds, as in Mark’s gospel. Sometimes in the cries of a socio-politically marginalized infant, the son of an unwed teenaged mother, who enters the world in a barn and exits the world as an executed victim of empire. But, even that infant shall return. God keeps coming. The fig tree bears witness. God keeps coming. Keep alert. Corporate Christmas is trying to lull us to sleep. Stay woke! See God coming! Prayer: God, corporate interests and marketers are trying to lull us to sleep. Keep us alert. Keep us woke. Show us where you are at work overthrowing the powers, principalities, empires, and emperors of our day. You are God. They are puppets and pretenders. Amen. REVEREND WILLIAM H. LAMAR IV PASTOR METROPOLITAN A.M.E. CHURCH *re-submitted after being printed in 2020 for its timely relevance 3 years later

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December 4, 2023

"SO THIS IS CHRISTMAS" “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son…”John 3:16

Advent is the season of reflection and preparation as we await the coming of the Christ child. In most Christian traditions, it is also the season of expectation for the second coming of God. Both understandings are common and true. But there is another reality about the season that we tend to focus less on. In some instances, we take it for granted, and in others we neglect to consider it, perhaps because it implicates us. When God becomes flesh in the form of Jesus, God also becomes human, material, physical. This means that it is fundamentally good to be human (and, conversely, that being human is to be good) and that with every human birth, another element of God is born. In the sense that we are made in God's image and we share humanity, materiality, and physicality with Jesus, Christ is forever being born into the world through the human soul. We are born to be and to do good. I plan to use this Advent to remember that as wonderful as Jesus's birth is as an expression of God's love for us, it is but one of many revelations of that love. God is forever coming into the world. It is no small feat to see, to believe in, and be extensions of God's perpetual light. I'm overwhelmed with humility when I think of how God's goodness not only runs through us but runs after us, urging us to live into the fullness of an eternal Advent where every day is Christmas. Prayer: Help us to live every day as a small Christmas and to honor God's willingness to dwell in flesh. Amen


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December 5, 2023

ADVENT SUNDAY Let the hills sing for joy together before the LORD, for he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with equity. Psalm 98:8-9 The first Sunday of Advent is a reverent day in the Christian community and offers an opportunity for renewal and the beginning of this holy season. It marks the ushering in of the liturgical year where we observe a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the nativity or birth of Christ and his return in the Second Coming. We prepare to officially remember and give thanks for the birth of Jesus, our Lord and savior. Our focus is on God’s gift of the divine presence incarnate in Jesus. He was born of humble origins and destined to fulfill the promises made in the Hebrew scriptures. Advent has a double meaning. We celebrate the birth of Christ, and we wait in hope for his return at the end of time. Prayer: Lord, our God, we praise You for Your Son, Jesus Christ, for He is Emmanuel, the hope of all people. He is the wisdom that teaches and guides us. He is the Savior of us all. O Lord, let your blessing come upon us as we light the first (purple) candle of the wreath. Amen.


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December 6, 2023

THE MAGNIFICENT SEASON OF ADVENT The Lord spoke through the prophet: “The virgin shall become pregnant and give birth to a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,“ which means, “God is with us.” Matt 1:22-23 The prophets’ predictions of Jesus’ birth make us thankful for the hope that Jesus brings. Advent is a season observed as a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the birth of Christ. Advent means “the arrival.” It begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas and ends on Christmas Eve. Advent is observed with calendars, lighting candles on Advent wreaths, praying daily devotionals, and erecting Christmas trees and decorations. The candles in the Advent wreath symbolize the stages of salvation before the coming of the Messiah. There are three purple candles representing hope, love, and peace, and a pink one for joy. Observing Advent invites us to remember the hope, peace, joy and love that Jesus offers us. During Advent we are challenged to stay focused on Jesus, what His birth means for us, and not concentrate on other holiday festivities. We should plan ways to keep Jesus at the center of the season. Pray and study the great story of Emmanuel, feel its worth in your soul, and be filled with the hope, peace, joy and love of Christ. Prayer: Heavenly Father, help us to prepare and celebrate the birth Jesus Christ. Keep us focused on your purpose for our lives, and not the distraction of the holiday festivities. Fill us with the hope, peace, joy and love that you bring. Amen. TRUSTEE JOCELYN Y. HARRIS SISTERS IN THE SPIRIT CHOIR

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December 7, 2023

WHAT DOES ADVENT MEAN TO ME? And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins. Matthew 1: 21

Prayer: Heavenly Parent, in the midst of this season of preparation, please work with us to celebrate the original purpose of these days. Every year we seek more of thee and less of purchase and acquisition. Help us to get it right, at last. Amen


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December 8, 2023

GRACE AND MERCY Let us, then, feel very sure that we can come before God’s throne where there is grace. There we can receive mercy and grace to help us when we need it. Hebrews 4:16

God is so good. His goodness mercy and grace endureth forever. My blessings from the Lord are plentiful and abundant. I’m able to go places and do things with family and friends, take care of myself, exercise and enjoy daily walks. I thank God for giving me hope and peace in my life especially now when there is so much hate, corruption, greed, untruths and deceit in this country and across the world. God’s grace and mercy are with you when you live with righteousness and truth. God is love and kindness; not hate. As we prepare for Advent and the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, I pray that God will change the people’s hearts from hate and stone to love, kindness and truthfulness. Celebrating Advent and the birth of Jesus gives us an opportunity to reflect on Jesus and follow His ways. Then, God’s grace, mercy and love will fall upon the people and give them hope, peace and happiness. We all can live our lives without fear and enjoy God’s abundant blessings as we go about our daily lives. Prayer: Father God, bless our hearts to be of love, compassion, kindness and truthfulness at Advent and always, that we can receive your abundant grace, mercy and blessings to live a life of peace, hope and happiness. Amen!


