St. Luke’s community in meaningful ways.
A Devotion from A Daily Advent Reader “Keep Watch for Peacemakers with Me” by Rev. Jennifer Bailey
“Mountains take my breath away. Emerging from the unseen depths of the Earth’s darkness, they are both profoundly mysterious and majestic.
This spring, my husband and I took a belated honeymoon road trip through the mountains of Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming in a small Kia SUV. Growing up a black child in flyover country, I learned to appreciate the bucolic beauty of corn stalks blowing in early autumn winds and the monotony of agricultural landscapes that stretched for miles.
There was something about the mountains I saw this spring that changed me. They seemed impenetrable yet at the same time delicate, fragile even. In the Christian tradition, we often use mountains as metaphors for personal trials or tribulations. However, in my thirty years of life, I have come to associate the metaphor of mountains not with personal challenges but systemic ones. The past five years have laid bare for the world to see just how deeply engrained the powers of white supremacy, misogyny, classism, and heterosexism are within the American project. These are mountains designed by privileged folks to be immovable.
Yet, geology teaches us that mountains do indeed move. Generally, it happens in one of two ways: through display of natural force like a volcanic eruption or earthquake or slowly over many years of erosion. When I think about the mountains of oppression my communities face, the former seems much more preferable than the latter. However, history reveals that more often than not progress is a process that often takes generations to be fully realized.
As we enter into the season of Advent with all of its longing and expectation, there is a question on my heart. How can I cultivate the resilience to withstand waiting, while doing the work to chip away at the mountains of oppression blocking the path to flourishing for my community?
I am reminded of the story of the children of Israel in Isaiah 64. In the text the people petition their God to tear open the heavens and descend so that that the mountains might quake and that the unexpected occur. However, the God they seek has hidden and become angry from them presumably because they have forgotten God’s ways. The fourth verse reminds the reader that God works for those who wait on the divine.
There is something unsettling about the act of waiting when so much in our communities is urgent. Every day lives are lost as a result of violence that rolls down from the mountains of oppression like an avalanche. That is why in the midst of waiting, my prayer is to feel the mountains quake. When mountains quake, it reminds us that even the most imposing structure is vulnerable. When mountains quake, it shows us that change is possible. When mountains quake, death cannot have the final say. For it reveals that God is still present with us and has heard our cries.”
While Rev. Bailey’s devotional is beautifully written and terribly applicable in our very broken world, it really struck me from a Forward in Faith perspective and our anxiousness and/or reluctance to change. That eagerness to change without patience or the fear of change we harbor prevents us from stepping out – those are systemic mountains in churches today. Taking Rev. Bailey’s initial words and tweaking them – “How can we cultivate the resilience to withstand waiting, while doing the work to chip away at the mountains of stagnation and fear blocking the path to flourishing for my community and church? …Megan
Devotional from: “A Daily Advent Reader “Keep Watch for Peacemakers with Me” Curated by Michael T. McCray & Claire Brown. Rev. Jennifer Bailey is the Founder and Executive Director of Faith Matters Network. An ordained itinerant elder in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, her writings have appeared in Sojourners, the Huffington Post, the Washington Post’s Lily Blog, and On Being.
2018 is just around the corner!
Forward in Faith is looking forward to the new year which will bring new ideas, new challenges, and hopefully we’ll continue to grow in membership. One of our goals in 2018 is to meet with various ministries to help them evaluate and explore their connection with the community and brainstorm areas in which those ministries would like to grow.
This is a prime time to look at all ministries, even those that appear to be thriving, and see how St. Luke’s can meet the needs of the community, increase engagement, and welcome new people of all walks of life into our church family.
As a leader in your ministry, ask yourself these questions:
• What is the ministry’s goal?
• Does it meet the common goal of helping St. Luke’s to grow?
• How can you adjust your goal to align with Forward in Faith’s goal to meaningfully grow and
engage those in the church?
• Does the ministry go out into the community or do we expect the community to come to us?
