Recipe for the Future Church

Every time we dare to talk about what the future of the church will be it feels like cooking. It feels like we are trying to divine a recipe — wondering if a dash of this or a pinch of that might just do the trick. In fact, most of ministry feels like that.

Together, as disciples, we are trying to figure out how to create this awesome possibility of the realm of God. Jesus never told us exactly how to do it. He didn’t leave us any kind of cookbook or even a clear set of ingredients. We know that there will be love and there will be justice, but how much? How much will create what God has dreamed could be? Of course, there are other questions that we ask when we are imagining the future of the church. It’s not just the realm of God we’re imagining. It’s whether the institution will survive. It’s the question of whether or not anyone will ever come and if the message we offer is still relevant.

These are tough questions. They are questions that can’t be answered even though we try very hard. The fact is: we just don’t have all of the information. We are not sure what compels people. We are still learning. We may have been set in our ways for a long, long time. Most churches have and many are ready to answer this question. They want to know what the future holds. They want to be given the answers. We all want the answers. But, I gotta say, I don’t have the answers. I’m a professional leader in the institutional church but I am not sure. I can say everything that I think. I can lead a whole bunch of exercises that make the churched among us feel like we’re back in youth group. And I do. I do those things. But, the questions are so persistent and the answers are so illusive that the questions start to overwhelm. It’s then that we need to read.

There is nothing like a book to challenge our hopes and dreams about the future. Ask any librarian. Books challenge us to expand our horizons and allow us to hear ourselves. That’s why I love book studies within congregations. They shift the conversation so the questions are not quite so loud as our answers. We hear what really matters.

That’s when things really get cooking. So that’s what we did at St. Peter’s United ChurBeyond_Resistance_cover_largech of Christ in Knauertown, Pennsylvania. We just finished reading John Dorhauer’s Beyond Resistance: The Institutional Church Meets the Postmodern World. There are many books that could challenge us to imagine the future but I chose this one because of its author. John Dorhauer is the newly elected General Minister and President of the United Church of Christ and he wrote this book about what he has learned about how the world is changing. It is very much written from his perspective. It’s a book that unpacks postmodernism which it may or not do very well. (Some in our group did not think Dorhauer went far enough.)

What I find most compelling about the book is the challenge not just to think about how one individual congregation might choose to define their future and their mission but how we might think about all of our missional resources. The future of one church cannot be separated from the future of the churches that surround it. It can’t be removed from the future of the denomination it claims. This book is a challenge to think about how we might partner. It’s not as simple as whisk or stir. It requires more of us just as reading a book like this one challenge congregations to think beyond their own resistances.

If your church is trying to imagine the future, but find yourselves tripping over the question, try this book. Here’s a simple recipe to follow.

RECIPE FOR MINISTRY

It is indeed a recipe for future.

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A Failure of Imagination

On the same day when my article appeared on New Sacred about how a progressive faith isn’t defined by issues, Susan Jacoby was interviewed on NPR’s Fresh Air.

It was in fact just yesterday. Just yesterday, on my way home from the gym, I caught the end of Terry Gross’s interview with Jacoby. She’s the author of the new book Strange Gods: A Secular History of Conversion which I’d only heard of because I read an article she’d recently written for the New York Times but it wasn’t the article or even her book publicity that grabbed my attention. It was when she said this on the radio:

I can’t imagine falling in love with a devoutly religious person. Now, that I will fully acknowledge, many could call that a failure of imagination on my part. But, it is important to me. To me, it would be like falling in love with someone who thinks a woman’s place is in the home. <She laughs.> And I know that women have fallen in love with men like that but it’s something fundamental to me. Human rights. That people are equal under law simply because they are human beings.

Jacoby had been asked if she could ever possibly fall in love with someone who just so happened to be a person of faith. This was her response. She couldn’t imagine it.

It’s something that Jacoby had repeated earlier in the conversation. She could never imagine raising children or sharing a life together with someone who didn’t agree with her on the issues. It seems that human rights is at the heart of those issues that concern Jacoby most and that obviously a person of faith wouldn’t share this perspective.

I have feared the same thing. I have wondered if it could or would ever be possible to share a life with a man who didn’t share my progressive Christian faith, but then I fell in love.

I fell in love with an atheist.

I’m a progressive Christian and I fell in love with an atheist.