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December 9, 2023

AN ADVENT ACROSTIC “Cause me to hear Your lovingkindness in the morning; For in You do I trust; Cause me to know the way in which I should walk, For I lift up my soul to You.” Psalm 143:8

Prayer: “Lord, you have given us your Holy Word for a light to shine upon our path. May we walk in the way of Jesus Christ our Lord.” Thank you. Amen SISTER JACQUELINE WOODY FRIEND OF METROPOLITAN A.M.E.

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December 10, 2023

PEACE “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” John 14:27

The second candle of Advent is Peace. Peace can be personal--your mind and your heart are in a state of tranquility with a good relationship with God. Peace can be universal--a state of no wars. Peace can also be relational--the absence of violence, chaos in personal relationships. Individuals are wrestling with internal demons that do not allow them to be happy or content and that sometimes lead them to attempt to take their own lives and the lives of their loved ones. During Advent we must make a special effort to have personal peace. Practice daily meditations, focusing on our inner peace and our relationship with our creator. We are experiencing international wars, climate disasters and domestic chaos and terrorism. We must pray for world leaders, antagonists, and innocent people. Pray for the strength of wise people to stay strong and step forth as leaders. Families, neighbors, and communities are at war over simple and complex issues. Families are being torn apart by things that used to be considered trivial and insignificant. Use this season to strengthen personal relationships, spending quality time with loved ones. Prayer: Lord, we pray for peace of mind and heart. Remove the worries, impatience, evil, jealousy, envy, hatred, fear, and sin that are preventing us from recognizing and receiving your gift of peace. Amen.


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December 11, 2023

PEACE IN THE MIDST OF IT ALL “For unto us a child is born, a son is given and the government will be upon His shoulder, And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6. As we celebrate this Advent Season, much of the news reports tell of unrest; conflicts in our nation, nations around the world, division in families, churches, schools, and so much more that is negative. For peace in the midst of all negative reporting, I have chosen to reflect upon and think of the spiritual guidance and teachings received over my lifetime. Thus, with a heart of gratitude, I read and meditate more on God’s Word; and share the good news of Jesus with family, friends and others. The scriptures clearly explain the love of God and it takes me to another space of thinking of the blessings of His peace. Philippians 4:6-7 “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for the scriptures that remind me where my focus should be during Advent and always. SISTER BARBARA BOOKER WOOD FRIEND OF METROPOLITAN A.M.E.

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December 12, 2023

PREPARING FOR THE CHRIST CHILD To humans belong the plans of the heart, but from the Lord comes the proper answer of the tongue. All a person’s ways seem pure to them, but motives are weighed by the Lord, Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans. Psalm 6:1-3

During Advent we prepare for the coming of the Christ Child. In our secular, predatory capitalist culture, we seem to spend at least twice that time “preparing” for a season which has become a spending and partying extravaganza. More than a third of all jewelry is purchased during the Christmas season. The Friday after Thanksgiving is called “Black Friday” not because of Black folks, but because many retailers go into the black, or make a profit, because of profligate holiday spending. We prepare for Christmas by cooking, cleaning, presenting our homes for family and holiday visitors. Do we spend the same kind of time, effort, energy and money preparing our hearts, minds and souls? Just as we clean our homes, polish our glassware, and hang holiday ornaments, do we take the time to cleanse our hearts, releasing every resentment, forgiving those who have wronged us? Just as we hang holiday ornaments, do we decorate our homes with joy, peace, and love? Just as we have “to-do” lists and gift lists, have we developed the same lists for our spirit? What must we do to get right with God, and to purely welcome the Christ Child into our world? Prayer: Father/mother God, thank you for the gift of the Christ Child. Help us plan for this gift. Make us worthy to receive them. Amen. DR. JULIANNE MALVEAUX MORNING MEDITATION TEAM

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December 13, 2023

PEACE BORNE OF THE COMFORT OF SORROWS “Comfort, O comfort my people,” says your God. “Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her, that she has served her term” – Isaiah 40:1-2 I hear the Divine invitation of Advent to move along the bridge between prophecy and fulfillment, a period of vulnerable evolution of expectation. Our expectations evolve between the Immaculate Conception and Miraculous Birth of Jesus; between his historic birth to his awaited Second Coming; between his return as Messiah to the world and his ushering of peace in the establishment of a new Jerusalem. What are we carrying in divine expectation? I hear the childhood hymn sung in my aunt’s church in the Caribbean, “Jerusalem, my happy home, when shall I come to thee? When shall thy sorrows have an end? Thy joys when shall I see?” I hear Rachel’s voice in Ramah as the backdrop to the innocent children caught in escalating violence today in our communities and the Holy Land. I hear Herod’s genocidal call in the backdrop of Jesus’ birth and today’s infant mortality rates for Black and Brown babies. The Advent bridge of expectation mirrors the vulnerable evolution of pregnancy—from prenatal care to comfort measures during labor. The joys and pain of expectation continue beyond birth into the lives of our children and people. Let us speak tenderly to the Jerusalem within ourselves, each other, and our communities. Let us be midwives, active ushers of the peace we are called to bring into the world. Prayer: Gracious God, empower all we say and do to meet the demands of justice to also bring comfort to sorrows. Help us see to the peace in the world. Amen. SISTER DORA MUHAMMAD FRIEND OF METROPOLITAN

