The Most Important Committee in a Church is . . .

… The Nominating Committee because their discernment of future leaders can make or break a congregation’s future.  But this post isn’t about Nominating Committees.  It’s about Personnel.

A very close second Most Important Committee in the Church is the Personnel Committee – that group of faithful volunteers who oversee the performance, calculate the salary and benefits, and ensure the evaluation of the church staff. (Note: The Personnel Committee of a Mid-Council or Higher Council of the Church is just as important.)

A Healthy Personnel Committee leads to A Healthy Staff which leads to A Healthy Congregation.

A Dysfunctional Personnel Committee leads to A Frustrated Staff which leads to A Stuck Congregation. We cannot afford to have dysfunctional Personnel Committees in the 21st Century Church.

Although it’s unscientific, this is what I’ve noticed through the years of serving the Church:

  • The Personnel Committee often has no idea what the staff actually does. Yes, there are job descriptions, but job descriptions rarely capture the detailed work lives of a Church or Church-Related Staff.
  • Human Resource Professionals can be helpful on a Personnel Committee, but they sometimes want to run a Church Staff/Church-Related Staff “like the real world.”  While I appreciate reality as much as the next person, shouldn’t we in the Church aspire to create an atmosphere that “looks like Church” rather than looking like a bank or a factory or even The United Way? God calls the Church to be different from the world. (Note:  this doesn’t mean that we don’t hold people accountable. God deserves our very best work. But our goal is also to treat people with more dignity and grace than the average secular employer.)
  • Sometimes people volunteer to be on the Personnel Committee because they don’t like the Pastor and this is one way to wield power over her.
  • Sometimes people are chosen to serve on the Personnel Committee by the Pastor because they will be “Yes People” making it easier for the Pastor to do what he wants to do with minimal oversight.
  • Sometimes Personnel Committees focus only on the negative (what needs to be improved) with little focus on the positive (what’s going well.)
  • Sometimes the Personnel Committee forgets to enjoy the staff. Working together to create the best staff possible for the sake of the Gospel should be fun and inspiring.  This is never the case if the only time staff sees the Personnel Committee is when something’s wrong.

What makes a great Church Personnel Committee?

  1. Agreement on Why The Church Exists and a culture of working side by side to make the Church’s Mission flourish.  The Church doesn’t exist to prop up the Pastor, perpetuate an institution, or ensure that the floor is always clean and the flower arrangements are always fresh. Jesus didn’t die for any of those things.
  2. Authentic relationships based on trust and the reality that Church isn’t about us.  If we trust each other, we can say pretty much anything (even hard-to-hear-things) and it’s not nearly as threatening.  Because we are serving something greater than ourselves and it’s about That.
  3. Excellent communication.  If the Personnel Committee says it will deliver New Position Descriptions by the end of the month, that’s what happens.  If there is a problem, staff members are told immediately – not seven months later during an annual review.  If expectations or roles are changing, staff should be told directly.
  4. Authentic appreciation.  If there is no money for even a Cost of Living Adjustment this year, offer something else:  an extra day or two paid vacation, a gift card, a kind word.  “You are really doing a great job. Thank you.” goes a long way.
  5. Show up.  If you are on a Personnel Committee, know your Church Staff.  Say “hi” when you are in the office.  Take concerns seriously. This is someone’s life you are dealing with.

Even if your congregation seems too small to have a Personnel Committee, it’s healthy and possible to have a small team (3 people) who can work together to ensure that those servants who are doing the professional work of the Church can thrive.

A special note to Mid-Councils:  offering support for congregational Personnel Committees is well worth the effort.  Our churches need information on how to create and keep a healthy Personnel Committee because our pastors and church staffs deserve it.  It makes ministry go well.

When things are not going well, personnel responsibilities Take. So. Much. Time.(Nobody tells us this in seminary.)  But it doesn’t have to be this way.

 

Lower image is the (blurry) sign on my office door wherever I’m serving:  It’s not about you; it’s about growing the kingdom of God.  I need to remind myself.

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Edie Windsor and Me

It was the fall of 2000 when I got a phone call from M asking me to drive her to the hospital.  Her longtime housemate E had been taken there in the night by ambulance and M didn’t drive. She asked if I could pick her up and take her to sit by E for the day. Later that afternoon, I went up to see E myself and take M home. But before I left, I talked with the attending physician and nurse to give them M’s phone number on a neon green Post-It to place in E’s file.