It was a failure of my own imagination, to borrow Jacoby’s words, to believe that we had to agree on every single issue. We agree on human rights. We agree that my place isn’t in the kitchen but we don’t agree on everything. I would love to meet the couple that does. I don’t believe it’s possible. And it is makes it more interesting.

How boring to love someone who agrees with everything you believe to be important! Where’s the challenge? Where’s the learning? Where’s the opportunity to grow and change within that loving relationship?

No thank you.

I would prefer the struggle. I’ll complain about it. I’ll bemoan that it’s hard especially when it comes to raising children together but love is more powerful than when or how that child gets baptized. It’s bigger than how we choose to tell our children that Mommy and Daddy believe different things, but you’re still going to church. (That was a deal breaker for me.) He doesn’t have to agree. He certainly doesn’t have to convert but he does have to be supportive of me and what’s important to me just as much as I have to listen to what’s important to him.

We both need to support each other. That’s what’s important, not the tenets of faith. Not the issues which we bring to the ballot box. It is the support that we give each other that changes things. It changes everything. That’s what I could never really imagine. I never really believed it was possible.

I was too strong willed, too hotheaded, too opinionated. I wasn’t going to balk and I sure as hell wasn’t going to change, but I met my match.

It was my own failure of imagination to assume that wasn’t possible.

 

Blinking Cursor

“Keep your butt in the chair. You do it at the same time every day. You never wait for inspiration — it’s ridiculous, it will never come. No one in your family is going to hope for you to be a writer… it’s not convenient for anybody for you to write, and you have to do it badly.”

So says Anne Lamott in her beloved book Bird by Bird.

I must admit that I didn’t like her book. I didn’t find much encouragement from this beloved writer in these pages. I preferred the words of Stephen King that I read last year when I couldn’t write. Even when I couldn’t write and believed I didn’t have anything worthwhile to say, King convinced me of his love for the craft. It’s something I missed in the pages of Bird by Bird. There were genuine pearls of which I remind myself every time I put my butt in the chair. I need to write some shitty first drafts and eat my broccoli.

But, most of the time, I just stare at my blinking cursor.

Yesterday I actually managed to do it. I put my butt in the chair and I wrote. I didn’t heed another of Lamott’s bits of wisdom. I didn’t write something completely new. I rewrote something I’d written way back when when I began this project. As you might already know, I’m writing a book. I’ve talked about it a whole lot but now I’m actually doing it. I’m writing about the thing I know best. I’m trying as hard as I can to tell the truth. But really, more often than not, I’m just trying to put my butt in the chair.

I don’t succeed most days. Earlier this week, for two consecutive days, I convinced myself that it was more important to write other things. I wrote something for New Sacred only to get an email from my editor after submitting it. It was incoherent, she told me. I attempted to edit it but I just stared at the blinking cursor.

Then, I gave up and clicked over to the other tab containing my sermon for Sunday which I was convinced was also incoherent and let’s be honest. Most of what I’ve written for this book is incoherent. It is gobbledygook. It is not intelligible and I shudder at the mere idea of sharing it with anyone acquainted with the English language, but I’m writing. I’m making slow and steady progress toward realizing this dream because I’ve always dreamed of writing a book. I’ve always wished I had the discipline. I always wished I had something brilliant and true to say. I’m still not sure that I have any of those things but I’m writing.

Or, at least, I am staring at the blinking cursor on my computer screen.

Each and every day, I think about the blinking cursor even when I’m not sitting at my laptop. I think about it at the gym and in the grocery store or while I’m reading something brilliant that someone else wrote. And lemme just say: there are lots of people who have written amazing things and sometimes I read their words and think I should never, ever put my butt in the chair. What could I possibly add? But, then, I remember that I love writing. I love writing for reasons I can’t even express so I sit down again just as I did today. I put my butt in the chair and try to make that stupid blinking cursor dance.

Last Minute Plans for Lent

Lent is just one week away. Most plans have already been laid out. It’s been printed in the newsletter and in the bulletin. Resources have been ordered. Palms have been burned. (I know because the traffic on this old post on how to make ashes skyrocketed two week ago.)  Some have already done their food shopping for gallons of maple syrup and pancake mix for the Shrove Tuesday celebration. To those people, I just want to say: don’t forget the pancake games. No. Seriously. So much fun.

In truth, I am one of those pastors that usually plans far in advance. I don’t tend to procrastinate because it makes me nervous. I need a plan even if things change in the midst. I need to have some sense of what’s to come. It’s not just in church that I do this, by the way. But, this year is different. This year, I’m not a settled pastor. I’m an interim which I’m learning involves a different kind of leadership. I can’t plan as I might otherwise. Interim ministry isn’t just church as usual. It’s marked by transition and everything feels tentative. So, I can’t plan because what I need to do is listen.

This is a bit terrifying to the über planner. It was especially horrifying when I recently realized that Lent was so soon very and I had nothing planned. I freaked out and then I started planning. I’m sharing those plans in full awareness that we are in this together and sometimes we need a little help from our colleagues to make it all happen.

The church that I serve as an interim is a small, country church. They don’t tend to do anything programmatic on any other day but Sunday so planning Lent was really a matter of planning worship. There won’t be any adult education or special events to add to this congregation’s life. All that we experience together during this holy season will happen in worship.

After worship, on most Sundays, I lead a sermon talkback conversation which is where the idea for this preaching series began. It was in one of those conversations a few weeks ago that I heard some really solid theological claims without much heart. Good theology has its place but this is a church that really wants to grow. It believes it can grow but not without heart. It’s not enough to spout good theology. There has to be some passion to it. There has to be some sense of why it matters.

2016The theology I was hearing that day from these good people all centered around who Jesus Christ is.  So, after listening a little more to God in prayer, I opted to entitle this sermon series Who Do you Say That I Am? This is, of course, something that Jesus says in all of the synoptic gospels (Matthew 16:15, Mark 8:29 and Luke 9:20). I decided to break slightly from the Revised Common Lectionary and explore some theological claims that we make about who Jesus is as we try to answer his own question. Here’s the plan so far:

  • February 14: Jesus is… the Son of God (Luke 4:1-13)
  • February 21: Jesus is… the Messiah (Luke 9:18-27)
  • February 28: Jesus is…the Word (John 1:1-18)
  • March 6: Jesus is… the Good Shepherd (Luke 13:31-35)
  • March 13: Jesus is…the Light of the World (John 8:12-29)
  • March 20: Jesus is…the King of the Jews (Luke 23:1-49)

Here’s what I don’t know: I don’t know how this will lead into Holy Week. This congregation shares their observance of Lent with the local ministerium that hosts weekly worship on Wednesdays, including Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. I am not sure if this theme will play into how we journey into Jerusalem. That is something that I will need to listen for as we move through this season.

I chose some of my favorite theological claims and dodged a few others. For example, I really didn’t want to do suffering servant because I know that’s not who my Jesus is and I’m not convinced I could preach good news on that particular claim. I do know that I need to push myself though so there are two books I’m hoping to read this Lent to push my own theological imagination. In the spirit of this preaching series, I’ll be reading James Martin’s Jesus: A Pilgrimage which just came out in paperback yesterday. I’m also going to attempt to read Jurgen Moltmann’s The Crucified God. That said, there is so much that could be added to this preaching series. I mean, really, it’s what we are preaching no matter what the season, right? So, there are certainly others  that might be added and I would hope that this series would inspire some exploration on theological claims beyond these six. That’s something I’ll have to think about. What’s the best way to encourage such exploration within this particular congregation?

CoverThough this church is a small church that won’t have any specisl educational experience to build upon our shared experience in worship, I do have something to offer if you’re a last minute planner. Several years ago, I wrote a curricula called Toward Transformation with the good people of the First Congregational Church UCC in South Portland, Maine. It is a six-week study that navigates the Psalms in a desire to experience resurrection individually and communally. As worship tackles the question of who Jesus is and why that particular confession matters, this six-week experience might bring those questions to life in a slightly different manner. Admittedly, it’s not a perfect fit but I have to say it’s pretty awesome. Both times I’ve used it, it has led to some really awesome changes. You can download the resource from my Ideas + Resources.

Maybe you’re not interested in that so much as you want to know about the graphic. Want to make your own cool graphic for your church newsletter or social media campaign? I used Canva. Once you’re logged in, choose the Facebook Post option. You can choose any one of the free designs. (Why pay?) The one I chose seems to have disappeared. Sorry! Once you choose a template, you’ll need to replace the image with an image of Christ. Maybe you take a picture of one in your Sunday School classroom or in the stained glass in the chapel. I admit that this particular image makes it a little hard to read the text. Alas! Add your church information including address and worship time and hit download. Look how fancy you are!

How are your plans for Lent going?

The Things They Carried

Just the other day, I heard a story on National Public Radio about the objects that are being collected and preserved after September 11, 2001.

Though I am a New Yorker, I wasn’t even in the country on that terrible day. I had planned to fly home that day. It was the day that I was supposed to return from my post-college summer dog sitting in London. But, it had dawned on me just a month before that I was in Europe and I should really travel more. So, I extended my stay two more weeks so that I could venture back to Italy where I had spent the previous spring studying aboard. Instead of trying to make my way back to the city I call home, I was gripped in front of the television watching the towers fall in the middle of the afternoon. I spent the next hour trying to find my stepmother who works in the city but the phone lines were all down. I would finally locate her later through my cousin who worked at a big time newspaper in the city. He found her. He told me she was OK. I wouldn’t know that until later that evening. Just before dinner, it was time to walk the dog. I remember walking through that park and noticing every woman in a hijab like I never had before. I remember trying to make eye contact with each of them. Searching their faces and begging with tear-filled eyes, trying to say to these women: Please don’t believe that every American blames you. I don’t. But, it’s not something you can say with your eyes alone.

Two weeks later, I was back in New York City stepping over flowers and candles and teddy bears piled together on the streets. These piles were in front of every fire house and every police station, a constant reminder that this city was in mourning. It’s been so many years and I had forgotten about these sidewalk memorials until I was reminded of them on the radio. In that same story, they talked about how the every day there are objects placed on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington DC and every day the National Park Service comes along in white gloves to gather up these objects to be catalogued and archived. Each object is part of the memorial. Each object is part of that grief that still lingers in our present.

The story on the radio was about how one man — or maybe it was a team of people — are trying to catalog and archive the objects from when the towers fell.

kidnapping-474027_1280Today, there was another story on The Huffington Post about the objects left behind by the refugees fleeing Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. It is the story of these refugees in twelve images as told by the photographer Chris McGonigal. There are the remnants of so many trying to tend to their health. Scattered pill bottles and medicine sleeves seem to be in every picture. Three of these images focus on abandoned toys: a toy airplane, a teddy bear and a doll. Nothing is so chilling as seeing a child’s playthings abandoned. The first image is a discarded flipflop printed with with Germany into its sole which I can only imagine is pointing toward that place that the refugee longs to be.

Tim O’Brien wrote a series of short stories entitled The Things They Carried. They are not stories so much about objects but about ideas and possibilities. The very things that we carry in our hearts and minds: hope, freedom, peace. The things that the refugees are surely carrying with them on the way. As O’Brien puts it: “They carried all they could bear, and then some, including a silent awe for the terrible power of the things they carried.”

I have been writing a lot recently about the power of grief. (It’s a project I hope to share sometime soon, but not yet.) Grief has its own terrible power. It has the power to cripple you and dismember you as much as any weapon that O’Brien and his fellow soldiers carried. And yet, I want to believe that each and every one of those refugees making their way through Hungary right now aren’t crippled by that kind of power. Instead, that same grief for their war-torn home is giving them courage to take another step, to face another day, to imagine another ending.

This is my prayer.

A word about the picture: I use a free crowdsourced image database for all of my blog images. This image is not part of the photo essay I mention from NPR and is merely further proof that abandoned toys only leave us with questions. May there be answers.

Discussing But I Don’t See You As Asian

READING RACISMHere we are again as  White Young Clergy Reading Racism.

Whether or not you are white, clergy or young, I hope you’re here because you want to be part of the change. You recognize that racism is a sin we haven’t atoned for. You can’t figure out how to arrange your schedule to be in Baltimore or Ferguson but you know that this matters. And you have to do something so you’re here to read with us.

A few weeks ago, we started reading Bruce Reyes-Chow’s But I Don’t See You as Asian: Curating Conversations about Race. The deal is this: we read one chapter every two weeks because we don’t want to bite off more than we can chew and there’s still plenty of time. There’s always time. We are only just beginning. (I hope.) So go ahead and order a copy now. We’ve shared in one round of conversation already and discovered — not even a little bit to my surprise — that blogs are possibly the worst format for such a conversation. So, we switched to Facebook. In the weeks to come, you’ll find that the whole conversation is over there and not so much here on the blog. As such, this is the last time I’ll post my reflections here. Head over the Facebook to find questions and join in the conversation with your thoughts. Without further ado, let’s get down to those questions. Shall we? Yes. Let’s.

