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Category: #blacklivesmatter

“I’ll Keep Getting Stronger”

I know some of you were left nursing reopened wounds in light of the presidential results and the discussions and rhetoric that has followed. I certainly was knocked off balance, but sometimes you’re watching your one-year old dance to a Sesame Street song and you recommit yourself to the work of reconciliation that you have been called to do.

“I’m never going to give up…I’ll keep getting stronger.”

Parenting in the Midst of Crisis

As I watch the news and await the impact of Hurricane Matthew on South Carolina, I think back to the parents who were in the Victorian Lakes Mobile Home Community during the flood last year and the stories they told about the police coming and knocking on their door telling them to pack a bag and be ready to go. I remember them telling me with tears in the eyes of the weeks and months that followed of bedtimes filled with fear and anxiety. I remember their telling me about their children looking into their eyes and asking, “Are we going to be ok? Are we going to have to leave?”

I remember that we were supposed to have the girls on that weekend and that we, as parents, decided together that it was a better idea if they stayed with their mom. I remember the disappointment and questioning that followed that decision on Saturday as there was no rain, and then the relief on Sunday knowing they were safe. I remember wondering how much we were going to tell them about what had happened to families here and whether we would show them the houses and businesses that were destroyed.

The same question I was asking then, rolls around in my heart and mind as I hear about another school shooting, this time resulting in a child dying or potential flooding, “How do I parent in the midst of crisis? How much do I tell my children about what’s going on in a manner that facilitates understanding and empathy, but not fear?”

I don’t have the answers to these questions nor would I beg to offer the answers to these questions to any other parent, but what I do have is a community of other parents who are wrestling with how to parent in the midst of crisis in a way that fosters wholeness and compassion and love.

Thanks be to God for community and conversation as we walk this road together.

Searching for Light

I can’t help but wonder if perhaps Ben understands better than I do. When we pull aside the curtain of privilege and systematic discrimination, surely we will find the light. Light that offers challenging self-examination, light that offers hope, and light that offers healing, but not until we admit that we have been hiding behind curtains.

Found the light!

A video posted by Merianna Harrelson (@mneely5) on

Do I Call You Reverend?

Yesterday at ministrieslab, we were able to partner with the weekly feeding ministry called Crossroads at First Baptist Asheville. We were invited to lead a time of devotion and to extend an invitation to partake in communion. After the devotion, as I was walking to the communion table a man stopped me, “Reverend? Do I call you Reverend?”

“Sure, you can or pastor or Merianna, whichever works for you.”

“It’s just I’ve never met a woman pastor or reverend.”

“I get that a lot,” I said with a smile.

“I’d like to take communion.”

“Great, I’m just heading that way. Would you like to walk with me?”

“No, I mean I’d like to take communion, but I’ve never been allowed to.”

“At ministrieslab, the table is open to anyone who would like to partake.”

“No, what I mean is that the churches I’ve been to have told me I wasn’t good enough to take communion.”

Finally, I stopped and listened to his story. Finally, I heard what he was saying.

In his 63 years of life, he had been an outsider. He had been to many churches and had been raised in church, but more often than not, he found himself in situation after situation where he was not welcomed, but ostracized because of the color of his skin, because of his life’s story, because he was different.

And after I had listened, we walked to the table. He broke off a piece of bread as I said, “This is the body of Christ broken for you,” and then he dipped the broken bread into the cup as I said, “This is the blood of Christ given for you.” He took the bread and a huge smile filled his face.

His first communion at 63.

This is hope. This is healing. This is love.

This is ministrieslab.

 

On Pastoring a Church in Which I Am the Minority

For eight weeks, Sam and I have been co-pastoring ministrieslab,a church popping up in the midst of need. This week, as we gathered for our weekly service at Transitions, I was struck by the overwhelming task of preaching on the Good Samaritan as a white woman in community of faith in which I am a minority.

What could I say?

I had no words for the violence experienced. I had no words for the systematic discrimination exposed. I had no words for the lives lost. I had no words for the way we were all able to be witnesses these deaths through technology over and over again. I had no words for the way I had been challenged and reminded of my own white privilege throughout the week.

And in the midst of being tongue-tied, a question came from one of the people in our community. He asked me about my journey into the ministry. I told him about not being accepted or affirmed because of my gender. He was shocked as were some of the other people gathered that there were churches who did not believe women could preach.

And as we worshipped and prayed and mourned and feasted on the word, I was reminded of my call to pastor. I was reminded of my call to preach. I was reminded that when we don’t listen to the still, small voice that calls us to take up our cross and follow after Christ, then we end up walking on the other side o f the road when people are in need. I was reminded that when we truly see each other, then we bear each others burdens: burdens of despair, of grief, or hopelessness.

As we concluded the service, the same man who had asked me about how I became a pastor said while looking me straight in the eyes, “Thank you for coming and blessing us today.”

“Thank you for coming and worshipping today,” I responded.

But what I wanted to say was, “Thank you for seeing my need. Thank you for seeing my wounds of rejection and being excluded and tending to them. Thank you for reminding me of what it means to be a good neighbor regardless of our race, our gender, or our religious beliefs.”

Spiritual Abuse and Alton Sterling and Philando Castile

Two men were killed by police authorities this week. Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. If you are like me, you want to know how and why this happened because you can’t sit in the truth that this is the way the world is and this is the way the world will be because #blacklivesmatter.

In the case of Philando Castile, the name of the officer involved has not been released.In the case of Alton Sterling, the names of the police officers involved in the fatal shooting have been released. Information has been released about Howie Lake II. He was put on leave in 2014 for his involvement in another shooting while on duty. He also won the “life saving” award in 2015.

And if you continue to dig, then you can find out that he went to a private, Christian high school called Parkview Baptist High School in Baton Rouge. A school that upholds the “Old and New Testament verbally-inspired by God and inerrant in the original writings.”  A school whose students are “committed to a biblical worldview and Christian values.”

The intermingling of church and state has serious ramifications in how our society and public institutions operate. When we have police officers outside our churches controlling traffic, protecting people of certain churches, a powerful message is communicated. When we have security guards in some communities of faith and in others, a stranger is welcomed in regardless of skin color, we know something is not right.

If we think religion doesn’t impact politics and government authority in America, we aren’t being merely naive, we are being complacent with communities of faith who teach some are better than others, whether that be in regards to race, gender, or sexuality. This is spiritual abuse.

Churches must have the difficult conversations that challenge privilege and instead loving our neighbors as ourselves. Churches must have the difficult conversation about welcoming all people in radical hospitality regardless of race, gender, or sexuality.

Churches must not be the place we were go to feel safe, but where we go to find Jesus. And we will only find Jesus in our churches if our churches include the people Jesus fellowshipped with, not the religious authorities, not the government authorities, but the ones oppressed, excluded, and yes even killed by those authorities.