July 26, 2015
I watched as folk went to the microphones and spoke. Over a few days, they spoke on a number of issues and resolutions at the assembly of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).
Many who spoke were pastors or folk who held some role of publicly speaking in the Church. Many were eloquent. Many others like myself were passable in getting across their thoughts. There were others though, who were fearless.
The fearless were the folk who are not pastors, who are not professionals, but rather folk who stand at the edge and outside the rooms and places of Church power. To hear another pastor or church leader is to listen to so many passionate, God called, Pharisees and Sadducees (don’t hear this as a bad thing, but rather folk whose life is fully embedded in the church). The others though, the folk who listen to those folk, who hold great opinions, but seldom publicly speak, well they are the fearless, the heroes.
The voice of the non-pastor matters because too many who find themselves in the places of church power (those Pharisees and Sadducees), who first came to their work because of their prophetic voice, now find themselves navigating the space between the prophetic and the “how to keep the greatest number of people united and conversing with one another,” or “how to keep my job—or how to keep doing the work I believe I am called to.” These are folk who can use a bit of extra care and one more prayer.
It matters greatly there are the folk who stand at the edge and in places outside of power, who fearlessly raise their voice. When these folk arrive at such assemblies, with a sense of wonder and hope, a want to listen others, who have no intent to raise their voice, but who do when a matter of justice or injustice twists a gut, the assembled people experience a moment of fearlessness. (Fearless does not mean the speaker is not terrified or on the edge of panic, but rather they speak their truth while remaining in that space of horror.)
For all the structural problems of the DOC, having a structure that allows the non-pastor, non-bishop, non-religious leader have verbal voice from the floor of the assembly, is one instance of where the DOC nails it. While many are fearful of discord, divisiveness, and fear of multiple disagreeing voices publicly speaking out, it is this openness of welcoming every voice to the floor that matters greatly in the life of the DOC. What matters most of all is the voice of the “non-professional religious person” has at least as much, if not more, impact as the voice of the pastor, minister, or “professional” religious leader.
If there is hope today, I find it in the voice of those who are surprised to find themselves speaking at the General Assembly of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). The ending of hurt and the rise of neighbor is lodged in the folk who hold fear at arm’s length and speak the truth as they know it. Such fearlessness allows for hope that does not call for agreement, but rather opens conversation where deep listening and thoughtful speaking begs forth wonderment.