  • To begin, this question comes from Maren who blogs at Gifts in Open Hands: which chapter … which phrase … touched or prodded or pinched you or reminded you of your experience with racism? I so appreciate this question and am so grateful that Maren added it because it’s the question that really matters. What sticks in your craw? What pokes at you? What stings a little? What doesn’t make any freakin’ sense to you? Right?! Isn’t that what this is all about!!?? Here’s the problem in my answering this question: I picked out all of the juicy bits for the questions that follow. I am really not sure what to add.
  • When have the words spoken by another hurt you?  How might it it have helped to talk about how those words “caused tension and discomfort”? This is one of those questions that speaks to the truth that I have been wrong. I have been wrong so many times that I can’t even remember how many times I’ve been wrong. One of my very best friends from high school — and still one of my best friends — is Korean American. I was raised or I was taught not to see color. It just wasn’t supposed to be there so I’ve said insanely stupid things like “But I don’t see you as Asian” and I remember the look on her face. I remember her terse reply, “But I am.” I remember the silence that followed and remember my confusion in what I had done wrong. Here’s what I still don’t understand: what people or forces or institutions raised this thought in me? Where did this color blindness begin? Why was it valued so much that I thought this was the right answer — and admittedly, I’m still struggling to see how it’s not the right answer. I have no idea where this came from but runs deep within me. I am not sure how to divorce myself from it so that all I can feel in myself is the tension and discomfort that I cause with my own incorrect assumptions.
  • In Chapter 3, Reyes-Chow owns his Asian identity as a central part of who he is as a person. What are the identities that you carry that you couldn’t be the same person without this particular identity? I am a New Yorker. I don’t feel as connected to this truth as I once did having moved three times in my adult life, but the sarcasm remains. The urge to speed walk is still there. So there’s that — and then I begin to struggle to name my own identities because they are not as neatly defined as they once were. In seminary, we were constantly made to name our social location before offering a response. So it would always sound something like this: “As a middle-class white woman, I think…” Perhaps those identities still hold but there are so many new ones that I’m not sure how to define myself anymore. Instead, I find myself wondering about what makes us human. Is there one thing that we all feel? Are there universal truths or do these identities mean that there are that many different ways of being human?
  • In Chapter 4, Reyes-Chow makes the claim that most of us know that the “history of the United States is made up of complex stories of migration.” How have you witnessed this truth in your congregation or even in your own family? One of the best decisions I made in seminary was to take a class that pulled back the layers of immigration in New York City. I can’t even remember the name of the class but I remember how it made me wrestle with the ways that we have labeled whole populations of people as “black” just because they were different or new. Or something otherwise terrifying to our comfort. One side of my family doesn’t know this story of immigration well. They’ve been here through so many generations that it isn’t a conversation. The other has the story of my Norwegian immigrant grandfather. How he sailed to New York City. How he called one of the Norwegian immigrant communities home and how this is a history I barely know. It wasn’t until that class in seminary that I started to ask questions about this and started to understand a little bit more about my grandfather’s unique mannerisms.

Enough about what I think. What to you think? How might you respond to these questions or anything else you might be thinking after reading the first chapter of Bruce Reyes-Chow’s But I Don’t See You as Asian: Curating Conversations about Race. Add your thoughts and ideas to the comments below or to your own blog. Be sure to include a link or send me a message so that I can share your wise words. Or just swing over to Facebook and join in there.

Reflection Questions for But I Don’t See You As Asian

READING RACISMSo here’s the thing that I didn’t do when preparing for this little book club. I never checked how long the chapters were. Did you notice that? Did you notice that Chapter 2 was incredibly short? Welcome to White Young Clergy Reading Racism where your host really hasn’t planned as much as you might think.