Me (the pastor):  It’s very important for you (the medical staff) to call M if anything should change with E in the night.  I will bring M here every morning. She is E’s next of kin.

Nurse:  Are they sisters? 

Me:  No.  Her sisters live in South Carolina.  But E and M have lived together since the war.  She is like her sister.

This is what I knew about both E and M: They had moved to Washington, DC after the attack on Pearl Harbor to serve their country in federal service.  One had grown up in South Carolina. One had grown up in Oklahoma.

They met while living in a boarding house in the 1940s with several other young women.  They joined a local Presbyterian Church together.  Eventually, they moved to Northern Virginia to a one bedroom apartment (they were so frugal!) and while E remained a member of the church in DC, M wanted to join a congregation closer to their new home.  Both of them were among the first women ordained to the office of Ruling Elder in their respective congregations.  They were active teachers and Bible study leaders. Both of them gave sacrificially to the Church.

On the morning of October 30, I went to pick up M to take her over to see E and – because E had not been doing well – I went up to the room with M.

The room was empty.  E had died in the night.  No one had phoned M and the body had already been taken to the morgue.  Because M was “not related” to E, she was not allowed in the morgue to say good-bye.

M sat in the chair beside the empty bed. and took out a pen and paper and started writing.  She didn’t cry.  She didn’t speak.  She just wrote.  I found out later that she was writing a final letter to E.

She folded the letter and placed it into her purse.  And then she looked at me and said, “Losing E is like losing part of my body.”  Her voice was cracking.  “Do you know what I’m telling you?  Do you understand what I’m saying?

I think so,” I said.  It had never occurred to me that E and M were a couple.  But when E’s obituary was published, there was no mention of M.

E and M had been together for 57 years.  M died – most likely of a broken heart – several months later. 

When Edith Windsor and Thea Spyer married in Toronto in 2007 because they could not marry in the United States, little did they know that – after Thea’s death – Edie would win a Supreme Court case that advanced the case for marriage equality.

Edie joined Thea on the other side yesterday and it reminded me of that heartbreaking morning in 2000 when M tried to explain to me who E was to her.

She was not E’s sister.  She was not merely E’s best friend.

That morning with M changed my ministry forever, and Edie Windsor’s tenacity changed the lives of countless others seven years later and beyond. I have no idea what happens in the next life, but it’s my deepest hope that we are reunited with those we loved in this life.

But while we are living this life, we deserve to have our covenant relationships respected and valued, no matter who we are, no matter who we love.  Today many of us thank God for the life of Edith, and for E and M and so many others who have gone before them.

Image of Edie Windsor and Thea Spyer.  Source here.

The Voices in Our Heads

Hearing voices is not necessarily a mental health issue but it can certainly do a number on our wellbeing.  You know when those brain tapes of hurtful comments from our parents, our exes, or our nemeses play over over and over again?  It’s not helpful.

Why don’t our brains replay happy tapes over and over again? Most of us have heard at least one person in our lives express words of delight about us:  “You look wonderful!” “You did an amazing job!”  But we toss those aside and only remember the ones that we secretly believe could be true:  “You are worthless.”  “Nobody wants you.”  Ugh.  Crazy-making.

Those voices have enormous power to perpetuate lies, crush souls, and weaken resolve. They fuel depression and destroy self-confidence.

So, here’s a case for practicing spiritual exercises:

When we recognize our value as human beings, the ugly voices quiet and there is space for God’s Voice – that Voice that still says:

Do not fear, for I am with you, do not be afraid, for I am your God;

You are precious in my sight, and honored, and I love you, I give people in return for you, nations in exchange for your life.

I could go on and on with these comforting messages from Scripture but that’s for another time.

Vincent Van Gogh famously said, “If you hear a voice within you say ‘you cannot paint’ then by all means paint and that voice will be silenced.”  But what if you really can’t paint – at least like Vincent Van Gogh?

The quick answer is that anybody can paint, but not everyone has a special gift in painting.

In my faith tradition we believe that the Voice of God speaks through our spiritual community and affirms that we have gifts in teaching, preaching, praying, counseling, shepherding, administrating, etc.  It’s also true that sometimes the community has gotten it wrong. Best examples:

  • Women who have been called to professional ministry but are told that it couldn’t possibly be God’s will because “women can’t be spiritual leaders.”  (Note: this is not true.)
  • LGBTQ people who have been called to professional ministry – as well as a full, valued, much-beloved life in general – even though they are told it couldn’t possibly be God’s will.  (Note: this is not true either.)

