Each month, we post a series of blogs around a common topic. This month, MaryAnn McKibben Dana is curating reflections from our 2016 National Gathering. Watch this space for thoughts from a wide variety of folks, especially around the question, What “stuck”? What ideas, speakers, workshops or worship services are continuing to work on your heart as you envision “the church that is becoming?” We’ll be hearing from ruling elders, teaching elders, seminarians, and more. We invite you to join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter!
by Doty Dunn
I am a child of the 60’s. I was a flower child excited that “the times they were a changing.” I grew up in the segregated south in the former southern denomination, Presbyterian Church in the United States. I have witnessed tremendous changes in our society in my lifetime. Change has also occurred in the Presbyterian Church during this time, but the pace of this change has been much slower. I came to the NEXT Church National Gathering to learn what was on the horizon for PC(USA). By the end of the conference I came to realize what I already knew on some level: that there is much work left for us to do to become the church living out the gospel of Jesus Christ in our splintered and hurting world. We are indeed at the crossroads.
The worship services were a highlight. All the preaching was outstanding, but the one voice I continue to hear is the beautiful voice of Aisha Brooks-Lytle. When she described her conversation with her young son, my heart broke. No child should have to live in fear for his life from an officer of the law. No parent should have to have this conversation with their child!
The testimonies were powerful and sometimes very unsettling. There was much to take in a very short time. I experienced emotional overload from hearing so many stories of injustice, hatred, bigotry, and apathy. My white privilege made me even more uncomfortable. It was good that I was in attendance at the conference with my pastor and other members of our congregation, so we could sort through our reactions to what we were hearing with each other.
The Ignite presentations were encouraging and planted seeds of hope in my heart. BUILD Baltimore sets the bar high, but I can see us adopting some of their ideas here in our much smaller community. We have many of the same issues. The visit to the King Center was a perfect way to spend the afternoon in quiet reflection before visiting Ebenezer Baptist Church and the Martin Luther King Sr. Community Resources Collaborative. To see my hometown of Albany, Georgia on the timeline at the center took me back to the time I saw Dr. King in the street in Albany. Memories of those times stirred up thoughts that I had not revisited in many years. At Ebenezer it was wonderful to see that the King legacy continues to flourish in the dynamic young people we met there and in the work they are doing.
To hear Allan Boesak speak was also quite a gift to me. He asked about the bruises we had experienced in our struggle for human rights and justice in our world. I thought about the hurt and bruises my own family and I received back in the 60’s for standing up for the rights of others. Those bruises are long gone. Perhaps it is time for me along with my church family to encounter some more. As we stand at the crossroads I pray we will have the courage to take the right road. The times they are a changing. Let’s be ready.
Doty Dunn is a ruling elder at First Presbyterian Church, Statesboro, Georgia.