Important Letter for the Skylands District



Skylands District


Rev. Dr. Steven G. Bechtold, District Superintendent

John Hartman, District Lay Leader

Cari Cruz, Administrative Assistant

June 18, 2015


Dear Friends,

I woke up this morning to the shocking news of the shooting deaths at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC.  The World Methodist Council website has the following information:  “Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church is the oldest AME church in the South and has one of the oldest and largest black congregations south of Baltimore. It is affectionately referred to as “Mother Emanuel,” and one of its founders was renowned abolitionist, Denmark Vesey.

A quote by Sister Jean German Ortiz on the home page of the church’s website today so appropriately states “Jesus died a passionate death for us, so our love for Him should be as passionate.” In the midst of this tragedy, may the Emanuel AME Church family and the Charleston community feel peace and comfort from the God who conquered death itself.

I am saddened and angry that such acts of blatant racial violence continue to plague our society.   I share the grief of our sisters and brothers in the Emanuel AME Church. I ask along with the Psalmist, “How long, O Lord?”  When will such acts be only a distant memory?  When will we experience God’s shalom?   But I also turn to the Psalmist to a favorite scripture that continues to strengthen me:

“I lift up my eyes to the hills- from where will my help come?

My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.”

I invite you in this time when we are together seeking understanding of such a senseless act of hatred and destruction to look to God who calls on us as Christians to something greater than hatred, violence, and a disregard for human life:

– That we might resist the temptation to answer violence with violence

– That we pray for one another, particularly for those who are hurting, those in need of God’s presence in their time of grief and suffering, our African-American sisters and brothers and others who live with the reality of racial injustice in their lives each day

– That we examine our own lives to see where we might be more inclusive, inviting, and understanding of all persons

– That we not be silent in our own communities around issues of racial injustice.

While we would like to believe we have moved beyond, there is still much unfinished business.

– That we remember the call of the prophet Amos to “let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.”  We are all called to

be witnesses to God’s shalom, and to work towards bringing God’s kingdom here on earth as it is in heaven, even with people we may never know or meet.

This Sunday is Father’s Day.  There will be fathers and mothers who will not celebrate with their children in Charleston because of a senseless act of one person.  I  would ask each of our congregations to include a time of prayer in their service this Sunday for those who were murdered, as well as for the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church and the people of Charleston, South Carolina.

However, let’s not stop with Sunday.  Let’s continue to work and pray so that together we can make a difference, together we can change the world. Even the smallest actions that we take to live out the love of God in this world contributes to God’s kingdom building.  As people of faith, we know that with God all things are possible.

In Christ,



Steven G. Bechtold,

Skylands District Superintendent

246 Millbrook Avenue, Randolph, NJ 07869

Office: 973.537.7711 | Fax: 973.537.7722 | Email: