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As a pastor, I am reminded weekly during Sunday’s prayers of people that life is not easy. I listen as those in the pew ask for comfort, guidance, healing and hope. I listen, and then I pray for our laments to turn into songs of praise.
When racially insensitive photos surfaced at Cal Poly University in the spring, Front Porch, a coffeehouse and 1001 worshiping community in San Luis Obispo, California, began engaging students — many of whom were disgusted by what they saw.
When the #MeToo hashtag exploded on the social media scene in October 2017, no one could have predicted its continued impact on the treatment of women both in and out of the workplace. For a while, #MeToo seemed to be more about bringing down famous people in big corporations or enterprises, like Harvey Weinstein and Matt Lauer. Hollywood is one thing, but harassment isn’t supposed to happen in churches, right?
Faith is not just personal; it’s political. Our leaders pass laws about how we treat one another, laws about money and finances, laws about how our resources are allocated and more. The Bible addresses these issues as well in Scriptures like the Ten Commandments, the parable of the sheep and the goats, Sabbath rules and Jesus’ advice to the rich young ruler to sell his possessions and give to the poor. To say the Bible and Jesus are not political is to deny their influence and relevance to our lives in the 21st century.
A freshly ordained, energetic new pastor arrives to the resounding “Alleluia!” of a grateful congregation. Two years later, she leaves in fury, blaming a toxic environment, with her health in tatters.
Dr. Brian K. Blount’s book “Go Preach! Mark’s Kingdom Message and the Black Church Today” sits on my desk. It’s one of the books that survived the move from our rental in Maryland to our Vermont home. During packing, I promised my husband I would limit the books to three large boxes. What didn’t fit wouldn’t come. There just wasn’t room in our 1760-something home for my dog-eared friends. It was painful, but I was brutal in my decisions as to which ones to keep and which ones to give away. It says a lot that “Go Preach!” made the cut.
Growing up in South Africa, Bobby Musengwa couldn’t imagine coming to America to attend seminary. The path simply wasn’t visible to him — and he couldn’t imagine serving as a pastor. But it was his uncle’s friendship with Heath Rada, who later served as moderator of the 221st General Assembly (2014), that brought this possibility to light for him — and the mentoring community of professors, pastors, family and friends reinforced Musengwa’s call.
As we approach the fall kickoff to the church program year, my thoughts keep coming back to the Protestant idea of the priesthood of all believers. This doctrine teaches that because of Jesus Christ, there is no need for someone to act as a mediator between the people and God. Everyone is just as spiritual, just as capable of speaking to God, and just as called to deliver God’s message to the world. Everyone is equally called to do God’s work and to minister to God’s people.
Growing up, one of my favorite shows was Little House on the Prairie. The characters were old and young, likable and unlikable. Even though some (like the Olesons!) were petty and others made mistakes, they were always there for each other when it counted. Little House had story lines for both kids and adults on the show.
Quickly, kids! We need to get going or we’ll miss the service! This was my plea one Easter morning as I ushered my children out the door to make it to church. My husband and I served in different churches, and worshiping together was impossible. However, on this morning he was the guest preacher at a church that had a different worship schedule from ours. We were thrilled. Our family could celebrate together.