Ch Ch Ch Ch Changes….

Wow, has the last few months been crazy.

A quick catchup:

In March, actually in a period of less than 24 hours, I both was accepted to Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond and asked A to marry me.

From that point it was a full on sprint to get scholarships lined up.  We are still waiting to hear back about that, but so far it all seems to be falling right into line.  Let me just say this, I have been super blessed.

I have also joined the staff of Second Baptist Church in Petersburg, VA as their Associate Pastor for Children and Youth.

So, as you can see, lots and lots of changes.  This means that I will, yet again, be morphing my web presence as I start these new roles.  I hope to really build a platform and I felt like a fresh start was needed.  This means that many of the posts that had been here are now unpublished.  I still have them, and might, at some point in the future republish them.  However, for right now, they will not be available.

I am hoping to move toward a self-hosted site sometime in the near future.  However, let’s just take it one step at a time.

Why yes, I am giving up politics for the New Year (but not Justice)

Let’s not call it a New Year’s Resolution.  Let’s just say that it is a manifestation of renewed and reimagined priorities, some of which you can read about in last week’s post.

But, whatever we are calling it, I am trying to cut back on politics in 2015.  I am disengaging.  I have already radically cleaned out my Facebook feed.  I have found that the “unlike” option is quite handy.  It is amazing how my stress and anxiety level have declined, just in the last 12 or so days.  There is less animosity in my heart, less hate on my tongue.

This is not to say that I am giving up totally.  I am maintaining my memberships in various political organizations, mainly because membership equals money equals good work getting done, and for the most part I still support the work of many of these organizations.  So if you are a member of one of these organizations and are reading this, don’t worry!  But I am going to be stepping back from being publicly active with these organizations.  In the end, this is a decision about what is best and most healthful for me, my life, and my path moving forward.

However, I am certainly NOT giving up on Justice.  To do that would be a denial of my faith and a denial of Jesus.

This weekend I was blessed to worship with the great folks at CrossPoint Church in Harrisburg, PA.  The message this week was on Isaiah 58.

“No, this is the kind of fasting I want: Free those who are wrongly imprisoned; lighten the burden of those who work for you. Let the oppressed go free,and remove the chains that bind people. Share your food with the hungry, and give shelter to the homeless. Give clothes to those who need them,and do not hide from relatives who need your help.  Then your salvation will come like the dawn,and your wounds will quickly heal. Your godliness will lead you forward,and the glory of the Lord will protect you from behind. Then when you call, the Lord will answer. ‘Yes, I am here,’ he will quickly reply. “Remove the heavy yoke of oppression. Stop pointing your finger and spreading vicious rumors! Feed the hungry,and help those in trouble. Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon. The Lord will guide you continually, giving you water when you are dry and restoring your strength. You will be like a well-watered garden,like an ever-flowing spring.” (Isaiah 58:6-11)

What is clear from this is that we are called to do works of justice.  We are called to “Free those who are wrongly imprisoned; lighten the burden of those who work for you. Let the oppressed go free,and remove the chains that bind people. Share your food with the hungry, and give shelter to the homeless. Give clothes to those who need them,and do not hide from relatives who need your help.”  This is a big, big call.  In fact, it might even make us do things that we don’t WANT to do.  It is these things, these acts of mercy and justice that God wants from us, not the empty, vain, self-serving ritual fasting that Israel thought would save them.

This passage from Isaiah reminded me of this passage from Amos:

“I hate all your show and pretense—the hypocrisy of your religious festivals and solemn assemblies. I will not accept your burnt offerings and grain offerings.I won’t even notice all your choice peace offerings. Away with your noisy hymns of praise! I will not listen to the music of your harps. Instead, I want to see a mighty flood of justice, an endless river of righteous living.” (Amos 5:21-24)

So, what does all of this mean?  It means that this year I hope to step away from the politics of the world and into the Grace and Justice of the Kingdom of God.  Towards that end, I intend to engage primarily with faith-based advocacy and justice groups.  Groups like the Evangelical Environmental Network, Evangelicals for Social Action, Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America ~ Bautistas por la Paz, Sojourners, International Justice Mission, and many, many more.

That said, my main justice priority this year is racial justice and reconciliation, both inside the church and society as a whole.  I have been, for several years now, a member of the NAACP and will continue that membership and hope to be more active with the local branch here that represents York and James City counties, and the City of Williamsburg.  In addition I will continue to build relationship with and be involved with the “Black Lives Matter” group here in Williamsburg that is focused at the College of William and Mary.

For, as Galatians tells us, “There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28)

Come, let us build the Kingdom together!

New Year, New Start, New Priorities

It has been a hot second since I have posted here.  Well over a year in fact.  Almost two.

Life has continued on.

And my life is entering a new season, hopefully.  For most of the last two years or so I have been working at Colonial Williamsburg in Williamsburg, VA as a historical interpreter.  While I have been enjoying the work, it is just about time for me to move on, or more accurately, move back into what it is that God has called me to.

In the next few days, I will be submitting my application to the MDiv program at Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond.  I hope to finish my MDiv that I started at WFUSD and move into the congregational ministerial role that I know that God has called me toward.

Before we even started dating, my dear A looked at me one day while we were walking and talking at work and said, “don’t you think its time to stop running.”  Well she was as right then as possible.  It is time for me to stop running, stop pretending that God hasn’t called me to vocational congregational ministry.  The models are changing.  I don’t know what it is going to look like, but I know that it is going to be amazing.

As I prayerfully move into this new stage of my life, I ask that you pray with me.  I don’t really know what the next year or two is going to look like (although I have some hopes!) but I know that I intend to chase and seek the heart of God in a very real way.

Expect another post in the next day or so in which I will lay out my priorities for the next year or so for myself and how I plan on engaging the world, both IRL and here on the web.