Sometimes the Church gets it wrong.  God calls us to Pay Attention because – even if we believe that women or trans people or whomever (i.e. “lesser people”) are outside the realm of God’s calling it’s essential to notice whom God called throughout Scripture: broken people, unclean people, tax collectors, eunichs, – oh, and lots of women.

But that’s not what this post is about.

This post is about the voices out in the world – and then subsequently in our heads  – that tell us we are unworthy and unacceptable.  Hurtful words feel like kicks to the gut, especially when no one steps up to offer support. We were born to love each other in community but sometimes we speak words to each other that destroy that community.  We even do this in Church.

Speaking the truth is good.  Speaking the truth in love is best. Speaking words that bolster ourselves while destroying someone else is evil.

Let’s not do that.  Let’s not be a voice for destruction that will land in somebody’s psyche for years to come.  And let’s not let those voices of destruction set up camp in our own psyche either.

What voices are you hearing in your head today?  I hope they are dipped in authentic beauty and delight because you are totally worth it.

Image source.

 

 

 

When Money Drives Our Decisions

We make a lot of decisions based on money. We purchase half price shoes when we might have done without, if the shoes had cost full price.  Some of us select jobs based on salary.  Money drives our choices about everything from the cars we drive to the colleges we attend.

People sell drugs, stolen goods, and their bodies for money.  Some people sell Amway.

There’s nothing wrong with money.  It’s an important tool that affords both survival and resplendence.  It’s the love of money that Scripture teaches is the root of all evil.

As I continue my self-education about slavery in this country I love, I’m increasingly aware of what white people were willing to do for money as the United States was becoming established.  My ancestors – and perhaps yours – were even willing to enslave innocent human beings, treat them like personal property, and take everything away from them – all while calling themselves Christian.

It’s not enough to say that we in the South sacrificed our souls in order to keep the farm – and in some cases to become millionaires off of tobacco, sugar, and cotton.  The North was also complicit.

According to Edward E. Baptist in The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism

“A majority of northern Unionists opposed emancipation.  Perhaps white Americans’ battles with each other were, on one level, not driven by a contest over ideals, but over the best way to keep the stream of cotton and financial revenues flowing: keep slavery within its current borders, or allow it to consume still more geographic frontiers.”

Yes there were people in both the North and the South against slavery.  But most of our ancestors already settled in the United States by 1861 benefited from the free labor of enslaved Africans or people of African descent.

It’s my ongoing hope that we will talk about this in Church.  Slavery in the United States is not only our original sin; it continues to perpetuate injustice and the (predominantly White) Church is called to speak out about that.  The predominantly Black Church has been talking about it for 200 years.

What are we willing to do for money?  Cheat on our taxes?  Overcharge for goods and services during natural disasters?  Traffic human beings?

We who call ourselves White must face the terrible truth that many of our ancestors were willing to hold other human beings captive against their will for the sake of money.  It means we have some humble work to do.

 

Image of a book I enthusiastically suggest:    The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism by Edward E. Baptist (2014)

Who Are You When You Are Not a Pastor?

Note: This post is specifically for pastors, but you can insert your own occupation if you don’t happen to be a professional minister. (Reformed theological reminder of the day:  all baptized Christians are ministers. A few of us are called into professional ministry.)

One of my favorite people told me last week that the purpose of a Pastor’s Sabbatical is to figure out who you are when you are not a Pastor. The truth is that:

  • Most pastors don’t get a Sabbatical at all.
  • Some get a Sabbatical but use it to outline future sermons, write a book or take classes to enhance their pastoral effectiveness.
  • Most congregations do not understand why a pastor might need to take a Sabbatical for the purpose of refreshing her soul or nourishing his spirit set apart from clergy responsibilities.  The Lilly Foundation makes it possible to convince skeptical congregations.

My identity for the past 33 years has been as a Pastor.  I was “Pastor Jan” for 27 years as a congregational minister. And my ministry has continued in Mid-Council work for the past six years.  Church World is my life and my focus. It’s hard for me to read a novel or magazine article, or to listen to a podcast without having a sermon idea pop into my head.  While this might sound annoying, it’s actually an interesting intellectual exercise.  I outline sermons in my head all the time that will never be preached.

Church World can also become an obsession and an idol.  Who am I when I’m not a Pastor?  Sometimes it’s hard to say.

