It’s going to be great! #umcgc

Today during the Connectional Table address we heard from Hannah Foust, a 14 year old missionary who works for clean water around the world. One thing that kept sticking to me from her comments was her thanking the church for inspiring her and believing in her. She said that she came into her call because of pastors willing to “go out on a limb and let a little girl fill their pulpits.”

This was a great reminder for my heart, because the same was true for me. It is so easy to get down trotted and stuck on the places in the church and the world that are not built for all people. Especially watching the complicated and messy processes at GC that leave out or make difficult to include a lot of voices.

But I am also being continually reminded that God takes systems and circumstances that were not built for us, and transcends and subverts them to create something new and to call new people. Even in places where some of us are not always invited or always being taken seriously or always trusted to do a good job, The Spirit often invades.

For me, part of my call was having a retired Bishop and Annual Conference take the time to chat with me about college and ministry and my plans for the future. He later proclaimed to the entire Annual Conference that I was pursuing a career in ministry, something I had not yet sorted out. But the encouragement and counsel I received after that moment was really crucial to my discovering my call for myself too. So even in the confusion of a short conversation and the misreported prophecy from the podium, God was at work in an unexpected way.

Kylie Campbell is one of our young adults in Portland. Kylie first became involved in this kind of church work when she was a youth serving on the SPRC at her local church. Kylie remembers a review of the pastor where people were incredibly critical and she was surprised at how they treat hi, and each other looking back on it, Kylie says that she tries to handle church conflict with grace and remember that “there might be ugly things happening, but that doesn’t mean they are ugly people.” She says she tries to maintain her tender heart toward others

Ethan and Kevin Gregory have both been along for the ride with me since we were youth serving on Student Leadership Team together. So, personally, it is incredibly exciting to be serving together as adults now. Ethan graduates from Perkins tomorrow (from Portland!) and serves at Arborlawn. Ethan first became interested in policy and polity when he was a youth at Annual Conference, watching everyone elect delegates and prepare for GC 2008. While many people remember these types of elections as mostly a drag because they take so long, in that space God was planting a seed of a special passion for Ethan. Kevin remembers leading a prayer in his home church and first meeting his new pastor when she came to him and said “you know you’re called to ministry, right?” When Kevin told her had already been exploring that call she said, “it’s going to be great.”
This is he same hope I pray for to hold onto during GC and all the time. That we would cling to the gentle ways that God speaks to us in the mundane and the ugly and exciting and the beautiful. That we would have the humility to go out on a limb on behalf of people that God has created for all these places and purposes that are not easily accessible to them. And that we would have the trust and the enthusiasm to continually proclaim that “it’s going to be great.”

Intercultural Babysteps at #UMCGC

Something that has been super interesting to see so far at General Conference has been the ways in which we navigate the “worldwide nature of the church.”

The convergence of different cultures manifests itself in big big ways: status of women in the global church, the global budget, education for clergy, and of course how we treat LGBTQ folks in our churches.

But it also affects the more logistical, smaller ways that we interact with each other.

I ate lunch today with a clergy delegate from Liberia. As we ate our chicken wraps, he mentioned that food isn’t served cold (like ice cold, too cold….;) in his culture. I also noticed that while a lot of the U.S. delegates ventured out for lunch, a large number of the people that stuck close to the convention center were from Central Conferences. So why are we eating something most of these people would not pick?

It was communicated before the Conference that all delegates would be wearing headphones to get the translation of the speakers. This is a different procedure than having only non-English speakers receive translations. But so many of the English speaking delegates didn’t even pick up their headphones let alone wear them.

When the food isn’t enjoyable and accessible to everyone, when the translation efforts don’t work, when delegates can’t understand you even if you do decide to speak, these can be framed as easy things to ‘get over.’ Lots of little things don’t seem like as big an issue (when it isn’t happening to you) in comparison to big big issues that haunt these spaces and conversations.

But on the other end, these small acts of gentle consideration are much simpler to do for others than the commentary we might have to offer on these big big issues.

What are the ways we can embrace the worldwide nature of the church personally even when we don’t have easy answers for other things we struggle with together?

‘vulnerability is subversive’

These are some ideas from my senior capstone paper on vulnerability, the imposter phenomenon and activism. If you’re interested in learning more, let me know!