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December 14, 2023

Advent: A Season of Signifying, Imagining, and Modeling Revelation 21:1-6 I am the product of the intersection between disciplines and divine revelation. I am a source of signifying, imagining, and modeling because of my intersectional formation. Walk with me during Advent’s anticipation as we re-center our lives and our attention on Christ. Jesus enters time and space among people who expect that he will transform the world. We are called to signify the new heaven and new earth. We are called to imagine the mystery and mystical nature of God. We are called to model an ethic of living that is faithful to our God, our communities, and our world. In The Parable of the Sower, Octavia Butler wrote, “There is nothing new under the sun, but there are new suns.” Consider these three new suns: Afrofuturism, Ecowomanism, and Womanist Ethics. Afrofuturism is reclamation of what has been stolen because of colonization, imagines Black liberation through a revisioning of the past and the possibilities of the future. Afrofuturism seeks to create the radical peace of “shalom,” that tends to our souls through the re-ordering of society and releasing the strongholds that claimed our joy, our peace, and our ability to envision a future beyond the death dealing past. Ecowomanism is the connection to the soil, imagines reclaiming identity, ownership and stewardship of the land that was promised through modeling eco-storytelling and the renewal of divine covenant with the land in tandem with God, creation and the Holy Spirit. When we embody Ecowomanism, we can signify prophetic tradition that flows from a stream of consciousness like Sojourner Truth and Harriet Tubman. Womanist Ethics is the generational wisdom and experiences of Black women that permeates our ways of being, understanding and making decisions. We can imagine morally grounded and faithful ways of living that include the practices of truth telling and corrective action. Where do you see God calling, moving, creating, and entering into time and space?

Prayer: Sovereign God. Shape us, mold us, and awaken us in this Advent season, to center Jesus in our worship, our work, and our community. Amen. REVEREND EVAN TAYLOR MINISTER TO YOUNG ADULTS

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December 15, 2023

OBEDIENCE “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.” 1 John 5:3

Obedience in the Bible simply means hearing the word of God and acting on it. It implies aligning our will to God’s will; doing what God has asked us to do. This is not new. It’s been going on for generations. Let’s look back to when God tested Abraham by asking him to sacrifice his son, Isaac. Abraham adhered until God intervened. Hezekiah showed obedience to God by cleaning up all the idolatry, John the Baptist obeyed God by baptizing Jesus, and the disciples obeyed Jesus as followers. But on this Advent, the obedience of Mary, the mother of Jesus, and Joseph, his earthly father is the one that matters most. The couple found themselves in a very unusual situation; Virgin Mary getting pregnant and being cared for by a husband she had never been with, and Joseph accepting the will of God by carrying out His order. Being obedient is not an easy thing. We often think of obedience as a list of rules we sometimes follow grudgingly. Being disobedient comes with a hefty price, but the benefit of being obedient to God is more rewarding. Obedience keeps us from evil and connected to God, heals our relationships, community and nation, makes us better persons, brings unspeakable joy that only comes from God, and gives us hope. Hope we need in this chaotic and injustice world. I challenge you on this Advent to be obedient to God. Try it and see how things change in your life. Prayer: Lord, we thank you for the act of obedience by Mary and Joseph. Come into our community. Show us how to be obedient to your words. In His name we pray. Amen TRUSTEE PIUS BOLA AKINOLA FINANCE OFFICER COMBINED CHOIR

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December 16, 2023

IF I CAN HELP SOMEBODY Teach me to do your will, for you are my God: may your good spirit lead me on level ground. Psalm 143: 10 As we enter this Advent season, let's all think about how we can do God's will. Our world is in turmoil and there is a need for those of us who profess to be Christian to step up and do those things that help others increase their faith. We can do so by letting our actions towards others speak volumes about our faith, thereby letting others see how we live our lives and maybe give them the incentive to live similarly. It is our duty to try and bring others to believe in God. Just as God gave us the gift of his son, let us give of ourselves so that we and others may be saved. The lyrics following are a way for us to do just that: If I can help somebody, as I travel along If I can help somebody, with a word or song If I can help somebody, from doing wrong Then my living shall not be in vain. Then my living shall not be in vain No, my living shall not be in vain If I can help somebody as I sing a song You know my living shall not be in vain. Prayer: Father, let us live so we show others the faith we have in You; in Jesus name I pray. Amen STEWARD THEDFORD COLLINS STEWARD PRO-TEM

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December 17, 2023

MY SOUL IS A WITNESS "But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect." 1 Peter 3:15 Christianity is the largest religion in the world. Yet so many still do not believe. And even those who claim to be Christians, Often find it difficult to conceive. Of a young virgin girl giving birth to one such as He. Are you a witness to the holiness of this baby boy? Do you believe He is the King of kings? Are you a witness to His blessings, love, and joy? As we wait and prepare to celebrate His birth, And His second coming, our souls to win. Are you a witness to His mercy and grace? Do you believe He can wash away your sin? My soul is a witness for all he has done for me. I give Him all the honor, praise, and glory. Will you be a witness for my Lord? And sing His song and tell His story. Prayer: Lord, let my light so shine, that men may see my good work and glorify YOU! AMEN SISTER ELLEN A. V. YOUNG FIZER STEWARD EMERITUS PEARL P. COOK SENIOR CITIZENS CLUB