I was a Pastor before I was a spouse or a mother or a blogger. I wonder what it’s like for my retired colleagues who are no longer anyone’s pastor after 40+ years in professional ministry.  My hope is that they have a strong identity in something new that stirs their deepest joy.  Bee-keeping. Dancing. Weaving. Golfing. Poetry Writing.

Here’s a real question to those of you who are in active professional ministry today as a parish Pastor or a Chaplain or a Seminary Professor/Administrator:  Who are you when you are not a Pastor?

As for me, I am a baker, an (unenthusiastic) gardener, an explorer, a traveler, an art lover, and a friend. What about you?

Image of me and TBC on my 2009 Sabbatical in Petra.

 

My Top 10 Suggestions for Being Human

As I write this, there are 60 wildfires in the Western United States, 185 mph winds in the Carribean, and thousands flooded out in Houston.

I love the Good News Stories that come from tragedy but there seem to be many more ugly stories of injustice (Michael Bennett is arrested for being black in Las Vegas), greed (John C. Martin becomes a billionaire by charging $1000/pill for the Hep C drug Sovaldi in 2014) and cruelty (the repeal of DACA.) Sometimes I wonder why God hasn’t lost all patience.

It’s bad theology to say that Hurricane Irma is punishment for the specific sins of Antiguans or Puerto Ricans or Floridians.  God doesn’t work like that. Remember that time Jesus said:

“… he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.” Matthew 5:45

My wonderment over why God doesn’t just zap us and be done with it ends quickly when I realize that we have been given an unprecedented opportunity not to be @&&*#!^s in these difficult days.

Here are my Top 10 suggestions for being human while so many of our neighbors are starving, drowning, burning, bleeding to death, or taking their own lives in utter despair:

  1. Take time to notice that not everybody’s lives are going as well as our own.  Be attuned to those sitting at the next desk/seat on the train/table.
  2. Be late for that next meeting if it means helping a stranger in trouble.  I love this story about the bus driver – risking his own job – who ensured a little girl wouldn’t be late for her first day of school.
  3. Be kind.  Let the next driver through.  Say thank you to the cashier.
  4. Send money to help victims of natural disasters.  I like this one.  Pick one you like.
  5. Don’t believe everything people say about other people. When you hear rumors (this is especially for you, Church People) ask questions.  Challenge gossip.
  6. Expect the best of people.  Maybe that person is distracted not because she is ditzy but because she just found out her mother is sick.  Maybe he’s struggling at work not because he’s incompetent at his job but because he’s worried about his son’s addiction.
  7. Do not make assumptions based on age, skin color, accent, gender, educational level, or dress. Come on, people!
  8.  Stop for a few moments every couple of hours and breathe deeply.  The world doesn’t spin on our axis.
  9. Thank God (or whatever you believe in) that you and your loved ones are alive.  Some of us know that life can end in an instant.
  10. Consider at least one piece of art every single day.  It might be a flower.  It might be a goldfish.  It might be a public sculpture in your town.  It might be your beloved’s face.  Stare at it and suck in that beauty.

Please be a human being today.  It’s why we exist.
Image of Mattress Mack McIngvale, owner of Gallery Furniture in Houston. He used his showrooms to shelter victims of Hurricane Harvey in the past weeks and after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

What If You Learned Your Grandpa Was in the KKK?

As far as I know, no one in my family was ever a member of the KKK. (Extended Family:  If you know differently, please let me know.)  What is true is that my ancestors owned at least one slave.  My ancestors were not wealthy people but they kept at least one human being as a piece of property that was actually passed from one generation to another according to the last will and testament of someone in my family tree.

I wish this was not true but it is.  And if I dug deeper, I would surely find even more difficult information about my family because we tend to keep difficult information secret.  We are brag about the war heroes and the achievers.  We hide the cowards and the rounders.

You know that moment when something you always believed to be true turns out not to be true?

  • M & Ms actually do melt in your hands.
  • President Washington never wore wooden dentures.
  • Slave owners did not treat their slaves like family.

Clearly, one of these things is more serious than the others.  It’s time to consider serious things in our country.

In these days when people who look like me publicly chant “Jews will not replace us” with tiki torches and other people who look like me say that Black Lives Matter is a terrrorist organization, I am committing time and money to educate myself on the history of African Americans in this country.  Education must lead to action, or else it’s merely a selfish endeavor.

