During the month of June, the NEXT Church blog will visit various people who are involved in faith formation personally, professionally, and perseveringly. We hope that the posts help you consider how your faith has been formed, and how your faith has formed you.
Societally and denominationally there are many places in which the thought of racial reconciliation is celebrated. Our hope is that NEXT Church can be something different.
These days I go to conferences looking mainly for inspiration, which is a lot more fun and has turned out to be thoroughly worthwhile. In the case of NEXT Church National Gatherings, I’ve found inspiration not only in the usual places — worship services and plenaries and workshops — but in the conversations and in the solitary wanderings through a strange city and even in that most-Presbyterian of places: the hotel bar.
When we discovered that we were, in fact, all white, some uncomfortable questions arose. Immediately we were face to face with the ongoing, glaring sin that we all live with in the Presbyterian Church: we are whiter than God would have us be.
Like a burning bush announcing to Moses that God had some plans for him, the book-from-an-old-hymnal that began with “LOVE” shouted a reminder that God has given me an assignment in my current call: to facilitate ways for all of God’s children to enact God’s radical and abundant love.
It was at the NEXT Church National Gathering, with the help of the creative spirit of the ad hoc, crowd-sourced worship band and the workshop led by Hans Hallundbaek about the rehabilitation through arts program at Sing Sing Correctional Facility, that I learned the Holy Spirit breathes life in the ties that bind us in new and interesting ways as the Body of Christ.
The Sarasota Statement has had a lot of buzz since it debuted at the National Gathering. I particularly appreciate how the statement directly addresses groups of people and actions that will be taken to bring reconciliation. This month, the congregation I pastor is taking four Sundays to walk through the Sarasota Statement in worship.
How can a community make itself more easily permeable? How can we be an open and welcoming space to those who are entering our communities for the first time?
One of the images I encountered at the National Gathering was a promise born from an ancient people trying to live into “an incarnate Kingdom of God.” Jeff Bryan reiterated that the banquet of the Lord would never fail to bring everyone to the table—literally, the whole stinking community.
This was my third National Gathering. I find these events a helpful and invigorating use of my time and a great way to reconnect with old friends and colleagues. This year was no different, but as I left Kansas City I realized that I left feeling old and very white – but in a growth-producing way.