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December 18, 2023

SHARE THE LOVE AND SPREAD THE PEACE In everything give thanks. 1 Thessalonians 5:18a

Thank You, Lord, for the Advent season. After an arduous journey through the year, we need time to recharge. Each year during the Advent season, we are gifted the unique opportunity to revive and renew our spirit. We center ourselves in anticipation of the Lord’s renewed presence in our hearts, minds and daily lives. Each of the four Sundays represents a rekindling of the hope, the peace, the joy and the love we once knew or are just finding. Each Sunday, we light a candle embracing each spirit. This is a tremendous gift. I think each of us will benefit from a resurgence of hope, peace, joy and love in our personal and community lives. Together, let’s share the love and spread the peace. Prayer: Thank you Lord for the greatest gift of all, your presence in our lives. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen REVEREND AISHA KARIMAH ANCHORS MINISTRY

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December 19, 2023

I THANK GOD FOR ONE MORE DAY!! “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” - 2 Corinthians 9 We must prepare for the birth of the truth and the light. War in the Holy land is upon us once again. Truth is fleeting in every aspect of our lives in America & the World. Millions continue to be hunted by needless deaths in a post global pandemic and the hatred amongst mankind. Lives continue to be devastated by government action and inaction. Thousands of lives continue to be lost to gun violence. Lord, the list goes on beyond our comprehension. Surely, the end must be near! But we serve a magnificent God who hears our prayers. Truly our cup runneth over!! I look forward to Advent and to the signs of the times. They are a welcome distraction from this World! The falling leaves. The change in colors. Decrease in temperatures and the frost. The fresh smell of the air. The sounds of the seasons will rise like a crescendo. This Christmas Song, raising our spirits up higher as we praise God in all his glory for the many blessings that we have received throughout this and many years. Just think of the many things you take for granted every day! But for the grace of God would we even be around to enjoy them? He wakes us up. Sends us on the way and safely returns us at the end of the day. Throughout we are clothed in your right mind! Praise God!! Surely that alone must compel us to be cheerful givers in the spirit that our Lord has given to us!

Prayer: I pray that this world shall restore itself to peace and love. Rejoice and Thank God for One More Day!! JUDGE CLAYTON AARONS TRUSTEE

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December 20, 2023

WHAT ARE YOU ASKING FOR? Then he said to Jesus, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” And Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.” Luke 23:42-43 NKJV This is the time of year when the proverbial question is asked of many, “What do you want for Christmas?” Some people have a ready-made list of items that they want to receive. I am one of those individuals who struggles to give my family ideas on what to give me. A list is always demanded and it takes a lot of meditation and website viewing to come up with something I really want. In scriptures that precede Luke 23: 42-43, one of the thieves being crucified with Jesus rebuffs the other thief for questioning Jesus’ identity and why he wasn’t saving himself and them. It can be inferred from the rebuff that this thief knew who Jesus was and had reverence for this innocent victim of Roman persecution. His “Christmas wish” was “Remember me.” Jesus granted that thief his wish and insured he would receive paradise. What a gift! As you put your Christmas list together this season, consider adding “Remember me” to your list. Paradise could be yours. Prayer: Almighty God, grant us Your paradise this Advent season. BROTHER WADE DUGGER STEWARD EMERITUS

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December 21, 2023

THE GREATEST GIFT IMAGINABLE “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16 KJV

Advent is perhaps the most wonderful season of the liturgical calendar year. It is dedicated to hope and high anticipation of the arrival of our Redeemer Jesus the Christ. In Christ, God is offering us everything we need to remain anchored from day to day. In Christ we have his presence, peace, eternal life and righteousness. During Advent, I remind you to pause and give thanks – stop and ponder and embrace the awesomeness of the gift of Christ -- the living God and his son. Christmas, “Christ,” our earthly treasure and our response to a fallen world that has no hope. So, in joyfulness and gratitude let us open our hearts and spirits and rid ourselves of the clutter and chaos that we have endured this year and recapture the meaning of the season. Let us behold the one who came down from heaven to live, love and embrace us in our sinful state. Jesus came for us that we might experience the unforgettable gift of Christ. Prayer: Gracious Father, the giver of all good gifts: for your greatest gift of Christ, we give thanks. Touch and refill our hearts with his spirit that we may experience the real love and sacrifice that he gave just for us. In Jesus’ name Amen.


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December 22, 2023

LIGHTS, CAMERA, ACTION---CHRISTMAS IS COMING! And Mary said: “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant.” Luke 1: 46-48 As soon as Thanksgiving is over, I feel the exciting rush of Christmas preparation, in anticipation of celebrating the birth of Jesus, while preparing for family and friends. I remember the excitement of my sons as children, and the enjoyment of watching my grandchildren trying to understand what is going on! Christmas time is an opportunity to engage in the Christmas story as shared with us in the Bible. Using my holy imagination, my mind becomes a camera recording Mary, Joseph, the baby Jesus, the Angel of the Lord announcing his birth, shepherds in the field, a bright shining star guiding the Magi, Herod and the family’s escape to Egypt to save the life of our savior. Christmas also makes me remember that although I have faced trials and tribulations, I am grateful for the many blessings I have had in my life. Thankful, I must ask myself how I can be a part of bringing more light into the world. Prayer: Lord, thank you for sending your son to be a light in this world. May we work together to let his light shine for all humanity to appreciate the gift of our world and live together as neighbors in peace. Amen SISTER LINDA AARONS CHURCH SCHOOL FACULTY