We’re continuing to read Bruce Reyes-Chow’s But I Don’t See You as Asian: Curating Conversations about Race. We have only read the first chapter so never fear. So go ahead and order a copy now and join in these reflection questions. Though I’m not sure that this is the best format — and I’m actually quite convinced that it is not — I’m posting reflection questions here in the hopes that we can discuss these very reflection questions next week. Though I had said that I would post for just Chapter 2 this week, I lied. You’ll find questions here for both Chapter 2, 3 and 4. Slow readers, never fear. These are some really short chapters that lend toward some big questions for our personal reflection.

  • To begin, this question comes from Maren who blogs at Gifts in Open Hands: which chapter … which phrase … touched or prodded or pinched you or reminded you of your experience with racism?
  • When have the words spoken by another hurt you?  How might it it have helped to talk about how those words “caused tension and discomfort”? 
  • In Chapter 3, Reyes-Chow owns his Asian identity as a central part of who he is as a person. What are the identities that you carry that you couldn’t be the same person without this particular identity?
  • In Chapter 4, Reyes-Chow makes the claim that most of us know that the “history of the United States is made up of complex stories of migration.” How have you witnessed this truth in your congregation or even in your own family? 

If you haven’t already contacted me to let me know you’re reading along, please do so here. Knowing the limitations of this format, it seems that we might be introducing some other ways to dialogue together so we’ve decided to start a Facebook group. You can find that Facebook group here.

Before you go, here’s a little bit of history of where we have been in case you are totally confused. This is the first post where our book study began and these are the reflection questions for the first chapter of Bruce Reyes-Chow’s But I Don’t See You as Asian: Curating Conversations about Race. Here is where the discussion began last week. You’ve found yourself as we reflect on the next couple of chapters before we officially discuss our ideas on Sunday August 9 — but that shouldn’t stop you from sharing your thoughts in the comments below.

Discussing But I Don’t See You As Asian

READING RACISMSo many questions have emerged since this new civil rights movement began. Though I’m not really sure where it began or if this is just one of those cycles where God reminds us again that we are not as far along as we thought we were. Questions appeared here on this blog just last week to be part of the movement. To try to be part of the interruption. So here we are again to try to answer those questions ourselves.

Welcome to White Young Clergy Reading Racism.

Whether or not you are white, clergy or young, I hope you’re here because you want to be part of the interruption. You want to imagine another way. You want to be part of the conversation. That’s what this is all about. A good chunk of us are white women who happen to be members of The Young Clergy Women Project. We are committing ourselves to reading racism in order to confront our own stuff and be part of the change.

We are starting by reading Bruce Reyes-Chow’s But I Don’t See You as Asian: Curating Conversations about Race. We’ll read one chapter every two weeks because we don’t want to bite off more than we can chew and there’s still plenty of time. We only started reading officially on Sunday July 12. So go ahead and order a copy now. We have only read the first chapter so never fear. Grab a copy and join in these reflection questions.

These were posted last week to get us thinking and they appear again today to encourage dialogue. Here is where we actually discuss. I’ll start the conversation by offering my own thoughts but please join in the conversation in the comments, on your own blog, on social media or with your friends at a pub or the church parlor. However you join in, please do. You’ll find the questions in bold italics and my humble responses follow. Be part of the interruption.

