A young white man in his twenties, I was going to change the world. The new director of an urban early childhood program dedicated to providing services within a multiracial, multicultural, mixed-economic setting, I was passionate about the mission. I was not a novice to racial tensions, having given my confession of faith in a storefront church with a strong emphasis on inclusiveness, and educated in the St. Louis city and Ferguson-Florissant school districts.
My search for the last year has been around finding balance, and it is the topic for the next retreat I am leading. And my experiences over the last year have been full of not only searching for balance, but also in trying to define what balance would look like.
Right now I am home. Sitting in the house that we own. Where we are raising our children. Where mail arrives daily bearing my name. Where we welcome family and entertain friends. Where I pull weeds and paint walls. Where my car pulls into the driveway and my shoes slip off in the doorway.
And I am writing about going home. Which is not here.
I've spent a lot of time as a mother noting my children's milestones. Oh, I think: he's climbing up that ladder unassisted. That never happened before! Or oh, how about that—she just listened to song lyrics, extrapolated their meaning, and ask a relevant question about them!
Tonight, I sat across from my husband in a restaurant. This past year has been very difficult for both of us, and has been its own sort of milestone, for many of the weighty and immense reasons that make adulthood complex.
“So, what’s your plan? You going to keep working your way up to bigger and better churches and church leadership positions?”
This was the end of a conversation I had with one of my parishioners at the church where I am the newly minted minister to children. Over the past few weeks it has become clear how difficult it is for most people to get their heads around my recent change in ministry roles.
Religious fanaticism is, regrettably, front and center in our collective consciousness again in this the summer of bad news. Whether it is Iraq or Israel/Palestine or other places around the globe, many people are quick to point to the role that religion plays in stoking the flames of violence and hatred. And whenever there is violence associated with religion in the news, we can expect to see articles like “The god effect” over at Aeon magazine.
I know, this is an odd confession for a pastor to make. You don't like to hear your pastor saying, "I'm no good at praying." And don't get me wrong, it's not that I don't pray. It's just that I am apt to compare myself with people who seem to be able to go on and on, pray aloud for hours with no notes.
It has been a couple of years now since a man pulled his car diagonally across the busiest intersection in south Baldwin County at AL-59 and US-98, got out, took a seat on top of the trunk, and, in broad day light, shot himself in the head. Traffic was backed up for hours as locals tried to figure out what had happened to shut down the road.