What Makes You Strong

asphalt clouds endurance grass

We are officially on the ground and running at the Kirk after a longer kick-off season this year, and most of you are likely beginning to find your stride as well. Fall kick-off is an exhausting time which doesn’t provide much of a break until Thanksgiving when pastors might take a day or two to restart and gear up for Advent. For youth pastors, there hasn’t been much of a break since Spring Break (maybe)!

It didn’t take long into my first year as a youth & young adult pastor to not only realize, but accept and act on the fact that there is no way that I can do this alone. Even with a staff of four pastors, there is just too much work to go around!

At first, I figured if I could just plan and prioritize better, I could make it work. I bought a white board and divided it into the four very general sections of my job – youth group, confirmation, young adults, and general. I listed important dates and to-do items on this board. On a smaller board, I kept a daily to-do list. This worked for roughly a week. The problem that I ran into was that my job cannot be generalized. Under the two “simple” titles of youth and young adults, there are many smaller facets which then break down again (and possibly again). The young adults have just as many activities as the youth and require pastoral care in a different way at a different time.

I sat staring at my breakdown of the components of my job and wondered what to do. I remembered that the youth portion was also layered with three or four tiers of leadership which made that side manageable in theory, but what could I do to really strengthen that so that the system was more supportive than “hanging in there”? On the young adult side (which was quickly growing into young adults and families), there was nothing. This is a newer component and was taking a great deal of time with very little support system.

20180921_103245I quickly set to work adding tiers under my umbrella and strengthening those already at work. Youth volunteers went through more specified training at the start of this year, and will do so throughout the year. I asked a variety of young adults if they would be willing to help start a leadership team and we met to plan the semester and then take on leadership if different activities.

All too often, pastors become event planners and spend their time juggling a calendar rather than sitting with people. I found myself growing more and more frustrated with my time behind a computer screen rather than spending time with my people. I also learned that as I was putting these systems in place and strengthening what was already there, I had to be willing to let go and let the system work! When personal stress collided with professional stress in the middle of a meeting, I finally did let go and told my leaders I couldn’t do this without them.

Asking for help in our jobs, whatever they are, is not the weakness that I thought at one point. Asking for help does not mean that we are not capable. Asking for help, forming and strengthening support systems – that is what makes us strong! As I have told each of my leaders, no ministry succeeds if only person is behind it. If we want to anything to succeed, there has to be buy in. Success requires strategic and focused leadership from different angles. If one person leads everything, everything will suffer. If a team leads everything, each person within the team and ministry will grow in a new way!

Christ did not try to minister alone. Christ called a team together who first walked with him and listened before they started to assist and then minister on their own. Finally, when it was time for Christ to leave us the disciples and so many others were ready (even if they didn’t think so) to carry on the ministry.

As the year kicks off and you look at your calendar wondering how to best tackle today, this week and this month, remember that you don’t have to do this alone! Look to your support teams and if you don’t have one, start one. Find those who are invested in the ministry and ask them for help, because that help will only make you stronger!

Rev. Jordan B. Davis (M.Div.’14)
Associate Pastor, Youth & Young Adults
Kirk of Kildaire, Presbyterian (Cary, NC)

Advertisements

I am your pastor, but this is MY body

img-20180308-5aa0e00d4e1aeI cannot begin to count the number of times I have heard about inappropriate comments being made to or about my female clergy colleagues, and myself, about our bodies. We are told to dress more conservatively, asked if we are pregnant, receive suggestions about new hair dyes and makeup, and are handed articles about women’s health… just to name a few things. As we focus on finding new ways to share God’s Word with our congregations, our congregations focus on ways to make their female leaders more appealing to look at. Some of my colleagues have even been told that since the congregation hired them, they need to dress and appear the way the congregation says (ie. the way that particular parishoner wants).

