Today, as I focused my personal reflection time, I thought about why I’ve come to where I am and what I can do from here on out. I thought about my hopes and my dreams for myself and the church. Trying to remember those things where I felt most hopeful and connected to God in the church. One of the most recent moments was at General Conference in April/May of 2008. Yes, in the midst of the most political activity known to the United Methodist Church, I found God more clearly than ever. A moment I was a part of during that conference will always stay with me.
During one of the morning worship services, a young adult choir was brought together under the direction of Mark Miller. The song we sang was, “Draw the Circle Wide.” It was later in the conference and many of use had grown very weary with the state of the church and whether it would become fully inclusive of all people. Everyone I knew personally in that choir were there to push the church we love to fully embrace each and every person, no matter what! We were told before the performance that since we were part of the conference worship, we would have to remove our rainbow stoles for the morning. At first this troubled me, as it was a sign of our commitment to working for a cause, but after the song was finished I knew that our message was clear without the visual addition.
I felt part of a great witness that day. Calling for each and everyone of us to draw the circle wider and expand the reach of the church in love to ALL. This is more than a mission or idea, but a way of life. This is how we should operate. This is my hope and dream, that one day this will be but a stone on the path to great change. It will take a lot of work, and growth personally, but I am committed to a fully inclusive United Methodist Church and will do all that I can to see that happen.
Below, I have included a recorded performance of the song by a group recently. It is the same version and with the same director. I am working on getting the video from General Conference in a format I can share, but this is just as moving to see. I hope that you can watch and listen and think about how you already “draw the circle wide” and how you can “draw it wider still.”
Grace and Peace,
Yesterday at chapel I had the distinct pleasure to her the Rev. Dr. Joseph Lowery preach. Some would say it was a lecture, but there was no doubt in my mind that worship and a sermon took place during that time together. I cannot fully give justice to the event in my words, but I do know that I was greatly changed by being able to experience it. Very few people know this, but since I was in elementary school I have extensively read and studied the Civil Rights Movement in the United States. So, to be able to see, listen to, and shake hands with a giant of the movement was extremely meaningful to me.
There were many quotable moments throughout the morning, many of which I am unable to recall completely, but I do remember this one being especially moving.
Integration is not the movement of all things black to all things white; it is the movement of all things wrong to all things right.
As I heard Rev. Lowery speak, I was constantly moved, many times to tears, about all that he and others had done to bring about change to our country and how they have never stopped working for the greater good. He has been committed to his convictions for his entire life, which has spanned an amazing 87 years so far. His stories always had a point whether they seemed to at first or not, and hit home something powerful about humanity and its need to love one another. After the time in chapel I was both comforted and extremely uncomfortable. My discomfort is grounded in the struggle of my purpose and calling in life. Hearing the call for each of us to be “chaplains of the common good” really struck home with me. Rev. Lowery spoke of his recent work in uniting advocacy groups, and how he felt there were some things above the hierarchy of the church. His use of humor in that situation did not stop me from thinking that our institution gets in the way of ministry many times.
I struggle with my own calling each and everyday. I question whether I am called to the direction I’m headed, or to something different. I wonder if I am compromising my calling for the sure deal of itinerant preaching and guaranteed appointments. Am I called to this? Each day I think I may be less and less. First and foremost I want to be a servant leader. Yes, those two terms can go together whether my recent pastoral care book would agree or not. Leading by example, and less by meetings and visioning plans is where I want to be. I want to serve the needs of people and spend less time maintaining and protecting an institution. There is so much need for work in social justice and mercy ministries, that I would hope the church would be open to a calling based entirely on those factors.
Here’s the catch, how do I go about this? How do I determine if this is possible? How do I make sure that I am able to serve in a way that is authentic to my calling, and still be able to make a living to survive? These are all things on my mind right now. I never imagined being almost half done with my MDiv and be thinking that maybe there’s a different path for me when it’s all done. It scares me, causes me discomfort, but also gives me some peace that I know God is still calling me through the doubt and confusion. God’s calling is bigger than a process and bigger than me. Hopefully some answers will come my way soon, and Rev. Lowery was probably a messenger on the path to figuring it all out.
Grace and Peace,
I just finished watching the inauguration of the 44th President of the United States. Barrack Hussein Obama is now the President. This really is and historic and moving day, regardless of your political views. I was moved numerous times through the morning, and sometimes at things I normally wouldn’t.
Normally I am not into patriotic songs, but Aretha Franklin’s singing was amazing this morning. The classical “jam” session that took place before the oath was done was equally as impressive. Then the poem after the speech really brought together the feeling of this election and this day. It was a great day for the arts to be portrayed on a world stage.
There was so much in the speech that was amazing, but the one line that sticks out to me right now is, “for the world has changed and we must change with it.” This is my personal view as well. We must find a way for the world community to live together and operate without war, hate, poverty, and suffering.
As I watched this morning and thought about these events and the hundreds of years before this, I remember my feelings about race relations as a child. Growing up I read a lot of historical books and biographies. I also watched many specials on PBS and other educational channels. I can remember stories about the Civil Rights Movement bringing me to tears as a young child, not understanding how these events could really happen. I long wondered why someone, like Martin Luther King, Jr., was not our president because they were such great leaders. I often wondered what it would be like if Dr. King of Bobby Kennedy had not been killed. These were my thoughts as a young child, upper elementary school, and stayed with me for my life.
I rejoice this day that not only a progressive president has been elected, but a president who comes to us striving for a post-racial world. Obama not only recognizes his role as the first African-American President, but as the leader of a movement forward in history. This day is just a small step forward, there is much to do in the days to come, but it feels good to just be proud and hopeful for a little while.
I haven’t updated this in awhile, but finally something has come through that has forced me to post. In California, voters voted to define marriage between only a man and a woman. In a monumental election where Barack Obama is elected president, Californians voted to take away civil rights to a group of people. Usually I would have a long, emotional response to this action, but Keith Olbermann really got it right with this one. I don’t always agree with Olbermann’s thoughts or emotional responses to everything, but this is one time I couldn’t agree more. The YouTube video is below of his monologue on Monday night.