Busy-ness and Sabbath

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Essentials to staying busy: hydration, a schedule, lists, and pretty pens!

Earlier this year, I jumped on the clergy bandwagon and purchased a liturgical day-planner from Sacred Ordinary Days after several clergy-women friends told me how much they loved it*. There are daily prompts for scripture reading, intentional space for time-keeping and schedules as well as a weekly examen for each Sunday.

Developed from the model first introduced by St. Ignatius of Loyola, the Prayer of Examen is a tool designed to take the pray-er through 5 prompts: to become aware of God’s presence; to review the day with gratitude; to pay attention to one’s emotions; to choose one feature of the day and pray from it; to look toward tomorrow.

Buying this resource and actually utilizing all of its amazing benefits has been a real challenge for me. Moreover, taking time to use the weekly examen resource as a means of intentional Sabbath has been even more of a struggle.

I am not one to hunker down and block out intentional quiet time each morning [gasp!] to reflect on my day or the day to come. Perhaps you are shocked and horrified to hear this out of the mouth of a pastor! In reality, I struggle with spiritual disciplines like quiet study, reflecting on my week and praying for the week to come.

I fall prey to the distraction of busy-ness in my life.

Balancing full-time work, my home life (complete with spouse, a toddling 1 year old child and a four-legged, fur child) and a healthy social-emotional-physical-spiritual life can feel like a daunting task. I spend more time thinking about what I have to do next, where I have to be next, and what I need to accomplish next.

I rely on my electronic work calendar, which syncs to my IPhone calendar, which is sent to my husband’s IPhone calendar, where the loop finally closes with my Gmail calendar. This reality exhausts me as I write this very minute…

Perhaps you or your congregants also struggle with the problem of being too busy. I create a busy-ness which becomes a pattern of normality for me and my family. This busy-ness distracts us from meaningful Sabbath practices. We cannot do those things which are edifying to our existence as God’s beloved because…

we don’t have time.

we don’t have the energy.

we don’t have the bandwidth.

there is just too much to do!

The reflection for this upcoming Sunday included a quote from pastor David Lomas:

(I’ll take a big bite of humble pie, along with you, when reading this reminder)

Sabbath reminds us that we are loved for who we are, not for what we can produce…Sabbath does not exist for what it gives us, nor for how it helps us, but for the way it equips us to live into our truest identities. We are not ‘human doings,’ but ‘human beings’.

Sunday may be the busiest day in your congregation. Or maybe a weekday evening includes programming for the whole family with a potluck supper. We pack our schedule for Church-related ventures with things to do: choir practice, youth group, fellowship dinners, committee meetings, worship planning, service opportunities, and the like. These things which we do are vital and important to the life of the Church! However, apart from weekly worship, does the Church serve the needs of weekly Sabbath? What might this look like?

Imagine a weekly prayer hour when members were able to meditate through prayer stations around the sanctuary in an effort to practice a weekly examen.

Imagine a small group gathering in the early morning or evening to share, intentionally, about their experience of God during the last 24 hours.

Imagine the church opening its doors to families who gather to read children’s stories and reflect on God’s presence in their lives.

Does your congregation serve the needs of providing Sabbath during the week?

What does this look like? Share your thoughts!

 

Rev. Nicole Childress Ball

 

 *This is not an advertisement for Sacred Ordinary Days planners. The opinions expressed here are mine, alone.*

 

 

 

 

 

Things They Didn’t Teach Us In Seminary

 

18449596_10212852270451677_6237463499089763518_oThis past Sunday I had the honor and privilege to administer my first baptism, immediately followed by my first confirmation at the church where I spent my teenage years. As a young pastor, both events carried a great deal of weight but also offered an incomparable experience of joy. Add to that the fact that I used to babysit the young lady being confirmed (she was baptized around the same time I myself was confirmed), and the experience was taken to another level!

In addition to these two joyous moments we also celebrated those women in our lives who have nurtured us and helped us to answer God’s call. Unfortunately, we also prayed for a mother, a friend of the congregation, whose son was shot and killed the night before.

