I had a great trip and am so glad to be home. Emily is settled and back in class. My two-day retreat in the Georgia mountains was both restful and productive. The New Baptist Covenant Summit in Atlanta was an amazing experience of worship, conversation, and deep focus on the calling upon pastors like me and church people like you to do the justice work necessary for racial reconciliation in our time. Economic and wealth inequality was my learning point, and while I’ve much more to learn I am already realizing it is the linchpin of most every other issue of human injustice – race, gender, immigration, everything.
I capped my week by attending worship at 2nd Baptist Church here in Bloomington. It turned out to be a special week for them, as they were celebrating the 13th anniversary of their pastor’s tenure. The worship service lasted exactly two hours and I loved every minute. Their deacons have the first 15 minutes with scripture, music, and prayer. The pastor comes in with his wife followed by the choir who sing and dance their way in, slowly, sort of like the Temptations. All their choir music is memorized. Their ushers are more like waiters, watching to see who needs a tissue or a fan. Children and babies do not color or play. They sit quietly for two hours. What we call “Announcements,” they call “Noteworthy News.” I loved that at their family time prayer they all hold hands. It seemed so much more familial, and I felt so included when someone took my hand too.
Since they have visitors “stand and introduce yourself and tell us what brings you to 2nd Baptist today” and since I’d told about my recent trip to Atlanta and my hope to be part of real racial reconciliation, I didn’t feel free to refuse their enthusiastic invitations to stay for potluck dinner. At dinner I was seated across from a lady in a beautiful hat, with the drummer – a white boy from Murfreesboro, Tennessee – on one side and on the other two retired gentlemen who talked mostly about football, the Indianapolis Colts, and the BHSS Panthers. One of the men has lived in Bloomington for 78 years. The food was amazing, of course. I had wonderful conversations with lots of people. I was severely underdressed (though overdressed for UBC) but nobody but me seemed to notice, and I realized it’s good for me to see church from a visitor’s point of view now and then.
I’ve also received glowing emails from Brother Chris and Elder Wanda about their time at UBC, about your generosity, hospitality, and sweet spirit toward them. Of course I am not at all surprised. You are a most trustworthy flock to leave. That said, I am very glad to be home and among you once more. We’ve much to talk about if we mean to be useful in the work of justice in these days, beginning always with our prayers. You have mine and I pray to have yours too.
~ peace & prayers,