Monday, November 4, 2013

Get Outside Your Comfort Zone and Have A Conversation Today (Welcome to the Ministry)

I attended a very interesting gathering during the first weekend in November. About 70 people from across the country were in Chicago to talk about how to educate the laity (i.e. non-ordained people) for ministry. (They were all associated in some way with the Lutheran church.)

It was pretty exciting to be among a bunch of people who:
* believe that we are all priests
* believe that ministry is something we can be doing all the time
* believe that the heart of ministry is relationships
* believe that our relationships need to be -- ahem -- a little more inclusive
It's important to be together with others who will talk openly in this way.  Even if one thinks these things oneself, it is easy to slip into the fear that one is all alone.  Who knows: maybe a lot of people think this way!

For the "we are all priests" part, blame Martin Luther. ("In this way we are all priests, as many of us as are Christians. There are indeed priests whom we call ministers. They are chosen from among us, and who do everything in our name. That is a priesthood which is nothing else than the Ministry." See Wikipedia: universal priesthood.)

As for the notion that ministry is "something we can be doing all the time," I thought that what was really interesting in talking with this group was a sincere interest in going beyond the idea that we can only think of serving others and the world as involving clergy or other "helping professions." How about all the many, many, many other walks of life pursued by people ina big city like Chicago? For instance: is a person engaging in ministry when they do international trade?  How about when they do IT? What about intellectual property management?

Most interesting of all, there was a very strong sense in this ELCA gathering that we need to forthrightly ask ourselves: "Who's being left on the margins? Isn't that exactly who we should be working to be in relationship with?" A big part of this is creating a safe space for people who are most often marginalized to be present and be heard.  As I thought about this, I harked back to the high tide of Occupy Chicago, when there were teach-ins every day - veterans explaining "How Veterans Are Part of the 99%"; formerly incarcerated people explaining "How Prisoners Are Part of the 99%"; transgender people explaining "How Transgender People Are Part of the 99%".

In particular, this bears a close relationship to a commitment to doing anti-racism work - within the congregation I am a part of, in other congregations throughout Chicago, and nationwide.

This made we think about some of the work of the Chicago organization that a number of our congregations in the Logan Square area been privileged to work with on violence prevention: ALSO. (You can read about some of that involvement here.)

Art by Sadao Watanabe
I also thought more about something I often talk about with other organizers:  "never underestimate the power of food" -- i.e. the power of breaking bread together.  We've been seeing that at St. Luke's Logan Square, where the weekly Community Dinner is a place for all kinds of people to sit down together:  people who identify as members of St. Luke's and/or people who are food insecure and/or people who live in the vicinity and/or (fill in the blank).

I believe when Jesus broke the bread and poured the wine and said "Remember me this way," he was much more interested in encouraging us to keep having conversations -- conversations that really matter -- with others . . . and finding ways to be in relationship with our neighbors  . . . all the while reminding us "never underestimate the power of food"  . . . and if we could gladly accept the charge to keep getting outside our comfort zones the question of whether we use church-y words when we do it is the least important part of it all. (I'm still waiting for a gathering where I can hear from others talking openly about that belief!)

Hmmm . . . . So . . . does the path to learning what we need to know in order to be ministers in fact lie in those conversations themselves?

For more on this whole topic and how it's being addressed in the church I'm involved with, check out this article by Sue Lang, one of the attendees at the gathering: Developing Leadership for Laity: Intentional Lifelong Learning

Related posts

"You may not understand every word, you may feel uncomfortable, you may have to spend time later trying to figure it out or to humble yourself now and ask for help; you may have to work at it. But in the long run . . . a Spanish speaker is what you are . . . because that's the community you're a part of!"

(See Don't speak Spanish? "Sure you do . . . .")

The Gospels are full of provocations to confront this paradox: people are forever saving up and guarding against a future that is never going to come, while throwing away the present that they do have. ("You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?" Luke 12:20)

(See Edward J. Snowden: The 365-Day Man )

I believe Easter is God's gift to humanity of victory over death, hopelessness and frailty, and I believe that God is alive and in our midst. The witness of the Guantanamo lawyers has confirmed me in those beliefs.

(See Easter Victory: The Guantanamo Lawyers )

A group of us from St. Luke's Lutheran Church Logan Square  was in Springfield with thousands of other Illinoisans to encourage our state legislature to pass the marriage equality bill (SB10). Even if you weren't there, you can get a sense of what it was like -- raindrops and all! -- thanks to the dozens of photos my friend Frank took. Enjoy!

(See Marriage Equality Is a Human Right )

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