• Who do you want to reach?
• What resources do you currently have? What resources do you currently lack?
For example – outside-the-box ideas, volunteers, money.
• What questions, ideas, concerns do you have for Forward in Faith related to your ministry?
Be thinking about this… we’d LOVE to talk with you. If you already know you’d like to meet with us and you’re ready to do so, please contact Megan at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Something to Consider
FORWARD IN DIVERSITY
A God Story by Lynne McAlexander
I have never written a “God story” for the Epistle. However, Sunday was one of those days when God was reminding me that we are all part of His family. Nearly every week one of our Jr. or Sr. Kindergartners does or says something that lets me know that we are blessed to be among them. However, this was the kind of Sunday that gets you. It was a sad, but sweet day in our Sunday School class. It was sad because it was our last day to have Sam Zhang in our class, but very sweet because of Sam and his family. Wally and I have enjoyed getting to know Sam and his family over the past months. The first time I met Sam was at last year’s Children’s Christmas Workshop. Then he began coming to Light Night and in the spring started coming to Sunday School. He was a joyful participant in VBS, and has continued coming to St. Luke’s ever since. Sam is from China and his father who was here with the University of Memphis, has completed his work here. So, Sam, his parents, and his little brother who was born in Memphis a few months ago will be returning to China this week. When Sam started with us, he couldn’t really understand English and didn’t talk much. He was always treated so kindly by our sweet group of children. Over the months, his language skills, and his joy for being a part of the group have blossomed. He has been a wonderful classmate and I know the other children will miss him as much as Wally and I will.
When Sam’s father, Wei, brought him to class on Sunday, he said how much he appreciated what everyone at St. Luke’s had done for Sam and that he had brought a present for the church from his family. The present was a beautiful small Chinese screen that had the title on the outside, “Be Tolerant to Diversity.” I can’t help but think that Wei thought that this would be something we would treasure and I am certain we will. I have watched Sam grow and know that he is loved as a child of God. He has been part of our diverse Sunday School class, and a VBS program that looks a bit like the U.N. He has seen St. Luke’s people accept all children and all adults from a variety of backgrounds and circumstances. Surely this diversity is what heaven will look like as well. The gift of the beautiful screen with such a great sentiment was wonderful. However the Zhang’s sharing their sweet son with us and our children was the best gift of all. Our children learned so much from Sam. They learned that we love people and that even if we can’t understand every single word that we can still communicate in a spirit of love. They learned that patience is rewarded and that given a little time and help we can always understand each other. I think Sam also learned from his classmates. It is my great hope that he will return to China having learned lessons of acceptance and love that he will remember throughout his lifetime.
How lucky we are to be part of God’s Dream here on earth!
The screen is on display in Hospitality Hall
The 2017 fourth quarter Forward in Faith newsletter is here.
Inside you will find the updates of what’s moving forward in faith.
For more information on the Forward in Faith initiative contact Megan Warren – email@example.com
Forward in Faith Team
The Forward in Faith team wants to make every effort to communicate frequently with our Church family. Look for articles in the Epistle, announcements, quarterly newsletters, Church Council reports, or just talk to us in person.
At this time, we’ve had two newsletters published in the Epistle: January 23 and April 3. You may link to the most recent one above.
Should you have any questions or ideas for Forward in Faith, please feel free to contact one of the members. The members include the following:
Megan Warren – Director of Community Connections
Although the above people meet monthly to discuss moving forward, St. Luke’s – the entire church – is a part of this endeavor. Opinions, feedback, ideas, solutions, prayers from everyone make this committee and the work we are called to do, the best it can be. We all want to see St. Luke’s grow and remain viable in the future and that must include fresh ideas, renewed passions, growing pains, and YOU. We’re thankful for your involvement and your love for St. Luke’s.
Continue to pray constantly for St. Luke’s to be a place where our lives and our community will be transformed. Consistently pray for God to help us carry out the Great Commission and to help people know Christ.