What I am learning is difficult.  What I have believed to be true about our country (“If you work hard, you can be successful in America.”  “All people are created equal.”) is not necessarily true, especially if your skin is not the color of my skin.

After reading everything I could get my hands on about Emmett Till and the Underground Railroad and slavery in my home state of North Carolina, I spent Friday morning at the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC and then I spent Sunday morning at the Whitney Plantation in Wallace, LA.  Both visits changed my life for good.

You may have heard about the NMAAHC which is about to celebrate it’s first anniversary.  But the Whitney Plantation (no relation to the New York Whitneys) is the only plantation in the United States devoted wholly to the life of the enslaved people who lived and died there.  My little tour group included a couple from London, a couple from Denmark, and a couple from India.  It’s curious that international travelers would venture to this out-of-the-way spot in rural Louisiana while only a single American made the trip.  I’m assuming this was an anomaly for our particular tour group.

Here’s the thing:  Slavery was evil not only because we (White People) perpetuated a system that dehumanized God’s children.  But it’s was also evil because myths continue to this day that continue to dehumanize people. The images from the Whitney Plantation’s memorials tell the true story of life as an enslaved person.  If we open our eyes today to the inequalities between “white neighborhoods” and “black neighborhoods” in certain cities or the stats on incarcerated African Americans compared to census data of African Americans, we cannot help but be mortified and ashamed – especially if we call ourselves people who take God’s commandments seriously.

I know that it’s easier to share fun family photos and lighthearted feel-good stories, but we are at a crucial time in our nation’s history.  We see examples of people helping their neighbors in Houston and it feels good, doesn’t it?  But there are everyday moments when we are called to notice those hampered by systemic injustice all around us.

Everyday’s a school day,” my friend AAM says.  Sometimes we learn difficult but true things.  And as another friend said long ago, “The truth will set us free.

 

Images from The Whitney Plantation in Wallace, Louisiana.  The sculptures are by Woodrow Nash.

 

A Call Gone Wrong

There’s the kind of discernment that matches a pastor with a position that is so clearly right.  Spiritual Leader and Spiritually Led grapple and thrive together with mutual respect and support.  Stuff gets done.  Positive impact is obvious.  Conflict brings growth.  Jesus dances.

And then there is the kind of discernment that matches a pastor with a position that is all wrong. Maybe it looked right. Maybe it even felt right – at least for a while. But the Spiritual Leader and the Spiritually Led struggled with power issues, reality issues, and personality issues.  People got hurt. Negativity flourished.  Conflict was never resolved.  Jesus wept.

Yesterday’s post was about discerning our call to ministry. Today’s – at the suggestion of a smart person I admire – is about why some calls go terribly wrong.

Is it like a rushed marriage?  (I thought he was so fun but then I realized he was addicted to fun.)  Does it happen when we ignore red flags?  (It was a little weird that she was always borrowing money from me, but I thought she was just carefree.)  BSE always used to say:  It’s better to be alone than to wish you were.  The same is true for churches and other institutional ministries:  It’s better to have no pastor/no call than to wish you didn’t.

Here are some common mistakes in the Calls-Gone-Wrong department:

  • Committees lie to Pastoral Candidates.  Maybe First Presbyterian Church on the Hill doesn’t even have the money for a full-time pastor but they want one so badly that they just call a pastor anyway, only to have to admit a couple months down the road that they can’t make payroll.  Maybe the Pastor Search Committee really doesn’t want someone to come in and “bring change” but it sounded good on their position description.  Maybe the church’s understanding of themselves is aspirational rather than realistic.(“We love diversity!“) Maybe there are actually 50 people in worship on an average Sunday morning when their paperwork says that their average attendance is 150.
  • Pastors lie to themselves.  Maybe Pastor Naomi liked the idea of being the Head of Staff of a large church and it sure would make her parents proud, but actually – in her heart – she knows she’s happier in a small or medium sized congregation.  Maybe Pastor Ezekiel is so anxious to be ordained that he tells a search committee that he loves youth work when actually he does not.
  • Committees are more interested in pleasing their congregations than pleasing God.  They tell an impatient congregation that they “are sure they will be calling the new pastor by Easter.”  God laughs at this pronouncement.
  • Congregations had unresolved guilt/sorrow/anger that nobody addressed after the last pastor left.  New pastor didn’t have a chance. Maybe the Interim Pastor didn’t do her job, or there was no transition at all.
  • Pastor has unresolved guilt/sorrow/anger that wasn’t addressed before taking a new call.  The church didn’t have a chance.  The pastor forgot that Church is for broken people and therapy is our friend.
  • Everybody forgot to ask God what kind of person God was calling to lead them.  God wanted someone creative and different from anything they’ve ever had before.  The church called the proverbial Guy-With-A-Tie who has no idea how to be a 21st Century spiritual leader.  God led them to call a Woman of Color or a Gay Man or an Immigrant Pastor. But they were afraid what people might think.  
  • Somebody made this call about something other than mission and ministry.  Examples: Pastor A seeks call near the coast because he wants to retire there. Pastor B seeks call near his grandchildren. Pastor C seeks call in the church that comes with a palatial manse. Note: sometimes we are indeed called to places with convenient personal benefits. But not always. Call is first and foremost about God.
  • Somebody was desperate.  No explanation needed.

