While we may not think of power as something “dirty,” neither do we consider it to be more than a tool of last resort. We prefer to live in the world as it should be, rather than in the world as it is. As a result, we feel that the rightness of our ideas and arguments ought to be enough to carry the day — and if not, if carrying the day requires the use of brute force, then there must be something wrong with our ideas and arguments.
There is power in making the choice to stop and notice our neighbor. There is power in recognizing that we are all broken, we all need mercy. There is power in relationship, in community, and in hope.
It’s not enough to have good intentions if we want to accomplish good things. In order to act, one has to have power. Broad based organizing is about organizing people and organizing money so that one can act.
To write about power in light of the recent passing of Rev. Robina Winbush sparked me to think about the ways she and the late Rev. Dr. Katie Cannon stood in the fullness of their power, while serving in predominately white spaces.
Somehow, in the midst of our best attempts as leaders to challenge the powers and principalities, we have inherently set up a dynamic whereby we’ve locked ourselves out of claiming power. We are supposed to confront power, aren’t we? Name it, shame it, reframe it, but certainly don’t claim it. So how can we claim what we also condemn?
The Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF), the oldest faith-based organizing network in the US, teaches leaders about power – what it is, how it works, how to build it and use it for the aims of justice. A key teaching from the IAF is that in order to make change in the world as it is, on behalf of the world as it should be, you have to build more power.
Instead of asking what the needs are in the community (as real and pressing as they may be), the questions should be, “What are the gifts and talents of those in the neighborhood and what does it look like to build community around them?” They focus on what the community has, not on what it lacks.
What happens when ministry requires you to not only get dirty, but funky? Dirt can be brushed away but funk in its true vernacular saturates everything and lingers in the atmosphere.
Improv isn’t just a way of thinking about ourselves and our own way of being in the world but a lens through which we learn more about Jesus in his full humanity and God. Take Jesus’ first miracle in John: turning water into wine.
However, there are times when being in an interim time is just plain hard. Sometimes, the mess feels less magical and more monstrous. In this liminal space, I’ve noticed how easy it can be for anxiety and worry to weave themselves into the conversation.