The hardest part of this is that as we strive to be professional and kind, we struggle to respond to these comments because we know that our thoughts are in no way appropriate, even if they are in response to an even more inappropriate comment. I am personally incredibly envious of the women who are able to respond with grace and direct attention to the inappropriate comments because all too often we (read: I) just smile, tell you to have a nice day, and walk away as we bite our tongue and seek out a quiet space to let our rage out. We stand off to the side, cleaning up after worship and other programs, listening to what you say and pretending to ignore you while we wonder why you aren’t just talking about the presentation or sermon instead (you are not as quiet as you think you are, and even if you are, we will still hear through the grapevine.)

As I hear from colleagues about their experiences and I think about my own, I have one simple thing to say —

It is NEVER okay to make judgments about another person or to talk about them behind their back, and just because “you” pay “them” doesn’t make it okay.

I love to do prayer stations with my youth and a favorite one focuses on how we are created in the image of God. I encourage the youth to look in mirrors and to see themselves exactly in that way – created in the image of God. How does that change the way they see what they think of as flaws? I then encourage them to look at others in the room and to see perceived flaws (and things they may have recently made fun of) as beautiful and the image of God.

It is important that I do this regularly because, I thought, teenagers are the most critical of themselves and in need of support and reminders of their true beauty. As I think about what both my colleagues and I have experienced, and what so many others (men and women alike) experience every day, I want to encourage everyone to try this.

Go find a mirror and look into it. Look at everything that you think is flawed. See the beauty and power in it, knowing that you are strong and beautiful because you are created in God’s image. Think of someone you recently talked about and see them in God’s image. You can even go another step to let them know you see that they are created in God’s image!

There is no reason that your pastor should spend their free time looking for a new outfit to hide their weight because they overheard, again, someone asking if the pastor is pregnant. There is no reason that your pastor should feel like they need to dull their wardrobe because their outfits are not “befitting” of the office. There is no reason that your pastor should feel “less than” because another person does not like or approve of them because they are not fit enough, pretty enough, modern enough… every single person, including your pastor, is in fact ENOUGH and should be reminded of that instead of what is perceived as a flaw.

Rev. Jordan B. Davis (M. Div. ’14)
Associate Pastor, Youth & Young Adults
Kirk of Kildaire, Presbyterian (Cary, NC)

When the World Changed

axel-houmadi-325307-unsplash-1400x934Seventeen years ago, our country was shaken to the core as we felt the trembling of collapsing buildings everywhere we were. Our reality shifted, never to be the same again. In the blink of an eye, we came together just as strongly as we were ripped apart.

I reflect on that day spent with my grandparents while I was tracked out of school. I struggled to understand what was going on. I was in 8th grade and knew enough to know this wasn’t good, but also was aware that I didn’t know enough. In the following months, I watched with friends as the world we were only just beginning to understand faded away, as the unity we celebrated dissolved, and as finger pointing, fear, and blame filled the soundbites on the television.

My teenage years were shaped by the immediate responses to the events of 9/11. I vaguely remember a world where everyone was welcome and lived as the neighbors I had learned about in Sunday school. Mostly though, I still struggle to understand how and why the unity in the United States collapsed and turned to fear and hatred so quickly.

As I sit here and remember today, I also struggle with the idea that my youth do not remember. In fact, fewer than five were even alive when the towers fell and brought our unity down with them. I realize that my youth do not have the memories of a united country and instead only know this fear and hatred that has crept in ever since that first airplane struck the tower.

I wonder if our youth hear our tired cries for justice and unity and think that we have given up. I wonder what their vision of unity is, having grown up in such a broken world? I pray that they come to know a world where we do not fear those around us and instead live as neighbors, no longer pointing to the past as an example but living it in the present.

Maybe my memory of what our country used to be is naive and skewed — again, I was only in 8th grade. My heart breaks that those younger than me likely cannot even pull on those naive thoughts to imagine such a place.

God calls us to live as neighbors, to love one another, and to share grace with one another. Somewhere in the back of my memories, I do believe we were once on the verge of such a world. Today I pray that we can all find those memories of days forgotten and strive to live in such a way that we bring back that unity of support and love for neighbor. I pray that our children will grow up in a world where they don’t have to look to a history book to know that even for a brief time, we acted as the Body of Christ. I pray for and long for the day when we can say that we are not only the United States of America, but the United Kingdom of God.

