Baldwin himself, who began writing essays and novels in the 1950’s, perhaps never imagined the lasting mark he would leave. But today he is constantly quoted when race relations boil over and a relevant voice is needed.
Are we all Hindu now? That’s what a Newsweek magazine claimed in 2009 when it observed the burgeoning world of the “nones.” Are we seeing a “turn to the East” among those people unaffiliated with any particular organized religion, especially those who self-identify as “spiritual but not religious?”
The book that is providing theological perspective and inspiration for me these days is “Spirit in the Dark: A Religious History of Racial Aesthetics” by Josef Sorett. This work is exciting because it puts religion in conversation with the secular and in doing so allows the church/religion to erase the divide between what is inside and what is outside of the church walls, or the boundaries of religious life.
Voices from around the PCUSA and beyond will follow throughout the coming weeks. Each will identify their context for ministry and call, a book they recommend, what the book is about, and why they believe it is critical reading today. My prayer is that these will become timely and descriptive “meditations of the heart,” so to speak, for a holy pilgrimage into God’s imagined future: the NEXT Church.
Last September, the Presbytery of Detroit decided to take a plunge with me. Together, we created a new role for ordained ministry. I am the first community chaplain in the presbytery. More specifically, I am a Community Chaplain for Nones and Dones.
At that hospital, my place in ministry is to show up at some of the very worst and most poignant events of a person’s life. It is in these moments of crisis and suffering that my call finds its roots.
For someone who spent a lot of time reminding parishioners that they could live out their callings as doctors, teachers, and businesspeople, I sure was having a hard time acknowledging that it wasn’t a bad thing that I was now an entrepreneur running a successful business. Why did I feel the need to avoid words like “products” when that is exactly what we sell?
Between my middle school self and my post-college self, I fell in love with creation. I realized I was better at listening to God when I was hiking in the prairie than anywhere else. My white, able-bodied, educated, middle class self learned to unpack categories of difference and systematic oppression on the streets and in a shelter of Chicago.
I believe my work at Interfaith Youth Core is about wrestling with those key questions, and has become even more salient in our perilous political and social moment. It is about learning to bear Christian witness in the diaspora of public life, where we must be honestly ourselves and decisively for our neighbor.
Linda Mercadante is one of our keynote speakers for the 2017 NEXT Church National Gathering. She was once a “spiritual but not religious” person, but through an intensive spiritual journey has become a seminary professor, theologian, and ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church (USA).