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December 23, 2023

ADVENT DEVOTIONAL 2023 May all the gifts and benefits that come from God our Father, and the Master Jesus Christ, be yours. Every time I think of you--and I think of you often!--I thank God for our lives of free and open access to God, given by Jesus. There’s no end to what has happened in you, it’s beyond speech, beyond knowledge. The evidence of Christ has been clearly verified in your lives. 1 Corinthians 1: 3-9 Just think, you don’t need a thing; you’ve got it all! All God’s gifts are right in front of you as you wait expectantly for our Master Jesus to arrive on the scene for the Finale. And not only that but God himself is right alongside to keep you steady and on track until things are all wrapped up by Jesus. God, who got you started in this spiritual adventure, shares with us the life of his Son and our Master Jesus. He will never give up on you. Never forget that. “Jesus the Light of the World” (Hymn –Charles Wesley): We’ll walk in the light, beautiful light. Come where the dewdrops of mercy shine bright. Oh, shine all around us by day and by night. Jesus, the light of the world.

“I am the world’s light. No one who follows me stumbles around in the darkness. I provide plenty of light to lie in.” - John 8:12 Prayer: Thank you, Jesus, for being our Light in this ever-changing world. Amen SISTER DONNA M BRUCE CLASS LEADER 2ND BOARD OF STEWARDS

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Christmas Eve

LOVE IS THE GIFT Do everything in love. 1 Corinthians 16:14

One of my favorite songs in the 80’s was “Love Isn’t Love.” Check out the chorus: “Love isn’t love till you’ve given it away. It’s just waiting to be given, all bitterness erased. By this man will know that you’re Christ’s disciples; Nothing else can take love’s place. Love isn’t Love, till you’ve given it away.” Inspired by those lyrics, my daily prayer is Lord, use me as your instrument of love. In 2020, when the lockdown and sheltering in place was in full force, I noticed the spreading narratives were very toxic and fear based, playing on a loop in the media 24/7. As a result of the toxic narratives continuously streaming in the media, depression and suicide were on the rise. My prayer was “Lord, have mercy, show me how to be your messenger of love.” My husband Charles and I began to spread daily messages of love and inspiration. We became “one love ambassadors,” and our daily messages were called “Love Drops!” Three years later our “Love Drops” has evolved into a podcast now streaming around the world. So, during this season of giving as you consider your gift selections, remember Love is the greatest gift you can give. Like the song says, “Love isn’t love till you’ve given it away.” Prayer: Dear Lord, help us to be your instruments of love today and always, in Jesus’ name. Amen SISTER DIANE WOODFORD MORNING MEDITATION TEAM MEMBER

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Christmas Day

ADVENT REFLECTION “Fear not, for I am with you…” Isaiah 41:10 This season brings much joy and happiness for many. Homes are filled with laughter, small children are playing, and tables are laid out with food. This is a great memory and experience for many, but I challenge us to look at another side of the season. Someone is dealing with their first Christmas since the passing of their loved one, the loss of employment, or the hurt of loneliness. Others are still reeling from the wars and hostilities in their backyard. We ought to pause and reflect on how Christmas is not always a joyous time. This should move us to reflect on the first Christmas, the sacred narrative of Jesus’ birth. Born under Roman occupation in the backwoods of Bethlehem, God enters humanity. This reflection should connect our hearts and minds to the heart and mind of Mary and Joseph. While anxiously awaiting the arrival of their child, the season did not necessarily evoke the warm and fuzzy. Possibly they were contemplating housing, rearing this child to value their heritage while living under the occupation. Whatever the case, I pray that we stand with them for a moment, taking in the depth and experience for this is where God is. Prayer: Lord, help us to sit with the real conditions of your arrival to save and liberate us. Help us to know and listen to the cries of the people for whom this season brings anxiety and grief. Allow us to be conduits of your love, compassion, care, and justice. We pray to actively be a part of shaping the world for the betterment of your people. In Jesus’ name, Amen. REVEREND KENDAL McBROOM MINISTERIAL STAFF

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Day After Christmas

“THE SHINING” This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about. His mother, Mary, was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph, her husband, was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” Matthew 1:18-25 Jesus was born to be our Saviour, a light in a dark world. Jesus is our S.O.S. (Soap Opera Savior), because: He is healer in a General Hospital, a Guiding Light for All My Children who are The Young and The Restless in Another World in Search for Tomorrow. The same light should be shining within you if you believe that Jesus is the light of the world. Our light should so shine that all may see our good works. The Son shines because God reigns. Prayer: O come let us adore Him, Oh come let us adore Him, Oh come let us adore Him, Christ The Lord ! REVEREND GEOFFREY E. TATE, SR. MINISTER TO SENIORS MINISTER TO GRIEF SHARE

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Second Day After Christmas

I WAS BORN FOR YOU AND MY NAME IS JESUS! “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and the government will be upon His shoulders. And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." Isaiah 9:6. In the beginning the Word was with God and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us fulfilling all the Old Testament prophecies that He would be born of a virgin, having God alone as His Father. His name became Jesus who was chosen before the foundation. Isaiah 7:14 Isaiah was a prophet and offered messages from the Lord of both judgement and hope. Jesus becoming flesh means that God dwells with His people permanently, never leaving us alone. 1 Corinthians. 3:16 Prayer: Father thank you for the birth of Jesus. Because He became flesh and dwelt among us, I can experience His glory, grace, and truth through belief in the gospel. Thank you for your promise that through His birth you will never leave us alone. Amen SISTER DOROTHY PAYNE BRYAN, Ph.D. CIRCLE OF TWELVE