I have spent a great deal of time reflecting on that worship service. I have spent time praying for all of these individuals.

As pastors, we are welcomed into some of the most sacred moments of a person’s life– the most beautiful and the most dreadful. We are invited and we are called to embody God’s love and grace in these moments when a person needs that the most. We are urged to empower others to do the same, with both as little and as much as they have.

The text that I chose to preach on for this unique service was Matthew 28: 16-20, otherwise known as “The Great Commission”. The part that I love most about this text is that even in their doubt the Disciples went to the mountain to meet Jesus and even in their doubt, Jesus called and sent them to all nations.

16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshipped him, but some doubted. 18 Jesus came near and spoke to them, “I’ve received all authority in heaven and on earth. 19  Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20  teaching them to obey everything that I’ve commanded you. Look, I myself will be with you every day until the end of this present age.”
Matthew 28: 16-20

The little boy who was baptized on Sunday, the young girl who was confirmed, the son was killed, the mother who mourned— each was called by God to change the world in some way. Each person’s story has helped to shape the life and story not just of that congregation but of all those who they have met along the way. Each story has been shared with me as a pastor so that I might bring God’s presence into their lives in a new way. Even in their doubt, even in our own doubt.

I am a part of a Facebook group called “Things They Didn’t Teach Us in Seminary”. This past Sunday was a perfect illustration of just that– they can tell us that we will be a part of big moments, they can tell us stories of their own experiences and others they have heard of, but no one can teach you or begin to prepare you for that morning when all curtains are pulled back and you see God’s presence in the most powerful way yet.

Baptism

Following the baptism, I walked down the aisle carrying a little boy who had snuggled down so close against my chest that I wasn’t sure I would ever be able to hand him back. As I turned around to come back, the young girl being confirmed took him from me and carried him back to his parents. I took this time to pray for the mother who lost her son, praying for the words to share the tragic news with the congregation– doubting that I would have the right words to do so. In these moments, I walked with and carry a child of God through that sanctuary. In those moments, even as I doubted, I learned what it is like to truly minister to God’s children and watch God’s grace at work. I learned what seminary could have never taught me.

When has God used you, even in your doubt?
When have you seen the curtains drawn back in your own ministry?
What have you learned in active ministry that seminary could never teach?

Rev. Jordan B. Davis
Church Relations

 

What Are Your Dreams?

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This past Sunday, I sat back in the pew and enjoyed a wonderful performance of “The Tale of Three Trees” (music by Allen Pote and words by Tom Long) by the Junior and Children’s Choirs at University Presbyterian Church (Chapel Hill, NC).  While the entire performance was absolutely wonderful and endearing, as well as a nice change of pace for my church visits, one particular song stood out to me–

A Prayer for Tomorrow
(Tom Long & Allen Pote)

Refrain:
Dreams, we all have dreams, what we can be, what we can do.
Lord, with all we are, we pray that our dreams will lead us, will lead us to you.

See our hands, what will they make, Lord?
See our feet, where will they run?
See our hearts, who will they love, Lord?
See our lives, we’ve just begun!
(Refrain)

In our eyes you see tomorrow.
On that day one thing we know:
there’s a dream from one who loves us that is greater than our own.
(Refrain)

Listening to the beautiful voices of these children, I began to wonder what the dreams of this congregation and the larger Church might be? During the break between the two worship services, I decided to find out.

20170430_094058The first thing I noticed was a dream for the children of the congregation. Not only did I see parents and other volunteers working to make sure everything went smoothly with the performance, but I saw opportunities all around for the children to be involved in worship. Teal bags hung in the narthex, ready to be carried into the sanctuary by little hands that would explore the bag’s contents and be tied into worship in a creative and active way. In the bulletin, scripture readings were not just provided with page numbers in a pew Bible, but also in a Children’s Bible that was available right next to the pew Bible. I spoke with one young man who delighted in the greeting of a toddler and shared with me his love for the smallest children and his time volunteering in the nursery. As the sanctuary was prepared for the second worship, I saw a banner hanging at the baptismal font for the young girl who would be baptized later that morning. Everywhere I looked, I saw a dream for the faith formation of those who might not fully understand yet, but will show us the way if we let them.