Rev. Jordan B. Davis (M.Div. ’14)
Associate Pastor, Youth & Young Adults
Kirk of Kildaire, Presbyterian (Cary, NC)

You are invited!

invitationInvitations. They fill our mailbox every year, inviting us to weddings and birthday parties, baby showers and retirement celebrations, housewarmings and game nights. Electronic invitations can be sent for free, you can have a mail house do the addressing for you, or make a night of it with a friend as you hand address and lick each envelope. We think nothing of sending invitations when it is time to party – so why do we second guess ourselves when it is time to worship?

There is a billboard in Eastern NC which has peaked my interest for several years now. The congregation renting that space has called out to the masses and invited everyone to join them, “Where you belong before you believe.” I imagine a congregation of individuals of all ages, in out types of outfits, and talking about all kinds of things. I imagine laughter and excitement as strangers become friends, and as friends walk together discerning their faith. This invitation might be a blanket invite, but it is one that grabs attention and makes this pastor very curious.

This past weekend, a group of teenagers knocked on my door. The teens seemed genuinely excited about their church as they handed over a postcard and invited us – NOT to come to church – but to come get a bookbag filled with supplies for the year. They see a need in our community and they want to address it – on a Saturday morning when people of all faith traditions can join together as one community, celebrating another new beginning. Even with no children in need of a book bag of supplies, we were interested in and excited for their ministry.

Sitting at table along a sidewalk in downtown Raleigh, my husband stopped mid-sentence and called out to someone behind me, “Hey! Would you like to have a seat?” I was both shocked and confused (and the introvert in me was a little annoyed) when an older gentleman limped over and sat down with us. Over the next hour, we enjoyed conversation about family, faith, sports, and movies as the sun beat down on us and the server kept our water glasses filled. As we parted ways, we shook hands and wished each other well, likely to never cross paths again but changed forever because of our time together.

Each of these instances have occurred in the last few weeks and had me thinking about how I invite others to the Table this coming year.

When we worship, we may not have balloons and an overflowing gift table when you arrive but we are having a party! We are singing, some are dancing, we are smiling, we are hugging, we are celebrating – even in our grief, solitude, and fear. We are a community of God’s children and we want to welcome YOU! We want to welcome you to worship, to Bible study, to Sunday school, to youth group, to fellowship, and just to BE.

We at least say that we want to invite you. The thought is there! Why don’t we actually do it, though?

We put blurbs in our church newsletters and might even post on Facebook. We encourage others to pass along an invitation while we wait to hear the results. We pray they won’t answer the phone when we call so that we can just leave a quick voicemail and move on.

For most churches, these weeks kick off a new Christian Education year. I challenge you to move beyond the bulletin invitation, only seen by those already in attendance and actually reading what we have edited all week. Call those who are missing. Tell your neighbors about what excites you at your church. Bring a friend to youth group. Invite the young adult down the pew to join you. Look one another in the eye and share an invitation to join together in this crazy journey of life and faith!

Rev. Jordan B. Davis (M.Div. ’14)
Associate Pastor, Youth & Young Adults
Kirk of Kildaire, Presbyterian (Cary, NC)

The Hidden Life of the Transitional Pastor

kiwihug-284614-unsplash.jpgI don’t know if anyone has ever actually written about the non-professional side of interim or transitional ministry – the side that stays well hidden, out of sight and out of mind, from the majority of the world. I don’t know if anyone will ever read what I am writing now. But it is one of those hidden nights – one of those nights when I can’t sleep because of the nature of this fleeting call.

I entered this position knowing the nature of it – I had even been through training for this, but no one can train you for the day that the good-for-now, transitional job becomes the dream job and renews a passion that had been packed away in a tidy little box and hidden in the back of the closet. No course can teach you what to do when the one thing you want is likely the one thing you can’t have in that field of ministry.

I truly admire interim pastors who make a career out of going from one church to another and helping congregations work through loss, grief, discernment, and rebuilding. Only five months into my first transitional position, I know this isn’t for me.