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Third Day After Christmas

JUST OPEN THE GIFT “Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down […] shall men give into your bosom.” Luke 6:38 Have you ever received a present and immediately assumed you knew what was inside? In life, we all have moments when we feel like we never get what we truly desire. One thing is for certain; two things for sure: what is destined for each of us, God will bless us with in His perfect timing, and this is never more evident than during Christmas. In this season God presents us with the gift of Himself in our Savior Jesus the Christ. In our moments of Christmastime reflection, thoughts of self should disappear. Our focus should turn to people and things that truly matter, as Jesus does for us. The opened gift of Christ at Christmas is not a one size fits all experience; it is a reciprocal gift that teaches, develops, and matures us. So, as we grow into our gifts, we too can encourage others to accept and open the Christ gift, one that we continually grow into and never grow out of. Prayer: Gracious father, as we open the gift of Christ we thank you that He is everything that we never had or even thought to ask for. He is our joy, peace and love, and we thank you for the privilege to grow in this life and in each other. In Jesus’ name. Amen.


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Fourth Day After Christmas

DOPPELGANGERS But, we all with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the spirit of the Lord. 2 Corinthians 3:18 Last week I went to Aldi’s and as I walked across the parking lot someone hollered, "hello Audrey." The person then said, “I am so sorry I thought you were someone else.” There are many people unrelated to us who look like us. Who do you look like? In 2 Corinthians "we are described as beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord." When we behold His glory, we will be transformed into His likeness with ever increasing glory, which comes from God. Our glory is developed by reading his word and praising him. Our daily lives should reflect love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control through the Holy Spirit. This Advent season it would be amazing if people would say " I see Jesus in you." Prayer: Lord, help us to focus on you. Transform us to be like you. Amen. SISTER JUDITH WATKINS STEWARDESS

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Fifth Day After Christmas

GOD’S LIGHT “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. “ Psalm 46:1 I still have childhood anxieties that plague me. I am afraid of creepy crawlers; bugs, snakes… You will not find me visiting the reptile house at the zoo. I hate to be surprised from behind. I jump every time. Finally, I hate to be alone in the dark. My irrational love of scary movies has planted too much fodder in my imagination for unsettling things can happen in the dark. Recently, I was home alone when the power went out everywhere at 11:00 p.m. leaving me in a darkened house on a darkened street, no lights anywhere. My mind sped decades in reverse; I felt like a frightened 10-year-old. After my heart pounded for several seconds, I realized that I had to get myself together and manage the situation. I asked God to calm my nerves and give me the courage to face the night. As I continued praying, I felt myself begin to unwind and the peace of God embraced me. I fell asleep and was awakened by the lights several hours later. Our God responds to all situations, including frivolous ones like mine. In preparation for the celebration of Advent, remember that we can call on God to calm and strengthen us at any time. Only God can bestow peace that passes all understanding. Psalm 27:1 assures us - “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” Prayer: Dear Holy Parent – thank you for life and the perfect peace that only you can give. Amen STEWARD MARIE JOHNS PASTOR’S STEWARD

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Sixth Day After Christmas

YESTERYEAR Listen to my instruction and be wise; do not disregard it. Proverbs 8:33

The early morning chill of fall is a reminder that Advent is on the horizon. As we look forward to this great time of joy and celebration in Christ, I lament the changes in our church post-Covid. Recently, I was following the closing worship service at another district's Annual Conference. The worshipers recited The Apostles Creed. My generation learned Creed as children and now I found myself struggling to follow along. At first, I blamed the struggle on my aging and then I surmised it more than likely is the result of our not using it in service any longer. We also would stand and sing the hymn of preparation just before the sermon. I love being back in my church and I also miss these rituals that, to many, are part of being an African Methodist. I believe in God, the Father, almighty, maker of heaven and earth. And in Jesus Christ, his only begotten Son, our Lord... Ritual and liturgy are good for the body and soul. Prayer: Heavenly Father, grant us wisdom to include and exclude the language of our ancestors throughout our worship. Amen BROTHER JAMES F. ROBINSON STEWARD EMERITUS

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Seventh Day After Christmas

A LOVE LETTER TO MYSELF “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own?” 1 Corinthians 6: 19

Confession: I have a longstanding, love/hate relationship with my body--- too tall, too skinny, too fat, feet too big, nose too broad, too…. And all the challenges of the aging body! Why are we so critical of our bodies? Author and Lutheran minister, Nadia Bolz-Weber, spoke on the sacred nature of the human body, “We might experience the awesomeness of God in the mountains… but we see the image of God in the human body in all its perfectly glorious diversity.” She continued, “God saves you in your body, not from your body.” Singer, songwriter, Mary J. Blige, sings, “I wake up every morning and tell myself, ‘Good morning, Gorgeous.’” I'm pretty sure that I do not fit the profile for this Queen of Hip-Hop’s targeted audience, but she is singing to me. So, this old, beautiful black male, will continue to affirm himself each morning by addressing that Imago Dei (image of God) with, “Good Morning, Gorgeous” until he believes every word. Prayer: Loving God, help us to see ourselves through your eyes, worthy to be temples of your Holy Spirit. The human body was good enough for Jesus. We accept these bodies as precious gifts from you. Help us to treat each other as precious and worthy in all our perfect imperfections. Amen BROTHER CARLOS E. BOTTS MIGHTY MEN OF METROPOLITAN METROPOLITAN CULTURAL ARTS MINISTRY