I enjoyed a cup of coffee as I listened to the story of a woman who makes blankets for those children being baptized, but also for those members and friends of the congregation who are hurting– those who are grieving, those who are sick, and those who just need a warm embrace. If she can’t make them a blanket, she is sure to send them a card. In the passion and delight of this woman who grew up in this congregation, I saw a dream of caring, warm, embracing love.

20170430_0941201.jpgI walked outside of the front doors and looked up where I saw a banner, visible from the UNC Chapel Hill campus, “WE CHOOSE WELCOME”. Throughout the building, I found copies of the PC(USA) statement on immigration. I found brochures and pictures of outreach and I witnessed the embrace of members and new visitors. I saw a dream of inclusivity and truly living as the ONE Body of Christ.

As this congregation prepares for the retirement of beloved pastor for 26 years, Rev. Bob Dunham (M. Div. 1975), I heard stories of a ministry that has marked and changed hundreds of lives. I heard lament and grief, but I also heard a spark of wonder and dreaming as they asked for recommendations of pastors to call upon and things to do in this time of transition. I saw a dream for future ministry, one that holds the traditions of the congregation close but one that will challenge them in this next chapter.

Every dream was clearly visible, it took almost no effort to find them. Every dream is leading this congregation closer to the Lord, just as the song states. Every dream is fueled by the dream of Jesus Christ.

Khalom

I wonder, what are the dreams of your congregation?
What dreams do you have for your own ministry?

One of the greatest parts of being married, I have learned, is having someone to share my dreams with each morning. Voicing the excitement of my dream, or sharing the struggle of the dream; bringing life to a dream by bringing it into the light and out of my mind.

I invite you to think about who it is that you share your dreams with, and how your congregation shares their dreams with one another? What do you have around building? What stories are members and friends sharing? Invite others to take a look and share with you what they see. Do they match up or do they seem something different from you?

I invite you to dream– big and small– dream a dream that leads you and your congregation closer to Jesus.

“Dreams, we all have dreams, what we can be, what we can do.
Lord, with all we are, we pray that our dreams will lead us, will lead us to you.”

 

Rev. Jordan B. Davis
Church Relations

Grieving In Community

6 years ago yesterday, I received a phone call from my parents informing me that my brother-in-law had taken his own life. That day, and those days which followed, are impressed upon my memory in vivid and visceral ways.

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Fernando and I at my graduation from Randolph-Macon College in 2008

Prior to this marker moment in my life, I felt to be in a fertile place of growth toward vocational discernment. I was in the final weeks of my seminary education and looking forward to graduation. I was working at a local congregation, serving as Youth Intern. I was recently engaged to my college sweetheart. I had just returned from a discernment weekend to find out my placement as a Young Adult Volunteer through the YAV Program of the PC (USA). Life was good!

The emotional toll of my grief, after learning of Fernando’s death, seemed more than I could handle at the time. I heavily depended upon my family, my faith community, and my seminary community to hold me and assure me of God’s presence in my darkest hour.

Prior to my time as Church Relations Officer, I worked as a healthcare Chaplain in a small, community-based hospital. I witnessed the deaths of many individuals, from 22 weeks of age to 98 years. As I digested each experience, I was eager to find an algorithm of support which worked in every situation, with every type of traumatic event, and with every type of person. I wanted to know what to say, how to say it, and when to say it. I yearned to be a great pastoral care provider!

Upon reflection, I soon learned that it was my being human which gave me the best tools to support another in their time of grief.

