Resources for Celebrating Black History Month 2024
By Bryan Tener
February is Black History Month, and in the woven tapestry of The United Methodist Church, African Americans are—and have been—vital, having played a major role in the denomination’s development.
Black History Month has been observed in February in the United States and Canada since 1976. The celebration of Black history was started by historian Carter G. Woodson in 1926 as a weeklong focus to educate American people about African American history.
Black History Month is an opportunity to celebrate the gifts and offerings that African Americans contribute to the world and the church through art, music, writing, leadership, and action. There is much to recognize, reflect upon, and share with others. As a denomination, The United Methodist Church has much room to grow in diversity and inclusion. According to Pew Research, from ages thirty to sixty-five and over in the United States, Black members make up about three percent of the United Methodist denomination (given some margin for error based on sample size and survey comparisons). The latest church planting report of annual conference church planting methods (conducted by Path 1 and Discipleship Ministries) found that out of twenty-seven responses, fourteen annual conferences have a strategy for planting ethnic faith communities; thirteen do not. So, there is room to grow; part of realizing that growth is by learning and seeking to understand the voices offering a witness to the church and world about the Black experience and how it has shaped the church and the Christian faith. Learning and listening in a posture of humility are the first steps toward building relationships and making community engagement possible. Given the social and political divisions in our nation and church, celebrating and honoring the achievements and gifts of Black people can offer a different vision, a different way of being, a witness that looks like the beloved community and God’s kingdom. In the beloved community, there is no room for war, poverty, and racism; instead, life, love, and justice have a place at the table.
As you look toward Black History Month, may it be a time of learning, growth, and celebration as you share these resources in your faith community, listen to the voices around you, and celebrate the gifts and contributions that African Americans make to the church and world. May this month lead us to look more like the beloved community that God intends for the world.
Resources for Celebrating Black History Month:
“Additional Resources for Black History Month,” Discipleship Ministries (January 2016). A list of resources from within the church and beyond, with opportunities to learn and grow through history, lectionary resources and liturgy, and more.
“29 Ways You Can Participate in Black History Month,” Religion and Race. Ways to participate through education, advocacy, and exploration of multiple voices to further growth.
Michael Bowie, “The Black Church Matters: Envisioning the Beloved Community,” Discipleship Ministries (January 2023). To learn more about the movement, SBC21, Strengthening the Black Church for the 21st Century, and what it means for the United Methodist Church and the empowerment of young Black leaders as we seek to transform the world to look more like the beloved community, check out this article and the website SBC21.org. Dr. Michael Bowie co-wrote the book Dare To Shift with Dr. Steven Handy, and can be purchased at this link.
“Black History Month Resources,” North Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church. North Carolina’s United Methodist Conference website offers videos, devotions, and other resources for the whole church.
Instagram @blackliturgies. Cole Arthur Riley brings together spiritual practices, Black emotion, body, and literature to create space for contemplation, challenge, and action. She serves as curator of The Center for Dignity and Contemplation.
 “Racial and Ethnic Composition Among Members of the United Methodist Church,” Pew Research Center, https://www.pewresearch.org/religion/religious-landscape-study/religious-denomination/united-methodist-church/racial-and-ethnic-composition/#demographic-information.