Each month, we post a series of blogs around a common topic. This month, we’ve asked some of our 2016 National Gathering workshop presenters to share their thoughts on their importance of their workshops in today’s context. Shannon Beck is one such presenter. Learn more about her workshop at the end of this post. We invite you to join the conversation here, on Facebook, or Twitter!
by Shannon Beck
When I was called to work for World Mission at the Presbyterian Church (USA), I took on the most amazing job title on the planet: Reconciliation Catalyst. Of course everyone, including me, was asking with a snicker, “How is she going to do that?” The funny part is that the job title was originally listed as “Violence and Reconciliation Catalyst.” Needless to say, I was not keen on being a violence catalyst, so we changed it. (I’m a stickler on details like that.)
The thing is, though, we live and work in a violent world. Much of what Presbyterian mission co-workers do in their context, is pastor, love, teach, and advocate in communities where wars, conflicts, corruption, and the violence of poverty persist, sometimes for decades. Israel and Palestine, Congo, Iraq, Guatemala, El Salvador, Colombia, Thailand, Malaysia, and the United States, just to name a few. And there are so many levels of violence we address. Hence, removing the word violence didn’t seem right. But ultimately we landed here on reconciliation. We work toward reconciliation. That is where we began as Christians, reconciled to God; that is the goal for God’s beloved world.
And to think: the 2016 National Gathering is an entire conference with reconciliation as the theme! I’m in!
Related to that is the fact that I have a particular interest in how we create change for the common good. On an essential level, I think of peace, justice, and reconciliation as the primary ingredients of social justice. This is the mission and witness we undertake as church. The church exists for mission. This much we know. How exactly we do that is dependent on many factors, especially our context. But, we find there are few venues for leaders to discuss this. How does change work? What ingredients do we need? What has worked for us?
Rev. Carl Horton, coordinator of the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program, and I work closely together and thought it would be an amazing experience to share together what has worked in a workshop. We have models of social change that can be instructive, but we know that our experiences will be our teachers.
What usually happens when the Spirit moves us toward deeper involvement? We are sooo excited that we…form a committee! Or we take off running, cape flying behind us.
Both ways can be helpful for a season, but often we do just one or the other. We either wander through the discernment vortex or we pull out our light sabers and head into battle. Either way, we can miss THE moment. You know the one – where God, the community, the world, our worshipping community come together and are the feet and face and presence of Christ in a way that moves humankind forward.
We make the road by walking it together. But it takes some creativity. And I believe a couple of things about creativity. One is that creativity is really just a tweak on something else. It’s not magic. Another thing is that when creative people come together, magic happens.
Shannon Beck serves as the Reconciliation Catalyst in World Mission for the PC(USA). She connects individuals, congregations, and other entities with each other and with PC(USA) global partners engaged in building peace and reconciliation in cultures of violence. She is currently focused on an international Presbyterian campaign to stop sexual violence. In her spare time she is a blogger, poet, peace activist and writes and performs “Heart-driven contemporary folk music”. She is co-leading a workshop entitled “Holy Impatience” at the 2016 NEXT Church National Gathering.