A time comes in even the best calls when moving on is necessary and good. But that moment when a church or a pastor realizes that This Match was a Big Mistake makes people and organizations splinter in pain.  We can avoid this.

This post is dedicated to all Pastoral Search Committees and to all those seeking new calls to professional ministry.  

Are You There, God? It’s Me, Jan

Ah, discernment.  It doesn’t happen (at least to me) via Owl Post or a Josephian dream.  Usually it’s a gut feeling:  I read a position description and one of the following things happens:

  • I have a viscerally negative reaction. (That’s a Big No.)
  • I am intrigued but not convinced it’s a remotely good match. (That’s a Maybe.)
  • I immediately start fantacizing about what I would do first.  (That’s a Yes but it could also turn out to be a quick flame out.)

I remember the following sensations when discerning previous calls to professional ministry:

  • First Call – I loved the interview and during the tour of the manse, I pictured where I’d put the Christmas Tree.  That seemed to be a sign and it led to a wonderful first call experience.
  • Second Call – When HH and I prayed in the church parking lot before and after the interview, such calm came over me that it felt right.  Some of the interview questions had been a little odd (“Would I change my name?”) but I sensed a healthy challenge.
  • Third Call:  Although it felt alarming even to apply for a position that – just months earlier – would have made me want to throw up a little in my mouth, it turned out to be a wonderful ministry.
  • Fourth Call:  X marks the spot.  I am pondering what’s next along with scores of my colleagues.

How do you discern calls from God?  It’s a question that others have tried to answer or help us all answer.  Reading the Psalms helps too.

Is discerning a call another example of privilege?  People with the most pressing financial needs cannot wait for a gut feeling.

Does God call us to something particular (this exact position in that exact state)? Or does God call us towards a general path?

I love this process but it’s also unnerving.  The unknown is not my favorite place to be, but learning to sit with God and breathe is an excellent spiritual tool.

Image source here.

If You Want to Change the World . . .

Is there anything you can imagine standing up for in public? Anything you would march for or protest against in public?

Would you march for food for hungry children?  Better schools for your own neighborhood?  Better schools for somebody else’s neighborhood? New equipment for local fire fighters?

I hope so.

Some of us have seen protesters and marchers on television, but we haven’t participated ourselves.  Others of us have participated in countless events.

Yesterday about 3000 clergy from a variety of faiths and traditions marched in Our Nation’s Capital from the Martin Luther King Jr Memorial to the Department of Justice for holy justice in terms of health care, voting rights, affordable housing and an array of other issues.  It was the 54th anniversary of Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” address on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

Marching can be fun.  You see old friends and make new friends.  Protests inspire the participants with extraordinary speeches and music.  But then  – too often – the marchers go home and nothing changes.

This sadly reminds me of Church.  In Church, we gather for Bible studies and book studies and discussion groups.  We listen to sermons and we participate in stirring liturgy.  And then we go home smarter and better informed, but nothing really changes.

This might just be a sin.

The reason for revving people up, for expanding our knowledge and broadening our perspective is to equip the saints for ministry.  If no fruits come from our gathering, we have wasted our time.

My hope for the post-Ministers March for Justice participants yesterday is that we will go home to write our members of Congress, to connect with an organization that offers hands-on work on specific justice issues, to share information with others, to make a concrete difference that impacts someone’s life.

It’s not enough to march.  It’s a start, but we are called to invest our inspiration and knowledge in something that transforms the world for good.  Some of us do this in the name of Jesus Christ.

Photo by the Rev. Alice Rose Tewell from yesterday’s Ministers March for Justice.