Jesus knew the breaking of bodies,
People driven out to the tombs, people lifted on crosses
Jesus knew the breaking of traditions and the turning of tables,
Sabbath re-imagined and desecrated Temples re-claimed.
Jesus knew the breaking of bread offered for many,
The broken part of us fed on warm grace.
Jesus knew the breaking.
But Jesus knew the blessing of building too.
The house built on the Rock that weathers the storm
The Temple destroyed but reassembled in his body
The stone once rejected now the center
The body once broken now
stretching out and lifting up and breathing with Spirit
The broken and messy disciples who became the rock on which he built the church
Jesus knew building led to belonging which led to bringing about the blessed community
Heaven close at hand.
We know the breaking
of bodies and promises and the very image of God
the broken systems and structures
on the sinking sand foundation of racism and sexism and homophobia
the breaking of fellowship and budgets and dreams in this pandemic
when the levy is highest on those who are the most vulnerable.
We struggle to remain mindful of the joyful blessing of stewarding all that we have
for the flourishing of all creation.
We grapple to allow ourselves to be beloved together,
at once blessed while blessing others.
We know the building too.
The tragic history of white supremacy and privilege
formed and fashioned into our churches and institutions,
written into our laws, and evident still
in the disproportionate use of violence against black, indigenous, and people of color.
The legacy of what has been built in America over four hundred years
has been the opposite of Jesus’ vision of belonging and blessed community.
This year at the NEXT Church National Gathering, we will learn about necessary breaking, gracious blessing, and essential building.
We aim to discover:
When and how and why we dismantle what is sinfully, oppressively crafted.
What it feels like to unashamedly Bless God and God’s Good Creation in the midst of the rubble.
And, when and how and why we are being called re-member, piece together anew, what is to be.
So with curiosity, creativity, love and hope in our Rock, we will ask ourselves:
Will we break what needs to be broken?
Will we bless what we are called with wisdom to bless?
And will we build with our Lord, the carpenter of abundant life,
The cornerstone of healthy communion?
Will we build churches, communities, hospitals, schools, laws, housing codes
And a generation of believers
that honor the God of justice and mercy and love
as we strive together toward the Common Good?
With Gratitude to the Writing Team –
Becca Messman, Paul Roberts, Shavon Starling-Louis, Dan Vigilante
ABOUT THE GRAPHIC ART
Tasha Hicks McCray and Glenn McCray, artists
When thinking about creating this piece, we wanted to create something that not only captures the theme, but also the significance of the times we are in.
The silhouette is a nameless black woman’s face who is also meant to represent ALL black and brown, named and unnamed bodies that have and continue to be victims of violence, injustice, and racism in our country. The black woman also embodies the conference theme, Breaking, Blessing, Building. No matter how many attempts there have been to break black women in our country, they still have the divine courage and wisdom to bless and build.
The words being breathed out from the silhouette are words echoed throughout history from various movements against injustice by those on the margins. They reflect the rallying cry of those who have experienced brokenness in profound ways, yet find the strength and courage, faith and hope, to continue to invite us onto a path toward blessing and building for the common good. May we not only hear these words, but also allow them to break us open in new ways, that they might penetrate our hearts, minds and bodies so deeply that we are provoked to live differently, to dismantle harmful systems, to love with action, and to be led by the prophetic voices that have been speaking throughout history.
The background captures the eloquent words (written by Becca Messman, Paul Roberts, Shavon Starling-Louis, and Dan Vigilante) that lay out our theme for the National Gathering and remind us that we are called to journey with Jesus in embodying the gospel with boldness, for the sake of the common good. The words in the background are designed in a similar format to that of a memorial, honoring lives that have been lost. Like standing in front of a memorial, our hope is that this piece will be an invitation to pause, to lean in, and to be reminded of the sacred lives that have been lost in shadows of injustice, while also being a call to “Nidoto Nai Yoni – Let It Not Happen Again”.
Tasha Hicks McCray and Glenn McCray
Tasha Hicks McCray and Glenn McCray are the proud parents of their daughter, Nia Mariko Ke’Alohilani, who is a daily reminder of the wonder and beauty of God. They are also co-creatives for their business, ChopSueyRoots Design, which seeks to honor the sacredness of our shared humanity through design, story, and holding space for courageous reflection and learning. Starting a business was never something they sought out to do, but their shared joy for dabbling in the arts, capturing and creating space for stories and shared learning, and working with others toward the common good nudged them to pay attention to how God may be moving in their own lives. In addition to ChopSueyRoots Design, Tasha and Glenn also coach high school girls basketball together. Tasha is a pastor in the Seattle Presbytery and Glenn serves as the Executive Director for the nonprofit, Sports in Schools. They both serve on the strategy team for NEXT Church.
Tasha and Glenn are the 2021 NEXT Church National Gathering Artists-in-Residence, made possible by our friends at Illustrated Ministry.