Speaker: Kindness should begin before tragedy

The recent charity to the people of Haiti after the devastating earthquake was worthy of praise but did not outweigh 200 years of neglect, a speaker for the Ministers Week said.

The Rev. Sharon Watkins kicked off Ministers Week with the annual Wells Sermon at the University Christian Church on Monday night. She focused her sermon on overcoming individual allegiances to care for all humans as children of God.

“We need to see past our false divisions and care about all God’s children, before the earthquake hits,” Watkins said.

She said that when the university’s football program advanced in the rankings in the fall, Disciples of Christ across the nation became fans of the Horned Frogs as if they were rooting for family. She suggested that this kind of inclusion on a much larger scale should take place across humanity.

Watkins is the general minister and president of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada. She was also named to President Barack Obama’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, which aims to serve as a resource for secular and faith-based nonprofits and community organizations.

When introducing Watkins, Deborah Morgan, senior minister of East Dallas Christian Church, referred to the speaker’s own experiences with inclusion. When Watkins was ordained in 1984, she said, the church was resistant to women’s leadership in the pulpit. Despite that rejection, Watkins was recently part of a small group called on to pray with Obama as he entered his second year of presidency, she said. The call took place from a cell phone in a Lebanese airport, she said.

Watkins praised the church’s past victories, such as the joining of its black and white disciples in 1969, but said the effort must continue. She cited the movie “Avatar” as an example of that unity. When the planet’s natives address each other with, “I see you,” it is an acknowledgment of the valued human that stands before you, she said.

According to the Brite Divinity School’s Web site, Ministers Week brings nearly 300 pastors to campus for lectures, workshops and sermons. The program is mostly free and registration is open to leaders from all denominations, according to the Web site.

“Ministers Week is the joining of TCU, the University Christian Church and the Brite Divinity School to honor the college’s founding mission,” said Newell Williams, president and professor of modern and American church history. “It is the perfect example of the university and the Brite Divinity School’s relationship at its best.”

Houston Bowers of the UCC opened the service with a recollection of past Ministers Weeks hosted by TCU. He was followed by Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Don Mills, who recognized the recent loss of professor Ron Shirey, who died in November. Shirey was the director of choral activities at the university, including the TCU Concert Chorale, which performed during the service.

Ministers Week will continue through Thursday of this week. Highlights include the McFadin lectures on Tuesday, sessions on women in the ministry Wednesday and a book signing by William Paul Young, author of “The Shack,” at 11:30 p.m. Thursday.