I guess I need to first explain a bit –

My position is transitional. It is interim. It is a filler for two parties – I needed a job as my contract ran out with my previous position and could not be renewed. The church needed someone at the desk and in the classroom until they could conduct a full search for an installed pastor. After interviewing one another (and after they interviewed a few others), we agreed that it was a good fit for the time being. “Transitional” is a fancy word for “interim who can reapply and possibly stay,” but at the same time after a year, neither party would be caught off guard if it is decided that it is not a good fit and the contract isn’t renewed.

Makes sense, right?

Until one party falls head over heels in love with the other. A weird way to describe it, but an appropriate one I think.

I knew I would enjoy the position. It was something I knew I was good at and even better, I would be serving with some fantastic, much more experienced pastors. It made sense.

The first few weeks were beyond rough. Among other struggles, I barely slept and lost all sense of personal life and boundaries as I tried to dig myself out of the chaos I had jumped into (fall in youth ministry is anything but slow and peaceful – if you ever take a youth ministry job, start in December.) I sat down at my desk no later than 8:30 a.m. and left around 5 p.m. on a good day, eating lunch at the desk as I kept working. My days off were spent problem solving from my couch at home. I had it under control though. I had to.

I was also trying to figure out my next step beyond this position. A side-line life I had lived since the beginning of time, it seemed. What college will I go to? What seminary will I go to? Where will I work after graduation? Where will I work when this contract runs out? Where will I go when they find an installed pastor? Every day marking one more drop of sand in the hour glass.

So, I worked until I had nothing left to give at the church and then went home to run a few job searches, update my PIF, and pray that something – anything- would show up.

I took my middle schoolers on a retreat. I took my confirmation class on a retreat. I got my first hug and a “thanks” from a youth. I served communion to a young adult who hadn’t stepped foot in the sanctuary in years. The tireless days were filled with joy and excitement. I began to welcome the interruptions in the office rather than dreading them. I felt myself sliding down a slippery slope and couldn’t find anything to grab onto.

In a position where my job was to get in, help to process and move forward, and get out… I just wanted to stay.

Every part of me ached to be there. Every thought was about five years down the road. Every discussion was closely filtered as I tried to remember my job… as I tried to remember they could still say “goodbye” in only a matter of months.

I struggled as I applied and interviewed for other jobs.

Every conversation was dissected as I looked for signs that I might be able to stay.

This was my dream. These were my people. This was absolutely my call from God. The one I didn’t want to hear, but the one that renewed a deep passion I had hidden away as I tried to “grow up” and move on to “real” ministry.

I went to a conference for my own continuing education. That is where I am while I write this, actually. I came to network and learn better ways to do my job overall – tools I can take to my next congregation (that I don’t want). I bought resources, I signed up for emails, and I got memberships for my congregation in different groups. In the middle of conversations, I found myself beginning to filter again – “I will add this to my resource binder for the next person in this position.” My heart broke. My fears built. The stress began to shut me down. It kept me up at night.

While I was away, my husband attended a young adult event without me. I realized he has found a home. That group is giving him a space that I have longed for him to find. He called me and excitedly told me about what I missed. My heart broke as I prayed we could stay, as I wondered what he would do if we had to leave.

Nothing could have prepared me for when the interim and transitional call became the one and only call that I wanted to accept. Nothing could have prepared me for the tears shed as I wonder if I have any shot at staying. Nothing could have prepared me for how hard it would be to minister to the individuals on the search committee – individuals I have grown to love, individuals I want to be friends with, individuals who I filter myself around and look too deep into what they say to me.

In the office, I smile and do my job. I do it well, too. I tow the party line and joyfully say, “We will have to see what happens!” when someone asks about who will fill the position and if I applied. In the office, I focus on the next hour, the next day, the next week. I don’t talk about the next year – or I at least try not to. I am not supposed to. I prepare a resource binder for the next person to sit in that chair and look over at empty shelves in the bookcase (because why move books in if you are only around for a year?). I set goals with the ministry team for the next transition phase.

