Preparing for Worship – Heather Mustain, associate pastor
This Sunday, April 11, the Second Sunday of Easter, we sing Easter People, Raise Your Voices. A quick scan of the lyrics will remind you of themes from George’s Easter sermon, “Not Here, There.”
Just how does Christ’s resurrected power continue to transform and reconcile the world? Well, it’s through what poet and United Methodist clergy William Marceus James calls Easter People. James (1913–2013) wrote hymns for his congregation; this one he wrote for Metropolitan Community United Methodist Church in New York City. James even admitted at one point in his career that “Easter People is not the greatest hymn I have written, but it took better than the others.” You gotta love a humble pastor.
James was born in Meadville, Mississippi, and educated at Mt. Beulah College, Butler University and Drew University. He received his license to preach in Lexington, Kentucky, in 1936, and in 1944 he was appointed to the Trinity (Morrisania) Methodist Church in the Bronx, a church he founded with no members. In eight years, it grew into a 900-member congregation, and it was there that James, as he told an interviewer, “learned to minister to gangs and street people.”
According to his obituary, James was involved in many community ministries. He organized the East Harlem Triangle Housing Program, founded the Ministerial Interfaith Association of Harlem, and ministered to street gangs and those experiencing homelessness. He was chairman of the board of the Harlem Urban Development Corporation, which helped save the famed Apollo Theater from abandonment and rebuilt the structure of the Harlem community. His obituary reads “he was a key leader in the struggle to end the Central Jurisdiction, the segregated jurisdiction of the Methodist Church. At the Conference level, Bill could always be counted on to fight for racial equality and to oppose war. He was also an early champion of gay and lesbian rights.”
Resurrection power is one of the themes of Easter People. James lived a life that reflected this belief in the power of the Resurrection to make a difference in the lives of those whom he interacted with.
So how will we raise our voices, Wilshire? How will we live lives reflective of Christ’s resurrected power? Let us sing, Easter People, let us sing.