I recently read about Canadian study called The Halo Project that sought to measure the impact of faith communities to the common good in “quantitative monetary terms.” As the authors note, typically studies “have focused on qualitative contributions that congregations make to the cultural, spiritual, and social well-being of the communities that surround them.” But they wondered about the impact in hard numbers. Their finds were surprising.Read More
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.
“For we do not know how to pray as we ought.”
I have found myself turning to these words of the Apostle Paul too often recently. There have simply been so many disasters, tragedies, injustices and acts of violence that have rendered inadequate my capacity for prayer.
This week began with yet another horrendous mass shooting, this time in Las Vegas.
Lord, have mercy.
My thoughts this morning have drifted in three directions which have helped me to focus my attention. Perhaps they’ll be of some use to you.Read More
Last Monday and Tuesday I gathered with about 150 other folks at the annual New Baptist Covenant Summit in Atlanta. New Baptist Covenant has been a critical partner in our renewed relationship with FBC on New St. over these past two years. Last year we solidified our commitment not only to our brothers and sisters around the corner and the wider work of racial justice, but also to NBC when we included them as a "partner organization" in our annual church budget.
The featured speaker at this year's summit was none other than Congressman John Lewis: Representative for the 5th District of our state of Georgia, Civil Rights icon, and American hero. Rep. Lewis was honored with the inaugural Ella Baker Justice Award, and in his words Tuesday evening, encouraged us to "get in the way."
"Getting in the way" was Rep. Lewis's distillation of his work organizing the March to Montgomery, which is largely credited with being the final motivation to pass the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965. The status quo has a way of grinding on, day after day, week after week, year after year, generation after generation, until ordinary people make an effort to "get in the way." This getting in the way often comes at a cost--Rep. Lewis suffered a fractured skull during the infamous Bloody Sunday crackdown by Montgomery law enforcement. But in the end "getting in the way" is necessary to bring about change.
Members of the New Baptist Covenant Board had an opportunity to gather with Rep. Lewis for a brief time, which I will remember for the rest of my life. In a manner similar to President Jimmy Carter, whom I had the pleasure to meet, as many of you have, at his church in Plains, GA, Rep. Lewis has a warmth about him that is difficult to describe but impossible to miss. He speaks with passion, but also humility. He's honest about the challenges before us as a country, but also quick to point out how far we've come. And he's absolutely insistent that we need not--must not--give up hope. I doubt there's a more critical message for these times.
As for New Baptist Covenant, our work continues. This will be a pivotal year, as we focus our energies and efforts on nurturing more Covenants of Action such as the one we share with our friends from New St. Hannah McMahan, daughter of our members Jennifer and Craig McMahan, continues to do an outstanding job as executive director. Other staffing changes were a challenge over the past year, but the board feels we're positioned to move forward positively. Funding is secured in the short term, but continues to be a challenge in the long term. The board is hopeful that other churches will take steps similar to ours and include NBC in their budgets. If you would like to personally make a donation, follow this link.
And yet the greatest challeng facing the organization is no different from the challenge facing our congregation and even us as individuals: the need is so great, and the opportunities so vast, but we must focus on what we can do best. The question before us must always be: what are we/what am I uniquely prepared to offer?
I'm grateful for the ways our congregation continues to answer this question, and look forward to the ways in which NBC will answer as well.
This is Billy’s first year in children’s choir and so over the past week we’ve gotten our first taste of an experience with which many of you are well acquainted. We’ve had the CD of all the songs they’ll be learning this fall on loop in the car, and I can’t get them out of my head.Read More
It’s hard to put this past month in the life of our church into words. We’ve had good, hard conversations about inclusion, scripture and the church. We’ve heard powerful testimonies from some of our own. We’ve learned about each other and who we are as a congregation; what binds us together, as well as the differences among us. And of course, all of this came to a head on Sunday with our vote. It has been a remarkable journey, and one that has left us with some tenderness. But I’m proud of where we’ve come together.Read More
We are standing on the edge of a big decision, and that has brought with it an understandable measure of anxiety. I hope that naming our fears and hopes—hearing that many others share them—has given you a measure of peace about Sunday’s vote.
Many of us have worried about the potential of a vote on same-sex marriage to divide us. This fear has prevented many churches from having conversations like these at all. But here we all are, having spent time in a room together for three consecutive weeks, discussing openly how God might be calling us to something new. These conversations have been hard, but I am struck by how healthy it feels to have let everything out into the open air.Read More
Monday evening, James Goolsby and I had the privilege of speaking as part of an anti-white supremacy rally in downtown Macon to "stand with Charlottesville and walk with Macon." A crowd of some 500 people gathered in a spirit of anger and frustration, but also hope and love. it was good to be there with many members of our two congregations (including Judge Verta Colvin, who also spoke). Here are the remarks I gave:Read More
So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus.
The guiding metaphor in the sermon on Sunday was stepping out of the boat to meet Christ in the storm. Given the conversations we’re having as a church, and the events of the weekend, it turned out to be an especially potent image.
Sunday morning we assembled as the faithful to once again find our voice and the presence of God against disturbing and distressing images of racial violence, this time out of Charlottesville. It was good for me to be in that place with you, as we lifted up our cries of lament for the ugliness we see in the world, but also confessed our own individual and cooperate sins in creating a climate in which that sort of hate would feel so empowered.Read More