At home, at night when I can’t sleep, I pray to God that I can stay. I pray for the individuals I am working with. I cry into the pillow, pleading that this is the last job search – that it is all a formality. My husband, God bless him, does everything he can to keep me sane. He listens to the same monologue about this job search every day – just like he has almost every day since we started dating while I was in seminary. I know it grates on his last nerve. I know he can’t stand to hear “what if” anymore. I know he is worn out with all of the “just in case” planning – for that day when I find out that there is no next step, no job to go to.

We lament the dreams put on hold until a decision is finally made. We wonder if it really was smart to buy a home instead of renting another apartment. We plan vacations, wondering if that will be the last one until another job is found. We avoid vacations because I can’t risk taking too much time away when I need references for other jobs. We wonder when we should extend the geographic area for the job search, risking the loss of his job in the process.

Every bit of it, though, is worth it.

Every step of the way, no matter how hard, is worth it.

I have never understood the “Footprints in the Sand” poem more as I look behind me at so many times when Christ has truly carried me.

When you hear that call though, when you feel that tug on your life so hard that you almost can’t breathe, you do what you have to do. You even stay awake, knowing it was a long day and is leading into another, because you can’t sleep until you write your thoughts down. You write because you can’t tell anyone. You are only transitional. You shouldn’t have these thoughts.

Transitional and interim ministry is so much harder than they told me. There was no class on how to do cope when you become attached. Maybe it would be easier if I knew I couldn’t stay.

Maybe it wouldn’t make a difference. Who knows?

If you have a transitional or interim pastor, take a minute to look them in the eye and look beyond the facade, the protective wall that is put up. Thank them for what they are doing. Take a moment to recognize, out loud, the difficulty of the position and how much it means to the congregation. Those moments might be what save my sanity some days (after causing that wall to crumble a bit first).

Interim and transitional ministry means there is no home, and there is no future. Everything has a deadline, and as my sister said jokingly one day “so, you expire on August 21.”

Ministry in general is an all encompassing, life altering, heart changing, and heart breaking call. No pastor knows what to expect, but some at least can expect more than others.

I don’t know if I will choose to do a transitional or interim call again. I don’t know if I am really cut out for it. I give thanks for those who are! God might have other plans for me, but if I have any say… I am done with this type of ministry and staying right where I am.

I don’t know where I am going from here though and that scares the mess out of me. I pray that I can stay, but I plan to leave.

Why?

Because at the end of the year, there will be no hard feelings if either party decides it isn’t a good fit.

UPDATE: A few months after this was written, the search committee at Kirk of Kildaire Presbyterian Church offered the installed associate pastor position and I accepted! I now live my life strengthening relationships and setting five-year goals for the ministries I work with.

Rev. Jordan B. Davis (M. Div. ’14)
Associate Pastor, Youth & Young Adults
Kirk of Kildaire, Presbyterian (Cary, NC)

Lessons Learned

31815455_10155363238527611_742333527441276928_o.jpgWell, I have completed and survived my very first programmatic year in youth ministry!

One year ago, I was sharing the news that I would be leaving my position as church relations officer at Union Presbyterian Seminary and joining the ministry at Kirk of Kildaire Presbyterian Church as the transitional associate pastor for youth and young adults. I was both excited and terrified. This was the exact position that I had dreamed about, but I was deeply entrenched in a very different type of ministry at the time. I was pretty sure I knew what to expect but also realized that we can never know what to expect in ministry.

Well, one year later and I can say that the jump was well worth the wait and every bead of sweat that has dropped since then. I have learned so much and look forward to continuing to learn about congregational ministry at a deeply personal level. I wouldn’t trade the first three years of my ministry for anything, and the same goes for this transition to congregational ministry. Even in the setting of another very unpredictable setting.