As pastors, educators, lay leaders, and people of faith, we are called upon to nurture and guide one another as we wade through the storms of life, including moments of grief and loss. One of the most precious gifts we may offer to one another is our gift of love, listening, and empathy. Here are some practical ways to put those gifts into practice:

Practice empathy, not sympathy

An empathetic posture towards another who is grieving creates space for mutuality, processing of emotions and deeper understanding. A sympathetic posture towards another who is grieving creates an emotional imbalance between the care giver and the one grieving. Metaphorically speaking, we might create a better connection with those who experience grief if we choose to put on our rain boots and experience the storm with them rather than floating by in our safety raft, looking on with pity and disbelief. Empathetic responses require us to tap into vulnerability and truly seek understanding of the other. We do this best through listening and being aware of our own emotional processes with traumatic situations.

Your grief is not my grief

When we project our stuff—our feelings, our experiences, our trauma, our vulnerability—onto another, we limit the grief of another. This is most often reflected in our response to another person’s experience of grief. Some people experience shock and cannot comprehend the reality of loss. Some people transition into autopilot and prefer to keep busy in order to protect themselves from feeling their feelings. Some people roll on the floor, pound their fists and cry out to God in anger. Some people remain stoic and hold their feelings in.  Some people burst into tears and seem to cry for days at a time. Some people feel relief, but may be afraid to say it. We all grieve differently, and that is okay.

Your grief is not my grief, so when providing care to another who is grieving, it is important to keep our projections about how grief should look, feel, sound, taste, and smell out of the conversation. Leave aside anecdotal words of wisdom, bad theological commentary about tragedy and your personal story of loss. Instead, practice listening to hear rather than to respond. Allow the grief to manifest how it may, and love them through it.

Those who grieve don’t always know what they need

How often have you heard another say to you, “Let me know if you need anything” when faced with a traumatic situation? We say this to one another with the best intentions and our comment comes from a place of sincerity; however, traumatic situations inhibit coping skills in the throes of grief so such a question can be overlooked by the grieving. What can I do to help?, we may think, and so we whole-heartedly tell our hurting friend, “Let me know if I can do something, anything!”.

It is important to remember that those who grieve don’t always know what they need, or what to ask for.  They may be so overwhelmed by their circumstances that even the simplest tasks like eating, drinking, or using the restroom are pushed aside. Here is a nice opportunity to do rather than ask. Arrive with snacks or refreshments. Encourage hydration or a break by invitation to do something with you, whether it’s a coffee break, getting some fresh air, or making a trip to the restroom with you. As time goes on, coordinate hospitality needs with family members, friends or other members in the faith community. People may not remember what you said to them, but they might remember how you cared for them.

Anniversaries are important

Grief is like a deep cut in our skin. At first, it is raw and fresh to the touch. The pain is ever-present and we fear it will never subside. Over time, however, our bodies begin the healing process to repair the wound. The fresh cut becomes a scab, and then the scab falls away to allow for a pink scar. Soon, the pink color fades from our scar and our skin returns to normal, though the scar remains. It no longer causes us immediate pain to touch, but we can run our finger along it and remember the ache of when it first happened.

Grief can be triggered by persons, times, places and events. Anniversaries of traumatic accidents, deaths or loss are important and we can be most helpful to one another if we remember and acknowledge the event with a phone call, a card, a coffee date or some other extension of care. Holidays or other gathering times for family and friends can trigger feelings of grief so remaining aware of these times can greatly impact care. Most importantly, we should be gentle with ourselves and with others as we approach, and work through, the anniversaries of grief and loss in our lives. Taking time to acknowledge our pain, celebrate those whom we lost or gathering to share love with one another can be helpful for all involved.

Candles

Looking back on my experience of loss on this sixth anniversary, I can tell you that I felt loved and cared for by those who held me through that painful time. I don’t remember what they said to me but I remember how they made me feel. Pastors and lay folk, seminary classmates and professors, neighbors and long distant friends alike responded with support in meaningful ways.