  • Reyes-Chow seeks an audience of readers who are “living in the tension between intellectual pursuit and passionate action.” How or why does this describe you? This describes exactly how I feel. I want so much to be engaged in passionate, embodied action but find myself so often in the realm of intellectual pursuit. (Case and point: I started this book group.) Racism has so often been an idea and a construct. It’s something I’ve wrestled with in the classroom. It’s been studied and observed which often came with a heavy dose of shame. I know that that shame has kept me away from this topic. It has weighed me down. It has disempowered me. It has made me feel like it’s insurmountable. How do you dismantle a construct anyhow? How exactly does that happen? How does it become something that isn’t just an intellectual pursuit but something that is engaged in passionate action. That’s what I want. I want the passionate action but have found myself on the sidelines reading and discussing books. It is my deepest hope to change this.
  • In discussing privilege, Reyes-Chow cites some tweets from the ‪#‎blackprivilege‬ response. Did any of the tweets in the book (or those you found on Twitter) offer you a new lens on racism? When I posted this question last week, I went looking around the inter webs for this hashtag. I read some of the things but it was this article from The Root that stopped me in my tracks. I know not everyone is going to agree and not everyone sees it the same way in the same community. I know. I know. But, what does it mean that this particular blogger saw this hashtag as so offensive? What does that mean for the ways that we try to point out the evils of racism? It makes me head explode and then fret with worry for our world and her people.
  • Especially for (young clergy) women, how did you relate to the dismissive comment that “gender doesn’t matter anymore”? Does or does this not help you enter into the conversation about race? A few months ago, a blog post of mine went viral. This post about Mother’s Day and my personal struggles and woes as a pastor got picked up by other blogs including one particular blog that called me a racist. It was couched in a longer post where it was claimed that white women should just stop with the Mother’s Day thing. Because there are greater evils in the world, we should get over ourselves and be quiet. Here’s my problem with this: my mother died when I was a little girl. It is this truth alone that makes me demand justice for things that don’t make sense. This loss and my grief has made me an advocate and an ally for others that feel like no one might listen or understand. I wouldn’t ever say that I’m amazing at this but I do try to engage in the hard work of understanding the heartache and loss of others. I don’t think that we can ever really know what pulls someone into this good work until we ask. We can never assume. Instead, at least from my story, we should look for those opportunities of connection.
  • How do you experience this truth in your church and in your life of faith that the “church too often finds itself trapped in the vernacular and strategies of a generation past. We have failed to find new ways to deal with the nature of race and racism that manifests in different ways”? Where do you see hope? Yup. Can that be my whole response? Because I’m not sure I really have more to add to this. I’ve long struggled with the laud and honor bestowed upon white clergy who marched in Selma. Good people, mind you. Really good people. But, the way that that struggle and that work has been discussed in churches is as if to say that it’s done. We did it. There’s no more to do. Oh, and how cool that you were there. We’ve gotten lazy about asking each other where we should be now. And because of this I’m not sure I see much hope. Show me some, please.
  • Reyes-Chow concludes this chapter with a statement about Christianity’s role in conversations about race. How might you claim this possibility as a guiding force in your ministry and/or your life? I can only hope that this is a guiding force in my ministry. I wrote this question in such a way because I want it to be — but I’ll admit that I’m not really sure what that looks like. I just know it should be. It really should be. Somehow.

Enough about what I think. What to you think? How might you respond to these questions or anything else you might be thinking after reading the first chapter of Bruce Reyes-Chow’s But I Don’t See You as Asian: Curating Conversations about Race. Add your thoughts and ideas to the comments below or to your own blog. Be sure to include a link or send me a message so that I can share your wise words.

Next week, I’ll post refelection questions for Chapter 2 and then the discussion begins on Sunday August 9.

I am so glad you’re here.

If you’re just joining in on this conversation, you might be interested to find these earlier posts:

This is the first post where our book study began and these are the reflection questions for the first chapter of But I Don’t See You As Asian. You’ve found yourself at the point of our conversation of the first chapter. So please jump into the comments and share your thoughts.

Reflection Questions for But I Don’t See You As Asian

READING RACISM
Perhaps you saw the original post for this book club that began with The Young Clergy Women Project. Perhaps you’ve already bought the first book and are ready to go. Or perhaps you’re finding this for the very first time and wondering “What in the world is this?” Maybe you’re even casting me the side-eye and wondering if you can participate because you don’t identify as young. Or maybe you don’t want to read along because you’re so mad that the graphic says something about young clergy. I sure hope not though. I hope that you’re here because you’ve heard about this from a friend or a colleague and you’re ready to do something after Charleston and Baltimore and Ferguson and Trayvon Martin and Eric Garner and too many other names and places that we don’t know. It keeps happening. It happened again with Sandra Bland. If the mere mention of these names and places stirs your heart to want to do something to understand your own racism, then I say welcome.

Welcome to White Clergy Reading Racism.

As mentioned in the last post, we’re going to start by reading Bruce Reyes-Chow’s But I Don’t See You as Asian: Curating Conversations about Race. We’ll read one chapter every two weeks because we don’t want to bite off more than we can chew and there’s still plenty of time. We only started reading officially on Sunday July 12. So go ahead and order a copy now. On Sunday July 26, you’ll find another post right here on my little home on the interwebs to invite conversation via the comments. This week, you get to consider the reflection questions which you’ll find below.

Here are the questions.