As I think back on the last year, here are the big things that I have learned and offer to anyone who is heading into congregational ministry:

1)     The team is everything. Whether you are on a staff of two or 10, the team is what makes everything work or fail. No ministry is successful when you work on your own so it is imperative that you not just get to know your teammates, but learn to work with them. If they have been there even one day longer, there is wisdom about the congregation which can be shared. If they specialize in another field, they will be able to help you when it comes time to reach out (which will happen, whether you want it to or not). When you have a hard day and just want to shut the door and cry, they will be the ones to come and check on you. If you don’t put the team first, you will end up out in the middle of a chaotic field and have no clue which way to run or who to ask to run with you. I could not have served in this ministry if it weren’t for my team and I will never forget that.

2)     No matter how you spin it and no matter how much hope you have, getting volunteers is hard. I don’t know of any pastor who knows exactly how to get all of the volunteers for everything they need. Even when I think that I am set for success, something will inevitably happen and I begin making those phone calls and sending those emails to everyone I know, “Will you PLEASE chaperone/ drive/ cook/ teach?” My hope and prayer is that when I know my congregation better, I can make more appropriate appeals other than “From your directory picture, you appear to be young, cool, and single with no children – do you have plans next weekend? We need a chaperone. By the way, I am the new pastor.” I have recently sent out (in every form) a volunteer form for next year and am trying to not stress over the numbers I have so far. I don’t warn you so that you lose hope, but so that you know it isn’t about you when no one signs up to volunteer. It happens to every pastor (and teacher) I know.

3)     Family is priority. Family is priority for our congregation and should be for us. There are too many demands on our time today and I have learned to celebrate when I see my congregation taking time with their family, even if it means missing youth group. I have also learned to show that my family is a priority and to set that example for those who look to me as a leader. When we make our people feel guilty for spending time with their family, we lose them. When we make it possible to continue spending time with family, we open new doors. Family involvement is also one of the ways we will be able to find volunteers… maybe (see #3).

4)     Preaching is so much easier when you know your people. I loved preaching at a different congregation each week. It was an incredible gift to worship with and get to know so many different congregations, however it was incredibly difficult personally and professionally. I struggled when I didn’t know who I would worship with each week and it made it very difficult to know what to say as I wrote each sermon. I have over 100 sermons that scratched at the surface, but I now have five sermons that dig a bit deeper and touch on congregational concerns that I don’t just know about, I am living with them. I feel that I am able to better share God’s Word when I know who I am sharing it with as opposed to sharing it in a way that simply gets the job done.

5)     Every pastor should take time to visit congregations which are different from their own. I cannot say this enough – take a continuing education Sunday to worship somewhere else. Or a vacation day. Or a sick day. Just do it. With the incredible governmental model in the Presbyterian Church (USA), it is even more incredible how different each congregation is. Orders of worship, prayers of thanksgiving, pastoral prayers, hymns… it is all different. I will never forget preparing to serve communion and asking a member of the congregation where I was visiting, “Is there anything I should know? Is there any special way that this should be done?” They laughed and responded, “We just do it!” I groaned, knowing that I was walking onto a landmine, and “just did it.” Sure enough, that individual came up following worship service very exasperated, “What was that? That is NOT how we do communion!” (I still don’t know what I did wrong) Worship in as many settings as you can and experience church as a visitor. Not only do you need it for your own faith development, but it will open your eyes to the things you have grown numb to in your own ministry while showing you new things to try!

6)     No matter what you do, serve God with your whole heart, and if you can’t serve with your whole heart then consider what changes need to be made. Some days, we just can’t muster it. Some days, we are too tired and annoyed to approach our ministry with an open heart. Take those days to stop and regroup, spending one-on-one time with God and remembering why you are here in the first place. If we can’t remember and embrace that call, we cannot fully serve God.

I could go on for hours about what I have learned, but I hope that as so many begin their first calls that these hard lessons learned will help you to remember you are not alone. Ministry is an incredible and difficult call and it can seem so lonely at times. On those days, remember that you have so many praying for you and encouraging you, even if you don’t know who they are. You WILL survive this year and be able to share your own lessons learned before you know it!

Rev. Jordan B. Davis (M.Div. ’14)
Transitional Associate Pastor, Youth & Young Adults
Kirk of Kildaire, Presbyterian (Cary, NC)

Where is the Kingdom of God?

