While I welcomed people with open arms, I also had a lurching gut. Because as much as I wanted to pat myself on the back and believe that they would be utterly free of disappointment, I knew that they wouldn’t. I would mess up. The church would let them down. Sooner or later, they would find out that they exchanged one set of issues for another.
The workplace responds differently to the ways women work, and especially when it comes to staying late and helping others. This is particularly true for our work in the church. Being a pastor can be a helping profession in the most beautiful sort of way. We are servant-leaders. But for many women, having a servant’s heart can undermine what we’re trying to accomplish as leaders.
The budget passes, with a reluctant majority. The pastor sweats as the whispers continue. No one knows how they’re going to keep their pastor. The pastor becomes very anxious, but doesn't know how to respond, because the minister has not done anything wrong. There has even been growth and vitality in the last years. But that still can't make up for the last couple decades of decline or keep people alive. The pastor has mouths to feed and loans to pay. The message is clear. The church will not be able to afford their leadership for long. It's hard to focus on ministry, so the pastor begins putting energy and effort into looking for another call.
I've seen family relationships crash and burn on the Christian celebrity circuit. I've seen how we get so addicted to praise that we can't handle criticism. But when we write, we generally become healthier humans.
Like a lot of my preacher friends, I typically read nonfiction, theology, and fiction classics. So, it was a little different for me to delve into the world of hot-off-the-press page-turners. I did it for a year. This is what I learned.
Brian and I are at the Farmer’s Market. I walk up to the vendors, and the wife says, “Oh! You must be Pastor Brian’s wife.”I shake her hand and say, “Yes, I am Brian’s wife. My name is Carol Howard Merritt.” As she introduces me to her husband, I wonder if I should I have added the “Reverend” to my name. I don’t usually use the prefix, but should I have notified them that I’m a pastor too?
I sat down with a friend, and he told me about his holiday. He was about 35 years older than I was and his Christmas had been punctuated by the deaths of classmates, men and women he had been close to since childhood.
In the past few weeks, we have faced brutal horrors, made even worse because they are the torments carried out by our own hands. The torture report was released, amidst fears and warnings that there would be international uprisings and retaliations. Republicans have accused Democrats of seizing a political moment, to make the Bush administration look bad to the detriment of national security. The talking points seem to echo through the red party, aside from John McCain, who has been a victim of torture himself and has a first-hand knowledge of the evil.
Christmas is more complicated now, with its layers of meaning. Joy can no longer be wrapped up with a tidy bow. But, for me, this year, since I cannot have the world as it ought to be, I’m determined to find beauty in the yearning.
Christ came to bring God’s kingdom to bear on earth. As people who follow the risen Christ, we cannot faithfully live into his kingdom when we are silent about those who are marginalized in our midst. Our leaders need to curate conversations about race and reconciliation. As people of God we must extend ourselves in risky ways to begin to break down the “other-ness” that exists between races in the larger body of Christ.
This week, I was speaking to a handful of strong, smart writers who were on their way to publishing major books, but they were nervous about entering the Wild West World of the Internet. How were they going to handle the criticism they would have to endure?
We have washed our hands as the war on drugs has overwhelmingly targeted black men. We have washed our hands as our justice system has given longer sentences to people of color. And then, when an innocent man dies, we keep scrubbing our fingers some more, as we blame the victim.
After years of wrestling, I settled in a predominately white church. My logic was this: if every white person concerned about racial justice leaves white churches, then there will be few women or men there to help. This Sunday, I worried that Ferguson or other police shootings of African Americans would once again go unmentioned in the sermon or a prayer.
My mind ventured off to the Contemporary Christian Music concerts I attended with my youth group. CCM was taking off, and evangelical teens had a mass of buying power. In my home, my mom would pay for any CCM that I wanted.So I listened to the music and even attended Disney’s Night of Joy. It was a magical evening in the kingdom. As Michael W. Smith sang in front of the Cinderella’s Castle, girls in the audience would raise their hands and scream, “WE LOVE YOU, MICHAEL!”
I often hear the term “cafeteria Christian.” It is a description of our current religious milieu. People pick and choose what’s important to them in their faith. It’s usually said with disdain—and a bit of eye-rolling.
Theologians, who construct systems of belief, want to think about theology as a whole. They are afraid that a generation is going to come along and jettison a couple thousand years of careful thought in lieu of what feels good to them.