We will ease in slowly, but I’m going to get all up in your business in this month’s Share Four Somethings. You have been warned!
For anyone who is new here, this is my end of month wrap up we call Share Four Somethings: a link up with my writing sisters in which we share something loved, something said, something learned and something read. Let’s jump right in!
If you don’t already know this about me, here is something weird about me. I would be happy to go to a class, a training, a conference, or a seminar every day. I am a “learning new things” junkie and it is only because my husband would divorce me that I am not currently working on another degree or certification. And after thirty one years, breaking in a new husband sounds exhausting. (Plus, I like him very much.)
October included several opportunities for professional enrichment and spiritual connection, including the Capital Coaches Conference here locally and, most recently, the Evolving Faith Conference in Asheville, North Carolina. As an extrovert, I am always impressed by the people who attend these types of events who are more introverted than me. Looking up from my phone when I am surrounded by strangers, and making the choice to connect with the real live human beings around me is awkward and uncomfortable EVERY SINGLE TIME. Yet, it is almost always worth the discomfort, and I’m grateful when I am brave enough to stumble through the awkward to the realization of what we have in common and why God might have seated me next to this particular person. I believe the cool kids call this networking, but I think community or connection are even better words!
In case you aren’t sure how to get this kind of party started, here is my go-to line:
“Hi, my name is Kelly. What drew you to sign up for this conference?”
This works every time, I promise, and can easily be amended to your unique location or event. This month, I have LOVED the conferences I have attended and the people God introduced me to along the way; coaches and people of faith who are desperate to be part of telling a better story in our world.
I wish I could just download the entirety of the Evolving Faith Conference directly into your brain. This gathering was the love child of two of my favorite authors, Sarah Bessey and Rachel Held Evans. The conference was described like this: “a two-day gathering for the wanderers, wonderers, status quo upenders and spiritual refugees to discover you are not alone.” When they posted the link to registration, they sold out all 1500 spaces in less than 36 hours. I’m SO glad I saw the registration link when I did! As a bonus, I even got to see my BFF Jen Hatmaker and several of my FTL sisters!
I took 27 PAGES of notes. 27! While I am somewhat prone to hyperbole, 27 is not an exaggeration, but a fact. And if I could write faster, it would have been much more. While I enjoyed almost all of the speakers, the group of speakers on Saturday morning in the section called “Evolving Faith, Justice and Politics” set the room (and me) on FIRE! All women preachers, most women of color, they inspired, challenged, exhorted, pushed, prodded and lifted us up to a better vision of the church, politics, worship and a deeper understanding of justice for ALL of our children.
In trying to glean the essence of the powerful words I heard that morning, here is the quote that comes closest from an extraordinary message shared by Sandra Maria Van Opstal:
“In the western church, we have embraced a worship of intellect and intention, instead of embodiment and action. True worship cannot exist without justice.”- Sandra Maria Van Opstal
I will probably write more about why this resonated with me, but bottom line, it is time for those of us who operate from a position of privilege to quit talking, complaining, writing in our journals, and praying for someone else to fix the world. We need to take our sadness and outrage, and pray with our feet, our time, our resources, our voices and our influence. We can begin next Tuesday by voting for leaders who reflect the ethics of Jesus, instead of the purveyors of hate that are currently in charge. As one of the other speakers said, “Voting is the very least we can do.”
Austin Channing Brown was another of the powerful women preachers from Saturday morning’s teaching on faith, justice and politics. I mentioned her in an earlier Share Four Somethings when I recommended her book I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness. Ms Brown gave one of the most powerful sermons I have ever heard. She used the story of Rizpah from the bible, a character with whom I was previously unfamiliar. Go read it yourself, but Rizpah swatted the vultures away from bodies of her dead children until the king finally did what was right by them simply because she wouldn’t go away (yes, that is a massive simplification of the story.) She weaved Rizpah’s story into a pulsating, living, breathing metaphor for the modern day story of those on the margins who continue to cry out for justice. She reminded us that like Rizpah, our anger at injustice is not wrong: our anger points us to that which is wrong and fuels our willingness, with the help of Spirit, to do the work to make it right.
Moments after she and the other “sisters of fire” spoke, we got the news about the massacre in Pittsburgh at the Tree of Life synagogue. Many in the room began to weep as we prayed together in response. Armed with an AR-15-style assault rifle and at least three handguns, a man shouting anti-Semitic slurs opened fire during worship, killing at least 11 congregants and wounding four police officers and two others. Another mass shooting, motivated by bigotry and hatred for “other.” Lord, have mercy. This quote I had just written down from Ms Brown and the story of Rizpah’s mama rage reminded me that I MUST stay angry, even when it is exhausting and I want to give up and turn off the news:
“You have the courage to be angry and the love required to call forth justice.”- Austin Channing Brown
With God’s help, we have to fix this mess. For me, the next right thing will be voting and handing out sample ballots at the polls on Tuesday, fueled by both love AND anger, praying with my feet. Remember, VOTING is the very least we can do.
Instead of telling you about books I read this month, I am going to point you towards a resource that I recently found and look forward to working my way through. I’m saying it out loud here because I want to be held accountable for following through; walking the walk, not just talking the talk. Because I read her book and heard her speak, I trust this list of book recommendations from Austin Channing Brown on issues of racial reconciliation and their intersection with faith and justice. Listening to voices who know more about the fight for justice than I do seems like the next right thing to do.
Local friends, a friend and I will be attending this event next week to hear Ms. Brown speak again. It is at the beautiful Washington National Cathedral, so feel free to check it out if these are issues that resonate with you. I would love to have the opportunity to continue this conversation in person.
Also, GO VOTE next Tuesday!! Full of anger AND love!
As always, go visit my wise friends and read their Share Four Somethings. Every month, I get the best suggestions!
Kelly R Smith says
What an inspiring month you had! Thank you for sharing all of the rich wisdom you gleaned. Love meeting you here every month!
I think your next post should be your typed out 27 pages of notes. It sounds like it was an amazing conference. Thanks for the recommended book list.