As you seek to guide your congregants, family members, or friends through loss, be encouraged that your presence and love is enough. Your gifts of listening and compassion are integral to those who grieve. For it is, indeed, in the blessed community where we find our sense of belonging and the courage to face the next minutes, hours and days. Grief is not partial to some, but visits us all. May we find comfort and encouragement in this knowledge, knowing we can be God’s presence to one another even when we face the valley of the shadow of death.

Rev. Nicole Childress Ball

Learning to Seek: My Lenten Journey

Several weeks ago, I sat on my couch wondering what I would “do for Lent” this year. Over the years, I have begun to groan at the thought because it reminded me too much of a “New Year’s Resolution Restart”. I have given up chocolate, Diet Coke, and fast food more times than I count and IF I made it through Lent, I rushed back to my vice with even more desire on Easter afternoon. In recent years, I have been encouraged and interested in the ideas spread through social media– “40 Bags in 40 Days” for donations to local thrift shops and clothes closets, “40 Letters in 40 Days” for mailing letters to friends, and even “40 Hours in 40 Days” for volunteering with local organizations. Seeing these ideas has reminded me that Lent isn’t always about dieting, and so I started making a list of things that I think are missing in my life or might need more attention, finally settling on one.

One thing in my life that I wish I had more of is study and devotion time. My colleague, Rev. Nicole Ball, recently wrote about a missing CONSTANT congregational presence in our lives as we travel from church to church each week. As much as I absolutely love my job, this is something that I do lament, and so for Lent I decided to take time visiting a few different congregations in my part of the world for worship and study, and focus on devotion more at home. My hope was that I would be able to reconnect with congregations I have worked with in the past, but in a less formal way. I knew that some would still be a one-time visit, but I also intentionally picked one to be my “home” for Lent.

20170301_114627Stressed out and fighting allergies, I shut my computer on Ash Wednesday and headed to Kirk of Kildaire Presbyterian Church in Cary, NC for their noon-time service. I have been able to spend time in conversation with their Senior Pastor, Rev. Jody Welker, recently and wanted to start the Lenten season somewhere I knew I was comfortable and wouldn’t feel completely alone. I arrived a few 20170301_123424minutes early and sat in the beautiful silence of the sanctuary, watching the wind blow blooms off of the trees just outside the window. The stress began to melt away and I was ready to worship.  I listened to Scripture, I sang songs of praise, and I was reminded that I “am dust and shall return to dust, but the steadfast love of the Lord endures forever.” The allergies from the morning remained, but peace replaced stress. That night, I decided to join another congregation and friend, Davie Street Presbyterian Church in Raleigh, NC (led by Rev. Byron Wade) where I was challenged by Rev. Wade’s question to the congregation of what it means to follow someone– something I continued to consider through the next 40 days.

A few days later, I joined a small group of women from First Presbyterian Church in Durham, NC for the start of a book study. Over the course of Lent, I returned each week to discuss “Being Disciples: Essentials of the Christian Life” (Rowan Williams) and join together in delightful fellowship and prayer. I quickly realized that even having the book sitting next to me on my side table each night encouraged me and reminded me of these women and our upcoming gathering. The two times I did miss this study, I noticed an absence in my week which led me to a prayer of thanksgiving for this opportunity and the women I was getting to know through our discussions. For the season of Lent, I had a “home” and I look forward to hopefully returning in a few weeks!

Throughout the rest of Lent, I sought opportunities for worship in different ways.

20170315_171343I spent one afternoon with the leaders of Farm Church as we worked in the garden and covered the plants so they would not freeze that night. “You are dust, and to dust you shall return” echoed in my head as I moved the dirt and prepared the rows for the upcoming planting.

I sat alongside one of my childhood pastors as we each sought sacred space at White Memorial Presbyterian Church in Raleigh, NC for their noon-time worship. We celebrated our reunion and praised God in song and prayer, alongside other colleagues from our Presbytery and members of that particular congregation.

While I traveled for Continuing Education, I prayed with other church leaders seeking knowledge of stewardship and other young pastors seeking rest and reflection of the joys and struggles we find in ministry. I listened, shared, and prayed with a beautiful group of women as we reflected on the slave narratives and how we can change the story today by sharing our own (read more about this experience!)

