Building the Kingdom
Over the past fifteen months, I have been getting to know the MARCHA organization. In 2016, I was chosen to represent the Virginia Annual Conference, Laity, and the Southeastern Jurisdiction in varying capacities. I had pursued this opportunity for two years to attend the MARCHA Conference, but all things come together in God’s timing, not ours. I am often known for being outspoken, but I most enjoy being a part of a team that recognizes and encourages the development of abilities others have to offer. That was what I have discovered in the MARCHA communities and its related agencies, whom I have worked alongside and in collaboration with. Most often when we go to conferences, we often are so busy about the business, we often forget about the relationships that need to be established in order to be effective in building up of the Kingdom.
I was blessed to spend time with new friends, friendships I have been developing since General and Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference, and making new connections. This year, MARCHA intentionally planned on allowing the Young Adults equal presence in all its events. I found this wise since we, as Methodists, are an intergenerational church; despite what the demographic data may say. I found it refreshing that at the MARCHA meeting, worship was the focus, not the demographics or the ethnographic constructs we ascribe to each other. The focus was not on whether we were for a certain piece of legislation, or against it; it was about our Christian community. It was personal.
Coming from the South, you “stay with your own,” or face harsh ramifications. On face value, that makes me white, upper middle class and female. As a Virginia resident, I have lived, born witness to, suffered alongside, testified against these injustices, and endured personally these trials. I choose to cross racial, ethnic, and linguistic divides as a matter of Christian responsibility. Despite the injustices that remain, I still choose to follow that call and walk that path although it is a path less followed. Being married to a man of another linguistic background, I can attest that despite our progress in Virginia over my lifetime, we still are not that far from the seeds of Loving Vs. Virginia.
A comment was made on social media essentially stating, “I was always hanging out with men”, which had an ounce of truth to it, being the only female coordinator in attendance at a preconference meeting. As a woman, I have learned that the skills I have developed are sometimes not always as readily recognized as they could be. At one point, I was complimented as adding a “little more Latina” to the mix. A fascinating comment, since society does not allow me to check that box on a form, due to where I was born and the color of my skin. Even more humbling was the experience, since I am more accustomed to being in a supportive ministry role, was when UCOMM asked me to summarize the work of our Southeastern Jurisdictional Hispanic/Latino Caucus and what the MARCHA experience was like for me. Throughout the conference, I saw a lot of doors opening for equal footing along gender dynamics. An example of this includes the new executive council for MARCHA, comprised of a majority of women officers. Personally, I was challenged deeper inside of myself to fulfill my ministry callings.
The irony being, in this environment, I was not ‘different.’ I was part of the family. This group understands the concept of personal and Spiritual identity as being defined by Christ, not by the categories we put ourselves in. I know there are many misunderstandings about MARCHA and how the organization operates, I have had them myself. Moving forward, I would encourage individuals to ask questions and to get to know the individuals at work in the organization. Even though each member of the body of MARCHA has varying points of view on how the Kingdom work is done, and yet we are still a Methodist family working together for that common good.
LORI A. VALENTINE DE SEGOVIA
M.A. History, Latin American Studies, Virginia Tech
B.S. Elementary Education/B.A. Spanish, Appalachian State
Co-Chair Ethnic/Minority Concerns & Advocacy, Virginia United Methodist Church
VP, Hispanic-Latino Caucus of the SouthEastern Jurisdiction, United Methodist Church