I grew up in a church I loved, but couldn’t wait to leave. It was small and I wanted bigger. It was simple and I wanted flashy. It was my dad’s church, and after the fishbowl experience of life as a preacher’s kid, I wanted a place of my own. It was also racially diverse, and what seemed normal to me as a child, now feels like a gift. My father was ahead of his time, a charismatic pastor who regularly filled the pulpit with women and people of color when he was unavailable to preach. The Word of God fell like rain on the dry bones of our congregation when Dorothea with her strong voice and her beautiful black skin and her degree in theology took to the pulpit. My mom preached too, and I cut my spiritual teeth on the sound of black women and Indian men and both of my parents proclaiming the good news of the gospel.
I grew up in a high school where I felt invisible, and I couldn’t wait to leave. It was big and I wanted smaller. It was scary and I wanted safe. It was academically failing and I wanted rigorous and smart. It was also the most racially and economically diverse environment I’ve ever experienced, and what seemed normal to me as a teenager, now feels like a gift. I learned that skin color doesn’t make a difference on Sunday at church, and Monday morning my classmates reinforced this lesson. What mattered was kindness, and I knew kids of every race who wore kindness like a brand new shade of skin.
I look back at my early years, and I’m so grateful for the gift of diversity. The gift of strong women. The gift of the gospel. For me, these three are forever intertwined, pieced together like poetry. The places I wanted to escape the most, have become the places where I’ve learned to lean into the memory, and draw them forward into today. I didn’t know that these places were the training ground for what we face now as a nation.
The election results have me both fearful and fiercely protective. This is not the America or the Leader or the Church I want for my children. I want them to know we are so much stronger together, and kindness binds us, the gospel binds us, the work of mothers and godly warriors bind us. So, I am looking to the places in my life where these things are already woven together like poetry. I am looking to my friends and social network far and wide, and leaning in to those who are speaking hard truths. I am looking to my church in NJ, the one that looks like Joseph’s coat of many colors, the one that wears love through acts of service, who believes both men and women are armor bearers of the gospel. I am listening and reading and informing myself on issues I never thought to tackle because what was normal to me, I now see as a gift my parents and community offered me.
If you find yourself nodding along with me, or if you haven’t been given this same gift, here are a few places and people I’ve discovered that normalize shalom and diversity and wholeness rather than hatred and division.
Deidra has been a voice for racial reconciliation in the church for years, and we need her voice now more than ever. If you have the time and a few bucks to spare, this conference might be exactly where you need to sit this spring. Deidra’s book ONE is forthcoming, and I highly suggest you pre-order–it’s available now.
Osheta Moore: Shalom in the City
Osheta’s work is all about Shalom, about peace-making while still taking a stand for what is right. I love the spirit behind her words, and she is teaching me that being a warrior for peace doesn’t mean carrying a sword into every conversation.
Alia is the most raw, vulnerable writer I know who tackles issues of race, faith, mental health, and recovery from sexual assault. She is a guide through some of the most complex, messy, painful discussions and I trust her voice.
There are many, many more voices I’m listening to, but I wanted to share just a few. If you’re ready to take action on a more local level as well, I recommend reading this by former Congressional staffer Emily Ellsworth. Contact your local leaders, sign a petition, make your voice heard.
And finally, if you feel like you’re no longer at home in the Church at large, may I suggest that you find a local church that aligns better with your beliefs? Don’t believe the lie that God is no longer working through the church or through his people. We’re out there, doing good work, working towards justice. Look for believers who welcome the marginalized, who sit with the poor, who make space for diverse voices. Look for a church that offers conversations like these. Jesus isn’t the problem, friends. It’s how we live out our faith in Him that confuses people.
Still with me? Thank you, dear ones. I know you’re worried about the mess we’ve gotten ourselves into, but there is a path out. It’s the harder path, but it is there. I pray your foot won’t falter as you find it.