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I spent most of Holy Week in Washington, D.C. taking in the beauty of the Cherry Blossoms, the sunsets, and the rich history of our country, giving thanks to God for bringing us through the wilderness so many times through incredible leaders. On Maundy Thursday, I found myself praying my way through a series of prayer stations before worship at Blacknall Memorial Presbyterian Church in Durham, NC.

Finally, I returned to my parent’s congregation for Easter Sunday where I celebrated the Risen Lord and led worship for those who encouraged me through seminary and were present at my ordination almost two years ago.

With all of these different worship experiences, what did I actually learn during these 40 days?

In the stress, in the sickness, in the celebrations, in the resting– God is there. In the tears of joy while sitting in the car following various meetings and worship, in the tears of frustration when I couldn’t figure out what was going on– I had a group to go to with whom I could both celebrate and lament. On the days when I couldn’t find my grounding, there would be a place to sit and join God both with and without other individuals. In the most unlikely places, we can find reminders of God’s presence when we need it most.

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This Lent has been a unique one for me– a true journey through the wilderness filled undeniable glimpses of hope and grace. I didn’t give up any chocolate (I probably ate more!), but I did give up reasons to think that I am alone. I did find my grounding in worship and study. I have found ways for devotion. I have learned how to truly seek God in this crazy, confusing, and unpredictable world.

Will I keep going to the “extra” worship services? Maybe, but not likely.

Will I keep going to the book study? I do hope so.

Will I remember to do my daily devotions each day? I would love to, but recognize that I will miss some.

Will I continue to celebrate the glimpses of hope and grace amidst the struggle and things I cannot control? Absolutely.

We cannot change a lot about this world, but we can change the way we respond. Isn’t that what Christ’s life and sacrifice were about? Following this Lenten journey, I am changing my response through more intentional worship and prayer (apart from what I lead as a pastor). How are you changing your response?

Rev. Jordan B. Davis
Church Relations

A Prayer for Holy Week

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 Jardin de Gracias, Siguatepeque, Honduras

John 11:35

What a life you have given us, God,

and who in the world can be expected to navigate it all?!

How many times can I cry as I absorb

the daily news of misunderstanding and distrust?

the reality of violence among family, of disparagement among those who are supposed to love?

the pressure of success placed upon the youngest among us?

the strain on us to be self-sufficient, to not need and not ask?

Tell me, God, should I weep in despair or laugh at the overwhelming absurdity of it all?

Jesus cried, at least once.

I think I would cry more often than Jesus but laughter is a cheerier mechanism to cope with what I see

what I hear

what I feel

what I fear.

I don’t know what you think of all the ceremony

We’ve given to this week called, “Holy,”

but at the very least it gives us an outlet

for processing

suspense

doubt

death

fear

anger

complexity

and, hopefully, agree with you at the end of it all

That life is the most important thing,

worth laughing at and worth crying over.

Worth fighting for.

There’s no navigating life without being scarred,

but there’s grace for living with the scars.

There’s grace.

There’s grace.

My God, thank you for grace.

 

Written by Rachel G. Hackenburg

“Writing to GOD: 40 Days of Praying with My Pen”

Why Not?

Do you ever have weeks that flow seamlessly from one event to the next, and you can only thank God for the way things have happened?

17757676_10102874189603041_5209129391198303298_nThis past Sunday, I heard Union’s own President Brian Blount teach and preach at First Presbyterian Church in Durham, NC. The overall theme of the morning (of course, focusing on the book of Revelation) seemed to be about standing up and stepping out, testifying and witnessing, and loving God’s children and creation in a new and radical way– in a way that pushes us out of our comfort zone and might even take us somewhere we aren’t ready to go. The messages were very timely, but even more so, they were incredibly challenging.

During his sermon, Dr. Blount shared the quote from Robert F. Kennedy, “There are those that look at things the way they are, and ask why? I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?”