Love and Peace to you all!

Some Thoughts From the Morning After

There are few days in a person’s life that will leave them totally speechless.  For a loquacious jackass like me there are even fewer.  One can always hope that these will be days of joy.  Yet in my short life there have been two that will always be tied to tragedy and heartache, September 11, 2001 and April 15, 2013.  But after time and processing, I feel the need to get some thoughts out.

There will be lots of words in the coming weeks about the events of yesterday.  Some of the words will be poignant, thoughtful, and measured.  Some are sure to be idiotic.  Indeed some already have been.  These words will shape how we act, how we react, in the coming days.  It will be a test of exactly who we are, not as Bostonians, not as Americans, but as human beings.

There are already countless stories emerging of runners who kept running to the hospitals to donate blood, of finishers pulling IVs out of their arms to make them available for the injured, of countless people running toward the danger to help.  I truly hope that if I had been on Boylston Street yesterday that I would have had the character to be one of those people, but who knows.

What I do know is that I refuse to be cowed by what ever gutless, asshole bastard set those bombs.  I am an overweight 29 year old who has been saying for years that I want to start running. I don’t know if I will ever run in the Boston Marathon, but I am going to step out my front door in a little bit and go for a run.  I am going to donate blood in the coming days (the Red Cross is asking people to hold off for a few days).  I am going to make sure that I get re-certified in CPR and First Aid.

As has been pointed on countless times, yesterday was Patriots Day in Massachusetts, a day that commemorates the events of Lexington and Concord in 1775.  It is a day that commemorates the birth of this crazy, messed up, foolish endeavor known as the United States of America.  I am lucky enough to live in another place that is closely tied to the birth of that Great Dream.

And so later today I am going to pull on my Red Sox hat and walk the mile of Duke of Gloucester Street from the Wren Building to the old Colonial Capitol here in Williamsburg, a section of street that was walked by Jefferson, Washington, Randolph, and Henry.  And I will hold my head high.  And I will not be afraid. And I will be proud.  Not simply because I am an American but because I am a human being and these bastards will never, ever break the human spirit.

On Joining a Church and Finding a Place

Sometimes we have days that just make us feel that we are in the right place doing the right thing.  Yesterday was that sort of day for me.

Since leaving North Carolina over a year ago, I have struggled to find a place where I felt I truly fit.  I thought that returning home to the Florida Panhandle would do it, but it failed in that regard, spectacularly.  Which is why I started looking for ways out and places to go, finally settling on Williamsburg.  Sure, it helped that I had good friends here (and they are certainly the primary reason that I chose this area), but there were lots of other things to recommend Williamsburg in particular and Virginia in general.

First, Williamsburg is a college town.  While Colonial Williamsburg is central, the College of William and Mary is just as central, and more so in some ways.  These two places are so central that it is almost impossible to drive anywhere in town without driving through the grounds of either, and normally both.

Second, Williamsburg is really close to Richmond and Norfolk, both towns that have decent music venues that bring through musicians that I care about seeing, even if I haven’t gotten out to a concert yet.  Also, I would really like to finish my MDiv and my proximity to Richmond means a proximity to Baptist Theological Seminary in Richmond where I can finish my degree.

Third, Virginia, like North Carolina, is a center for moderate Baptist life and Williamsburg is home to two CBF affiliated congregations.

It was always a plan of mine that after getting here and getting somewhat settled in, I would begin to go out into the community, get involved in a congregation and participate in events that happen on campus.  Yesterday, I got more than my feet wet.  I jumped straight into the deep end.

When I first came to Williamsburg, I attended one of the churches for a few services.  While the people were lovely, I never really felt that it was a place that I could settle into.  So a few weeks ago, I decided that I would give Walnut Hills Baptist Church a try.  Almost from the start I knew that it was the place that I needed to be.  In some very important ways, it reminded me of my congregation in Winston-Salem, Knollwood Baptist.

All this to say that yesterday morning I joined Walnut Hills as a member.  It was special in a number of ways.  There were five baptisms yesterday.  When I met with Dr. Tony Neal, the Pastor, last week to speak with him about joining the church, I expressed my trepidation about joining on a Sunday with so many Baptisms.  I especially didn’t want to take away from the young people who were Baptized.  Dr. Neal made a good point though: if I joined on that Sunday, it would serve as a significant reminder to people that there are so many different ways to bring people into the church.  And I think that he was right.  The end result of the Baptisms and my joining the church was that the front of the sanctuary was lined with the “receiving” line after the service, the young people and their families and me, all lined up to be welcomed into the church.  It was so refreshing to be welcomed into a Christian community and have people mean it!  Every “we are so glad that you have joined us” every “I am thankful that you found Walnut Hills” every handshake and every hug (and you know I don’t like hugs!) felt real and heart felt.

As a slight aside (although it certainly didn’t feel like an aside) I heard words yesterday welcoming me into a congregation that I never thought I would hear again.  I still hold myself to the standard that is laid out in the United Methodist membership liturgy: “Do you pledge to support this congregation with your prayers, your presence, your gifts, and your service so that in everything God may be glorified?”  While I have been out of the United Methodist fold for over a decade now, I heard that phrase so much as a child that I will never be able to forget it.  It has worked its way down into my soul.  This will always be my “standard” for congregational membership.  I mentioned this to Dr. Neal last week when we met and yesterday he welcomed me into Walnut Hills with those words, words, I thought I would never hear welcome me into a congregation again.  I got a little weepy.

There was more to the day yesterday, not the least of which was getting to hear and meet Rachel Held Evans.  However, some of these things I am still processing.  I am going to have the chance to meet with and hear Rachel two more times today, so expect at least one “RHE-centric” post this week and possibly more.

Yesterday was a significant day.  I’m going to be unpacking it for quite a while.