00:16 // Rich welcome Bishop Matthews to the show.
00:37 // Bishop Matthews talks about being ordained an Elder and elected a Bishop.
01:30 // Bishop Matthews explains what Human Relations Day is.
02:12 // Bishop Matthews reflects back to his initial understanding of Human Relations Day.
03:10 // Bishop Matthews tells when Human Relations Day became ‘alive’ for him.
04:03 // Bishop Matthews talks about the Community Developers Program.
05:21 // Rich and Bishop Matthews discuss how Human Relations Day is a great opportunity to raise up other leaders and make a difference in the community.
06:52 // Bishop Matthews tells us why he continues to be passionate about Human Relations Day.
07:58 // Bishop Matthews says all congregations should be given the opportunity to decide if they want to be involved in Human Relations Day.
08:59 // Bishop Matthews says he hopes churches will give generously to the Human Relations Day offering.
Rich – Well hey everybody, welcome to Human Relations Day podcast. This is the podcast where we’re counting down to this very special Sunday in our church calendar. Today we’re super excited to have Bishop Matthews with us. Welcome Bishop so glad you’re here today.
Bishop Matthews – Thank you for having me.
Rich – I wonder if we could start with… give us a bit of your story. Where are you at today? Who are you serving? What is your piece of the United Methodist Story?
Bishop Matthews – Let me just say I was elected a Bishop in the United Methodist Church in 2004 in Syracuse, New York and I have been serving now for the last two years here in the Baltimore, Washington area which is known as the Washington Episcopal area. This happens to be what some would call my home conference because I was ordained an Elder in 1974 here in the Baltimore, Washington conference. So for many people they are saying that I have come home.
Rich – Thanks nice to be among your people, that’s a good thing for sure.
Bishop Matthews – Yes.
Rich – Now why don’t we start, there’ll be some people that are listening in that are unaware of what Human Relations Day is, why don’t we start there? What would you say to people, what is Human Relations Day?
Bishop Matthews – Human Relations Day offers the church and wider community an opportunity to give on that Sunday, so that programs and ministries of the church that really help to do social justice ministries, can take place. It is through this offering that leadership is developed throughout our church and it is an opportunity for people to participate.
Rich – Now why would you say that churches should participate in Human Relations Day? There’s a lot of special days, there’s a lot of things going on in local churches. Why this one in particular?
Bishop Matthews – Well let me reflect back on my journey in terms of the church. When I first heard about Human Relations Day I was actually a student in college and I would hear conversations at my local church about Human Relations Sunday. I really didn’t understand, all I knew at that time was that people were expected to bring a contribution and that the monies went to the general church and that some place something was happening with those funds.
Rich – Some place, somewhere, something was happening to someone, who knows what?
Bishop Matthews – It was actually after I had graduated from college, I sought a job in New York. I was doing the Vietnam War, I went back home and I was offered a job at my local church. To my surprise, the job was being funded by dollars that were received through the Human Relations Day offering. Then it became alive for me because I could connect with why they were asking for this money and how this money was being used. Not simply outside of that congregation or that community but that some of those funds were being returned there so that we could do ministry.
Rich – Absolutely, it became very personal all of sudden. That somewhere, some place became you.
Bishop Matthews – Yes it did.
Rich – That’s fantastic. So now what other types of ministries is the funding from Human Relations Day funding? Obviously your role, your original role was funding by that. What are some of the other… give a flavor of the kinds of things?
Bishop Matthews – It’s my understanding that even today we continue the Community Developers program. That was the program that I was brought onboard with this offering. At that time there were only eight of us who were selected nationally and we were all laypersons to work with very busy pastors who were doing a lot in their community to bring about social change.
So that continues today. Those numbers are far greater than eight. Eight was the pilot project. It’s my understanding that there are roughly about a hundred plus Community Developers serving through our denomination and these are basically laypersons who get an opportunity to be involved in church ministries beyond simply a volunteer.
Rich – Absolutely. Have there been other folks that have been involved with Human Relations Days over the years, who have been funded by it? Who you can think back and say, “Well they’ve done some interesting work. They’ve kind of made an impact in their community,” can you think of anyone else that comes to mind?
Bishop Matthews – Well outside of the church and community workers, there have been a number of persons who have been assigned to prison ministries. Many of these persons have moved into becoming Deacons on our church, and that’s why I initially talked about one of the values of this offering is that it produces leadership, leaders in our church in a variety of ways. Some persons like myself have gone into ordained ministry, others have become involved through the lay ministry of our church.
So there are a number of hats that people wear today that are far different from the way it was when I started off with the eight Community Developers.
Rich – Absolutely, I think one of the things, just to underline what you said here, this is one of those real practical ways that as a church we band together to raise up other leaders, to support people in our broader movement, to make a difference in our community. It’s a great opportunity for us as a church to be plugged in and to be a part of, and we obviously want to encourage people to do that.
Now in your role today as Bishop and in kind of your day to day work responsibilities, have you continued to be passionate about Human Relations Day and why has that continued to be a passion for you?
Bishop Matthews – Yes, I have continued and probably always will because I see the value in making financial resources available so that persons can serve in a variety of capacities. Some of these persons, as I said, work in jails. Some are still, even today, working with voter registration especially in the South. Many of these persons work with drug addicts, people who are on the margins.
So for me, the need is still great, and there are a number of needs that these resources can go toward.
Rich – Absolutely. Obviously it’s a real practical way for us as a church to reach out and make a difference in important issues in our community today.
As we wrap up is there anything else you’d like to say, particularly I want you to think about people that might be listening in that are like, “Okay this is another special day. I’m not sure our particular congregation wants to participate,” what would you say to them just as we wrap up?
Bishop Matthews – I would say give the congregation the opportunity. Don’t decide for them what they need to do but give them an opportunity to hear about the various ministries that have happened because of Human Relations Day offering, the number of lives that have been touched throughout our globe because of persons working on behalf of the church.
Let me just also say that when I was actually a youth, a young adult, during those days when I first heard about the Human Relations Day offering, my pastor did not make a decision as to what the congregation would be involved with or not be involved with, he simply offered an opportunity. I would hope that all congregations would do likewise.
The other thing, just to remind you also that a number of our young people get very excited when they hear about US-2s, when they hear about volunteers in mission, when they hear about the large number of persons who are recipients of these dollars who do so much to meet human need even today. So I can’t say enough good about this offering, and I just hope that churches will give generously toward it.
Rich – Nice. Well I think that’s a great encouragement there, Bishop. I really appreciate you taking time out from your busy schedule. I know you have a lot going on. So thank you so much for spending time with us today.
Bishop Matthews – Thank you for having me.
Rich – Thank you.