She is foggy, struggling to find the old gifts of conversation. But she knows me, I think. I tell her all of the reassuring things that pastors say in such a setting. "The Creator who has watched over you all of the days of your life is now holding you in those sacred hands." She smiles and struggles to respond with words I barely understand.
"I was doing my material about being a southerner in New York—about regional differences in shopping, food, clothing. People were laughing. Then I made the mistake of saying I was a minister. The room went silent."
Second Thessalonians is concerned with encouraging a struggling congregation to stand firm, endure and persevere. Wendell Berry refers to the "art of the commonplace," a phrase that for pastors brings to mind the art, craft and skills by which we cultivate the common everyday life our people are called to live and share--and which will enable them to stand firm. It is about the mundane and about community.
Change sets off a burst of emotional energy. In working with congregations, I'm occasionally surprised by the vehemence or the source of the emotionality, but never by its presence.
It was the spring of 1963 in Birmingham, and it looked as if the civil rights movement would suffer yet another defeat. The powers that be had more jail space than the civil rights workers had people. But then one Sunday, reports historian Taylor Branch, 2,000 young people came out of worship at the New Pilgrim Baptist Church and prepared to march.