This post was originally shared on the Union Presbyterian Seminary RSGA blog.
by Laura Kelly
All of creation feels like it is aching in the pains of terror, violence, oppression, and injustice. And, prior to attending the NEXT Church National Gathering, I felt burnt out, numb, isolated, and like I was pleading for justice to an brick wall, my flawed confessions merely run amuck in the midst of all the noise.
While listening to some of the speakers at NEXT, I found myself dancing again, the dance of liberation. My numbness turned to conviction, my fear to faith. With words from Denise Anderson and Jessica Vazquez Torres and Allan Boesak and Pastor Eesh, I couldn’t help but feel my cup begin to overflow, not for my own self benefit but for the world who is thirsty for living water. NEXT met me at the crossroads of the world’s pain and God’s abundant reconciling grace. NEXT forced me to consider how I might use my voice to respond and serve those who have been marginalized and forgotten. NEXT challenged the status quo – by shifting from a conversation of lament about a dying church to a call for an engaged church who uses its voice for denunciation of injustice in all spaces and places.
Allan Boesak challenged the church by sharing that when God has reconciled the world to God’s own loving self, God will ask us where our wounds are. If we say we have none, we also say that we had nothing to fight for. Yet, there is so much to fight for. Children drinking poison in Flint, refugees who have no place to lay their heads, violence erupting within sanctuary walls, and politics that seek to instill fear of other rather than love of neighbor. As these clashing sounds erupt in the sphere of public life, the church turns toward the vision of God’s creative order and we must dance until liberation flows from our mouths and hands and feet and into our lives unto a new and restored world reconciled to the love of the Triune God.
Three days in Atlanta with hundreds of inspiring stories. One lifetime to accept the challenge, and press on. Let’s do this.
Laura Kelly is a final level M.Div. student at Union Presbyterian Seminary. Laura will begin the process towards board certification as a hospital chaplain as she embarks on her CPE Residency year at VCU Health System in the fall. She enjoys improv comedy, reading, writing liturgy, and spending time with people she loves. Laura loves the city of Richmond, and serves on the board for Richmonders Involved to Strengthen our Communities. Her favorite place in the world is a small village in Guatemala called “Chontala.”