As I went through the rest of my day, I couldn’t help but wonder “Why not?” Why can’t I stand up and speak out? Why can’t I love my neighbor with radical love instead of just a passive hello? Why can’t I make a change in my small corner of the world?

Still reflecting on the message from Dr. Blount and the call to witness in Revelation, I drove up to Richmond dark and early on Tuesday morning because this week, Dr. Paula Parker and Dr. Katie Cannon are leading a workshop entitled “Writing (Righting) Wrong: Memory, Resistance, Resilience” (and I learned, a while ago, that one does not miss a class by either of these women, especially if they are leading together!)

In this workshop we will assess and redress the muted, masked, and mangled testimonies and the trans-generational experiences of women, men, and children whose ancestors were enslaved Africans. We will mine the mother lode of survivalist intentions inherited from our foremothers and forefathers who worked as chattel property in the economies of North America for 300 years.  Instead of giving in to justified feelings of fury, our workshop combines the anatomy of the idea with the genogram, in order to stabilize in writing how characteristics prevalent in the Black Church community are ingrained and shaped by memory, resistance, and resilience.

As I sat in this class surrounded mostly by stories that I cannot begin to understand, but a few that I can, I realized at least initially, my role was to listen. To hear the wisdom and experiences of these women, to hear firsthand the accounts of what my history books never told me.

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Cinquin “Free Write”

For a fleeting moment, I wondered “Should I be here? Should I go home?” In that moment, I returned to Sunday morning and asked myself “WHY NOT? Why SHOULDN’T I be here? Why CAN’T I not just hear these stories, but maybe even share some of my own? Why CAN’T I ask questions and try to understand a narrative that isn’t directly related to my own, but does influence it every single day?” Then we read a litany based on Marianne Williamson’s Return to Love and these words called to me, “Our greatest fear is not that we are inadequate, but that we are powerful beyond measure.”

As I reflect on the messages of Dr. Blount’s sermon, the call to witness and testify in the book of Revelation, and the stories of these women and those who came before, I wonder where I am limiting myself and the ways that I can relate to and grow with all of God’s creation? I wonder “Why not?”… not just in my own life, but in the life of my community and the Church.

Why not ask more questions? Why not listen more?

Why not seek to find the root of the story? Why not take the pen and write the next chapter?

Why not love radically and seek fervently God’s grace with and in one another?

This question of “why not?” is, or should be, at play in every aspect of our lives– in the way we make personal decisions, the way we relate with our neighbors, in the way we complete our jobs, and in the way we gather together to worship.

As we ask this question, we also have to listen. We have to listen to the stories that have shaped us as individuals and as communities. We have to listen to the stories that have shaped those around us. Every story intertwines at some point, every story influences another in some way. If we can hear and receive each of these stories, if we can find the root of the trauma and the growth, we can write our next chapter.

Reading John’s call to the seven churches in Revelation, a call to stand up and testify, or act in “non-violent resistance” as Dr. Blount translates, I hear this echo of “why not?” As we are called, with God’s children of all time and space, to step out and move forward together no matter what the risk, I am tied into the story. Asking questions might be one of the most dangerous things a person can do, but asking AND listening just might be what finally connects our stories and begins to move our pen on that blank page.

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One exercise that has been incredibly eye opening and beneficial this week has been “free writing”. Following each portion of our discussion, we are given a few moments to journal our initial thoughts– without edits, without hesitations. I have written this particular blog in this manner and invite you to practice this act of reflection as you consider your own story and the story of your community– whether that be your family, neighborhood, or congregation with whom you worship.

And now, in the style of Dr. Katie Cannon,
“Your prompt for this free write is:
Knowing the story of where I have been and am now, I want my next chapter to say…”

 

Ashe. May it be so.

Rev. Jordan B. Davis
Church Relations


“Writing (Righting) Wrong: Memory, Resistance, Resilience” is an offering of The Womanist Institute at Union Presbyterian Seminary.