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Eighth Day After Christmas

VISION “For I know the plans I have for you” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

On June 19, 2023, I had a stroke that took away my peripheral vision on the right side of my eyes. As a result of this, I cannot drive and my balance is slightly off. That being said, I feel truly blessed because it was not as debilitating as it could have been and my husband and family have been very supportive. Thinking about my vision made me think of God’s vision for us. His omniscient vision knew that we needed help; so, He sent Jesus. As we wait on his coming during this Advent season, remember that God wants us to believe in him, follow his word, love everyone, forgive everyone, be of service to others and show our faith through our actions. Prayer: Our Father, thank you for sending your only son, Jesus, so that we can walk in the Light and have everlasting life. Amen SISTER BARBARA FARROW JONES STEWARDESS

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Ninth Day After Christmas

WITH FAITH GOD PREVAILS No weapon formed against thee shall prosper. Isaiah 54:17 My 93-year-old mother is sometimes paranoid and confused; occasionally targeting me as the enemy. I gained weight during the pandemic that must be managed. A genetic mutation predisposes me to many life-threatening cancers. A double mastectomy was planned and had to be postponed when I broke my ankle and leg. After a year, some days, I can barely walk. Did the devil do this? Did some demon push me on the stoop where I broke my leg and ankle? Self-doubt, anxiety, anger. Woe be unto me; moods lay in wait poised to cease me. The "devil" will delight and revel if I let him. Or do I glorify the days I can walk and thank God there is a dodge to the breast cancer that could knock on my door? Should I be thankful that there is surveillance that may prevent other cancers from taking hold? Do I celebrate that surgery might heal my ankle? Do I praise God because my mother is still living and we still laugh, go to shows and watch movies together and (most of the time) her mind is intact? The "devil" is in the mix, but the choice is mine whether to let him manifest and rule me. I have supportive family, friends, church, and calling, and I pray that I am actualizing my purpose in alignment with God's intention! God will see me through, and I will strive daily to honor my blessings. Prayer: Lord, Help us honor the advent of your birth as a time to lift up our blessings and honor your reign in our lives. Amen SISTER CELESTE M. BRYANT WIN JUSTICE MINISTRY MARRIED COUPLES MINISTRY

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Tenth Day After Christmas

HONORING THE ELDERS IN THE BIRTH OF A NEW GENERATION “Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.” Exodus. 20:12, also known as “The Fifth Commandment.” In this season of Advent, many of us are engaged in role reversals, where we are now the caregivers of the people who gave so much to us. As our grandmother, our matriarch, aka “Big Ma” approaches her 106th year, she has become frail and dependent on the people who used to depend on her. Recently, she whispered to me, tearfully, “If I could just be with y’all all the time, I’ll be alright.” I shared this request with our family, and I was thrilled to see generations of her progeny coming together to try to make that happen. Napping in chairs and on uncomfortable French provincial furniture just to be near her (yes, the kind with plastic covering over it), learning her signature cake and peach cobbler recipes, carrying her in her wheelchair, giving her foot and scalp massages, manicures, and warm and loving kisses. Our efforts to honor the wishes of our “queen” have given birth to a new thing within our family: compassion not only for our parents, but for one another as we age. Prayer: Dear Lord, as the Advent season approaches, help us to birth a new generation of caregivers who lovingly care for and honor our parents, who bear their names with dignity and devotion, because of, or regardless of, what they did or didn’t do for us. Amen


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Eleventh Day After Christmas

YOU SAY I'M FOOLISH… I JUST DON’T WANT TO BURDEN YOU Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil…Psalm 23: 4 The older I get the harder it is to mend old fences. I also see that some fences will never get mended. Life is taking me on a journey that has imprinted the good, bad, blessed and everything in between. Romans 8:28 instructs that God can use it for good. These experiences will impact me for many years and the work is stressful. I don’t know about you, but I’m not a good sufferer, loser or a patient person. We must deepen our understanding to walk the path of discipline (Hebrews 12:10). As our lives are crafted it will get tough. As we fail, succeed and learn, our resolve strengthens. No matter how strange the task or how difficult the day to day is, we are being refined to shine brightly like a diamond (1 Peter 1:6–7). Love when they are mean, difficult and downright wrong. Open your heart to be able to rise above it. God knows your heart and will take care of you. Prayer: Dear God, I thank you that as I look back on my life, I can often see the ways in which you have used the hard times. Thank you that your words are more precious than thousands of pieces of silver and gold. Amen SISTER ANNTOINETTE McENTYRE CHURCH SCHOOL GIRL SCOUTS

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Twelfth Day After Christmas

“ISN’T THAT GOOD NEWS?” He is the image of the invisible God. For in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible...Colossians 1: 15-16 According to the American Museum of Natural History “every atom of oxygen in our lungs, of carbon in our muscles, of calcium in our bones, of iron in our blood was created inside a star before Earth was born.” The Australian Geographic adds that “about 86 percent of our mass is stardust.” In this new age of genealogical research, we all share one common source, and we need only look up on a clear night to commune with them. Yet, the maestro of all things, in timeless sequence, brought about a Son, to save us, in a way, from the cold distance between the divine and the mortal. The Magi set about on a path, following our cosmic ancestor through the desert, representing the closure of that distance. Today, we understandably lament the chaos of our existence—the fallibility of the flesh. But in so doing, may we not forget, that this flesh, woven from the stars, was seen as precious enough to envelop the Christ whose birth we anticipate now. In that fact, we are given a spiritual North Star and we are saved. Prayer: Great Spirit, be a conduit between all your creation near and far. Heal us where we rupture and guide us where darkness blinds us. Remind us of your good news that our chaos is and has always been in your care. Amen.