Vulnerability is when we make the decision to share something of ourselves, or engage in work that might put us at risk for criticism, ostracization or other types of harm.  Deciding to do activist work despite the possibility of putting oneself in some kind of jeopardy is a marker of courage. Being able to continue your work and your existence despite being attacked or wounded or rejected, is a marker of strength.  

 

When I first began doing some social justice work, I always felt like I was doing the wrong thing, like I did not belong, I over analyzed every thought and action to the point where I didn’t really let myself do anything. Now, Instead of letting this shame guilt me into disengaging, I am learning to use it as a reminder of the importance of my work. Because if I feel this isolation, guilt, smallness, other people must feel it, too. While it may feel safer to live under this shame, go with the flow, keep my head down we have to leave homeThis is the lie of oppressive structures: that if you keep your head down, you will be protected: this makes activist work feel dangerous, vulnerable, avoidable, when in actuality certain people are always vulnerable to manipulation and marginalization under these structures, making activism necessary.  Gloria Anzaldua writes:“there are no safe spaces.” 

So while I maybe cannot silence these fears or find a place where no one ever shames me for being a bad activist, I can find ways to live with them. I can go back to the places that inspired me to do this work, spend time figuring out what fears are born or empathy and what fears are born of shame, and letting empathy guide my work without letting shame quelch it. I’ve only started to come to this place because I’ve been really lucky to be involved in communities that encourage me, support me, and provide great models of community care for me. 

 

Because people have taken the time to do some of these things for me, my world has changed. I owe a lot to the people who have been courageous enough to venture out from underneath the shame that society places on them to point out injustices that other people were not seeing. Even though I am afraid that the shame and fear that tells me not to engage is right, I do the things that give me courage to be vulnerable, to take the risk that others took for me, and that in itself is continuing a legacy of activism. Activist work is courageous not out of the absence of fear and vulnerability, but because of that vulnerability.

As Brene Brown writes, “In a world where scarcity and shame dominate and feeling afraid has become second nature, vulnerability is subversive.”

 

A love letter to my alma mater

From the day I finished my last assignment:
Today I printed my final copy of my capstone and turned in my last assignment of college. I had $2 left in print dollars so I was stoked to be printing $1.75 on my last thing(!!!). But then.The printer stopped. It said “open rear drawer…jam in bottom tray…BAD LOCID.” and other bad. bad. bad. printer words. I dismantled the whole thing. I stood there holding sad printer guts in one hand and ripped shreds of capstone in the other hand.

Since SU has taught me zero healthy strategies for problem solving, I went to the library to cry in front of the Info Desk. There I met probably my last new friend at SU. I looked at her and said “I broke my capstone and I have no money.

She looked at my sad pages and told me to forward her my paper. She printed the whole thing with her own personal print dollars. It really is so special to have people be sweet to you because they understand you even if they don’t actually know you. It’s a little big world that appreciates hard work and helping each other out. And even though we fail to do that to each other in so many ways, it’s such a nice reminder as I graduate that some people in the world that don’t have to route for me, do. So thank you beautiful, wonderful InfoDesk Student Worker for happying my heart the most. I hope people are kind to you when you graduate and run out of print dollars, too.

 

From the day after graduation:

Today as I packed up my little blue house in Georgetown, I found my journal from my first year at SU. It was a treasured present from a sweet couple that saw things in me I did not see yet. Sprawled on one of the pages is a line from the first message I preached at a Wednesday night worship service as an intern.

“Hearts and minds are more like muscles than they are bones.”

Even if I knew the words then, I had no idea how much stretching my heart and mind would be doing in my time at SU.

I hate that Southwestern was not always safe for people it should have protected. I hate that there were times when we lost good and beautiful things because of misplaced priorities. I hate that people peed in the trashcans in the library and jeopardized our 24 hour privileges.

But I am so grateful for complicated questions and thick, heavy silences in Dr. Kafer’s Intro to Feminist Studies class. I will remember fondly the overwhelming joy of discovering friends whose hearts feel too big like mine does. I have met more puppies in Dr. Hob-O’s office than the rest of my life combined–that is basically magic, y’all!  And it is a blessing that the ugly and messed up things I encountered here made me stretch instead of break. And even more so that those things were accompanied by the very best friendships, the very best learning, the very best shady places to read Anzaldua. I am so thankful for the stretching–I think my heart and mind are bigger now than they could have been in any other alternative reality. I learned how to be emptier and fuller than I ever thought I could be–what a joy.13170761_10209902208135823_620427022_o