Gods-kingdom-and-willOver the last several days…
Weeks…
Okay, years…

I have read statements condemning those who don’t speak up. I have read statements saying that an individual should leave their congregation if their pastor does or does not say a particular thing. I have read statements saying that someone “can’t be a Christian” because of what they have said or done. I have even read statements condemning those who disagree with the author or even say the same thing, but in a different way.

I have read so much condemnation it is as if we, as a whole, have become so intent on making sure that those around us know “where they belong”, we have made our world a true living Hell.

My heart breaks for those who make these statements and for those who read them, wishing they could say something but they can’t find the words or the space to do so. My heart breaks for those affected by the situations which so many are speaking out both for and against. Mostly, though, my heart breaks for God who watches creation tear itself apart, claiming the destruction to be in God’s name.

My heart breaks because we are only moving further and further away from God’s kingdom here on earth.

 

I want to ask what a Facebook post will do when the author only sits at home, shaking their head at the TV. I want to ask what a sermon will do when the pastor has no backing from the congregation or when the congregation only nods along, no minds being changed because everyone already agrees (and those who do not agree have no space to safely say so). I want to ask what our words are worth if we are not doing something to fill them with love and action. I want to ask what a sermon is worth if it was only inspired by the judgment and condemnation of other clergy.

Someone once told me that this approach to change is full of privilege. I have spent a lot of time considering this and have to agree that yes, it is – in so many ways.

This approach is full of the privilege of God’s grace and a desire to share that with everyone and not just those who we agree with. This approach is full of the privilege of the unconditional love of God which we (or at least, I) struggle to comprehend and seek ways to emulate in all of our relationships. This approach is full of the privilege of relationships with individuals who, if we said everything we really wanted to, could be hurt far more than we can ever imagine.

This approach is full of the privilege of knowing that we have an incredible amount of privilege and knowing this, continually seek meaningful and appropriate ways of using it to bring about change – in the ways in which we live with others, speak with others, teach others, and learn from others; not just when we are angry with the government, but every single day in ways that are true to who God made each of us to be. This privilege of being an active part of the Body of Christ brings with it so much more weight than any other type of “privilege” could, because in the end doesn’t our relationship with Christ far outweigh our skin color, gender, sexuality or any other label created by humanity?

If we don’t stand up and speak out EVERY DAY, living our lives in the full light of the unity, equality, compassion, grace, peace, safety, freedom, and LOVE which is being called for EVERY SINGLE TIME these calls are made, then what good will it do to only stand up and speak out when something goes wrong? Who will listen to us if we let our calls expire as the news story changes?

If your pastor doesn’t preach on the current events and that is what you seek, ask them if you can help lead a discussion group. If your pastor prays for something you disagree with, ask them if you can chat over coffee.

If your parishioner storms out of the Sanctuary during worship, call them and ask if you can share a meal. If your parishioner sends an angry email on Monday, work with them to find ways to address the concerns of the wider congregation.

If your congregation won’t be able to hear the sermon that is on your heart, write it and save it for when they can and care for those hearts the best that you can until the time comes (if it ever does) to preach that sermon.

 

Not everybody is ready, not everybody is able, not everybody is at the point where they can stand up and speak out, and that is ok. We will get there each in our own time and in our own way. Condemning, chastising, punishing, and shaming are not the way to make it happen though. Encouraging, loving, welcoming, embracing, and seeking relationship through God’s love and grace for and with each and every single person – THAT is what will help each person find their voice. If that happens we begin to see God’s Kingdom being fulfilled and what will there be to speak out against?

I don’t know anywhere in scripture where we are taught to act in the way that so many are acting right now. I don’t remember ever reading a statement of Christ in which it was okay to be hateful for ANY reason. If our end goal is to bring God’s Kingdom to fulfillment, every step of the way should match that as well.

Rev. Jordan B. Davis (M.Div. ’14)
Transitional Associate Pastor, Youth & Young Adults
Kirk of Kildaire, Presbyterian (Cary, NC)