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Thirteenth Day After Christmas

KNOW YOUR PATH “Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.” Psalm 119:105

Path –literary meaning - a route, course, or track along which something moves; the path of a hurricane, a course of action, conduct, or procedure: the path of righteousness - the root word meaning – “feel” or “suffer.” Direction - the management or guidance of someone or something Today many of us are suffering because we don’t know the route of our directions. We’re confused and wondering which way to go; east, west, south, north, better yet forward (up) or backwards (down). I like to think we need to focus on moving forward no matter which direction except backwards (down) -- please let’s not go any deeper. With uncertain changes – people, weather, animals, diseases, and death hitting us from all directions, I had to stop to look at my course of movement. Yes, I ask God for direction and I thank him for his loving guidance and blessings. With prayer, I feel the journey to my path of righteousness is moving in the right direction, which will allow me to encourage others to find their “metes and bounds.” Sometimes we need to study our directions. It can be scary and you may get lost, but don’t stop; just ask God to guide you. Once you find your path, stay on it and lead others. We often wonder how our ancestors made it over. Well, just look at Harriet Tubman’s path – a mission to freedom. Prayer: Guide us father, Amen


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Fourteenth Day After Christmas

MY ADVENT REFLECTION “If God is for us, who can be against us” Roman 8:31

There has been so much going on in our world today. Countries are being destroyed for power, land, and money. People are being killed for no reason at all. Our people (young and old) are using guns illegally. People are being car jacked and their personal items are being stolen. Our leaders are not putting forth an effort to stop these incidents from occurring. According to my scripture reference, regardless of what the government is not doing, and even when people are not feeling safe, “if God is for us, who can be against us.” We, as the people, need to have the strength and believe. God is with us and will not forsake us. Prayer- Dear God, we stand in the need of prayer. Nothing can come between God and his love for us. No matter what happens, God will provide and intercede for us. Amen


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Fifteenth Day After Christmas

GIVE US THIS DAY OUR DAILY BREAD And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work. 2 Corinthians 9:8 It is a human tendency to try to safeguard the future. We feel more in control if we think we can guarantee that we will have everything we need down the road. There is nothing wrong with insurance policies or savings accounts, but ultimately, none of us can control what the future holds. In Jesus’ prayer, He speaks of “daily bread,” not weekly, not monthly, and not yearly. God sent the Israelites manna to collect each morning. Food spoiled when they tried to stockpile it for the next day. God promises to give us exactly what we need for the day ahead. Day by day, He meets our needs for physical and spiritual food. God wants us to depend only on Him, each day of our lives, believing that He will give us exactly what we need. That is what it means to walk by faith. Prayer: You make me sufficient Lord, You, give me enough of everything I need-to carry out Your will. Truth be told, You, often supply much more than I need. These blessings are wonderful surprises that I do not want to take for granted. Show me ways that I can share Your blessings with others. You are a good giver, Lord. Thank You. Amen. TRUSTEE MARIE DAY KELLY LAY ORGANIZATION CHURCH SCHOOL

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Lamar IV, William H. Pastor Williams, Dana Bethel 21Historical Society

Prioleau, III, Elias Steward

Harris, Jocelyn Trustee

Botts, Marsha Turner SAMS/Love and Peace

Smoot, Betty Church School

Woody, Jacqueline Friend of Metropolitan

Scott, Elsie Steward Emeritus

Wood, Barbara Friend of Metropolitan

Malveaux, Julianne Morning Meditations

Muhammed, Dora

Kendrick, Greta Steward/Usher

Watkins, Judith Stewardess

Johns, Marie Pastor’s Steward

Robinson, James Steward Emeritus/Usher

Botts, Carlos Mighty Men of Metropolitan

Jones, Barbara Stewardess

Bryant, Celeste Washington Interfaith Network

Coley-Flippin, Maurita Daniel Alexander Payne CDC

McEntyre, Anntoinette Girl Scouts

Botts, Jonathan Church School

Elliott, Willie “Dee” Steward

Friend of Metropolitan

Tate, Rosemary

Taylor, Evan

Ethel P. Hall Club

Ministerial Staff

Day, Marie

Akinola, Pius



Collins, Thedford Steward Pro Tem

Fizer, Ellen Steward Emeritus


Karimah, Aisha

Yvonne L. Bolling, Christian Education Director

Associate Minister/Anchors

Aarons, Clayton Trustee

Dugger, Wade Steward Emeritus

Kendrick, Leila Life Member Women’s Missionary Society

Aarons, Linda Church School

Bruce, Donna Discipleship

Woodford, Diane Morning Meditations

McBroom, Kendal Ministerial Staff

Tate, Geoffrey Ministerial Staff

Bryan, Dorothy Circle of Twelve

Marsha Botts, Editor Evan Taylor, Layout Editor/Production *Contributors listed in order of entries

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