  • Reyes-Chow seeks an audience of readers who are “living in the tension between intellectual pursuit and passionate action.” How or why does this describe you?
  • In discussing privilege, Reyes-Chow cites some tweets from the ‪#‎blackprivilege‬ response. Did any of the tweets in the book (or those you found on Twitter) offer you a new lens on racism?
  • Especially for (young clergy) women, how did you relate to the dismissive comment that “gender doesn’t matter anymore”? Does or does this not help you enter into the conversation about race?
  • How do you experience this truth in your church and in your life of faith that the “church too often finds itself trapped in the vernacular and strategies of a generation past. We have failed to find new ways to deal with the nature of race and racism that manifests in different ways”? Where do you see hope?
  • Reyes-Chow concludes this chapter with a statement about Christianity’s role in conversations about race. How might you claim this possibility as a guiding force in your ministry and/or your life?

Come back to this blog on Sunday July 26th to share in some rich conversation around these questions. No one is stopping you from commenting on this post, of course. But not everyone has read the first chapter yet so just be aware that this isn’t the official conversation starter — but if you’re a speed reader and can’t wait please go ahead and comment. I can’t wait to hear your thoughts and ideas.

If you happen to be on vacation or can’t find the time to read this first book, NEVER FEAR. This is only the beginning but here’s what you need to do to be kept in the loop.

  1. Send me a message and let me know that you want participate. Please share with me your blog address so I can be sure to share it with one and all.
  2. Then, go and share this blog post on your favorite social media platform. Tell everyone you know that this is something you’re doing. If you have a blog, go ahead and download this image and post it in your blog. Tell the story of why you’re participating. You can see how Susannah did this on Tea & Theology.
  3. Go back and read the first post. Pay special attention to the bulleted list below Here’s the deal. That’s where this whole thing is explained and it might make better sense to you. Then again, maybe not. I probably forgot something and you should definitely tell me about it. Send me a message about that too, please.
  4. Start thinking about what you want to read next. This is something we get to decide together.

Thank you for your open heart in this conversation.

White Young Clergy Reading Racism

READING RACISM
Just after the shooting in Charleston, members of The Young Clergy Women Project banded together on Facebook to educate ourselves about the history and present reality of racism and racial dynamics in the US context in order to create meaningful change. Through our wifi connections, we’re trying to do our best — as mostly white women — to examine our own assumptions, learn new language and learn a thing or two. 

It was proposed within that group that we share in the practice of reading a book together to do this work. Because we’d all seen the various syllabi that have emerged on the internet to point to the amount of learning that we need to do. There are things that we really need to sit down and read and histories that we need to confront — and everybody loves a book club. So, let’s start a book club.

Because we all want to read James Cone’s new book and The New Jim Crow and Witnessing Whiteness and Just Mercy but that’s a whole lot of books. So we might need a little motivation.

Welcome to White Clergy Reading Racism.

It’s something that began with The Young Clergy Women Project but you certainly don’t need to be a member to apply. (You need to be a member for other cool perks and to be truly part of this amazing community but not this time. For this book group, there won’t be any need for membership. This is a really important conversation among clergy so there shall be no limits.) Join along if especially if you’re white and clergy, but don’t let those two qualifiers deter you. If you are interested in reading with us, JOIN US.

Here’s the deal.

  • We will pick a book.
  • We will read one chapter of that book every two weeks.
  • We will share in a series of reflection questions. If you are a blogger, you are invited to post on your blog with your responses. If you don’t blog, join in the conversation by commenting on the blogs of those participating in White Clergy Reading Racism.
  • We’ll finish the book. We’ll do a little happy dance and pick a new book.
  • Repeat.

We’ll start by reading Bruce Reyes-Chow’s But I Don’t See You as Asian: Curating Conversations about Race. It was free on Amazon last week so a bunch of us got a sweet deal — but if you didn’t happen to get in on that discount, go ahead and order a copy now. We will start reading next week on Sunday July 12 which means that two weeks later we’ll share in a series of reflection questions. (That would be Sunday July 26.) I’ll post the reflection questions on the off week because I want this to happen — and I’ll do everything I can to make it happen.

Ready to make this happen? Send me a message and let me know that you’re eager and ready to participate. (Please share with me your blog address so I can be sure to share it with one and all.) Then, go and share this blog post on your favorite social media platform. Tell everyone you know that this is something you’re doing. If you have a blog, go ahead and download this image and post it in your blog. Tell the story of why you’re participating.

Oh, and don’t forget to buy the first book.