I’m ‘shaloming’ on the road during this my third week on the job as National Director of the Communities of Shalom Initiative. Four Stops in five days leading up to the 40th anniversary observance of the life and death of Martin Luther King Jr.

First stop: Washington D.C. to meet with Bishop John Schol, Bishop of The Baltimore-Washington Conference, which is comprised of about 200,000 members in nearly 700 United Methodist churches in Maryland, Washington, D.C., the eastern panhandle of West Virginia and Bermuda. Their strategic goal: We seek to become like Christ as we call, equip, send and support spiritual leaders to make disciples and grow at least 600 Acts 2 congregations by 2012.

I visited the Bishop in his Washington office today. The United Methodist Building in Washington stands tall on Capital Hill, directly across the street from United States Congress and Justice Department. Bishop Schol’s fifth floor office has large bay view windows overlooking the Capital and Washington Monument. He prays for all three branches of government from his perch, but so far it hasn’t worked very well, he says with a revealing smile …

Bishop Schol is a young, vibrant, prophetic leader who developed Communities of Shalom in its infancy, and who continues to chair of the National Shalom Committee and currently serves as President of the Shalom Community Investment Foundation.

The urban focus of his Conference’s urban ministry efforts is downtown Baltimore. With 269 murders in the city in 2007, Baltimore now has the second highest murder rate in the nation. Bishop John Schol and conference leaders pledged to take five decisive actions in the coming year to address the systemic issues that contribute to the high murder rate. One of those actions is the establishment of five new Communities of Shalom to bring peace, wholeness, harmony, and prosperity to their neighborhoods.

Shalom team visits murder sites in the neighborhood and prays for victim’s families

Shalom teams from at least three churches will be trained by national staff from the Shalom Resource Center at Drew University. The Bishop and I spent a productive morning together developing a workable transition plan for the first year of Shalom at Drew, a Shalom Reception at General Conference in April, and an official launch event at Ocean Grove in July, 2008.

Second stop: meet with staff members of the General Board of Church and Society, which is also housed in the United Methodist Building on Capital Hill. The impressive building was built in 1923 by the UM Women’s Division.

In the rotunda area, near the ceiling, are two Bible verses from the prophet Micah that sum up the work of the General Board of Church and Society:

“They shall beat their swords into plowshares” (Micah 4:3)

“What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8)

At the time the building was dedicated (1924), Methodists were engaged in two social movements: Temperance and Labor Reform. The agency continues to advocate for social reform, do justice ministries and work for peace.

My meeting this afternoon was with Rev. Neal Christie, Assistant General Secretary for Education and Leadership Formation, and my dear friend, Linda Bales, Director of the Louise and Hugh Moore Population Project. We spent our time together seeking ways for the General Board of Church and Society to work with the National Shalom Committee on prophetic leadership training and strategic community development in the US and Africa.

Third Stop: Richmond, VA to meet with David Cooper, Regional Coordinator for Communities of Shalom, his site coordinators, and their shalom committee.

Fourth stop: Congregation Mishkan Israel in Hamden, Conn. to share about Communities of Shalom in relation to Martin Luther King Jr.’s compelling vision of the “beloved community” of inclusive love, joy, justice and shalom for all people, for their annual observance of the contributions of Dr. King.

I have more to say about Richmond Shalom sites as well as new interest in Communities of Shalom in the Jewish congregation in Connecticut, in subsequent blogs.