I really am moved and inspired over recent happenings at Roosevelt Community Church. To be frank: I was teetering close to the deep end, considering a haphazard jump. I knew that I was personally struggling with how to handle the election and what to think about racial tensions—but I thought I was alone.
One initiative that Roosevelt has taken is the hosting of a series of dinners to discuss the issues. Dubbed, innocently enough (!), “Fellowship and Prayer Dinners at Pastors’ Homes,” these dinners include about twelve people at a pastor’s home—to talk about the elections and racial tensions. There are, or will be, four dinners.
Tim and I attended the one at Pastor Vermon and Dennae Pierre’s home. We knew about half of the people present. If you were present, don’t worry. I won’t violate anyone’s privacy except for my own. And maybe Tim’s.
I found the dinner cathartic. I’m sure it meant different things to different people. For Tim, for instance, it might’ve been, hmm, eye-opening? (He hates when I put words in his mouth, but . . .) I don’t think he knew that other Church people were quite as riled up or as emotional as I have been. MAY I ADMIT TO EVERYONE READING THAT I WAS THANKFUL—LIKE OH-SO-THANKFUL—FOR A LITTLE VALIDATION. People are troubled! (This is not to say that we share political opinions; rather, that we’re all sharing the need for reconciliation, for justice, for some understanding?)
The title of this piece comes from a Florence and the Machine song. I hope that’s okay. It’s been on my mind. Heavy In Your Ams. Put a little Judeo-Christian spin on it, if you will. The dinner served as a gracious reminder of our place in the Kingdom of God, and of our connection with one another in Whose Arms we reside together. I spoke to Pastor Vermon about writing a little something about the dinner (while feeling like persona non grata—that was my alternative blog post title). He mentioned that it would be good to emphasize the value of table fellowship and the importance for many to have the space (particularly within the Church family) to talk and share with one another.
I’m actually going to repeat that line to let it sink in: it would be good to emphasize the value of table fellowship and the importance for many to have the space (particularly within the Church family) to talk and share with one another.
I think this did me a particular good: I’ve felt pretty disassociated from the people of God, a little renegade-like. An apostate. I think that granting family members space to talk is so important.
(I want to be clear about my own position here: I’m not excusing my own culpability in this election season. I definitely had moments in which I crossed the line and, well, got mean. That said, I think I wasn’t as alone in my fervor or even in my viewpoint as I had imagined. The point is that there is a need, a very real need, for familial gathering and reconciliation. I still struggle quite a bit with what seems to be a tension between Truth and Unity: Should I, as a politically-conscious Christian pursue Truth at the cost of Unity, or should I pursue Unity at the cost of Truth? Even if this is a critical question—and I think it is—we still need those family bonds. And I was grateful for that dinner reminder.)
So we ate together. Pastor Vermon re-read the “Four statements and Four Responses from the RCC Elders” about the election (abridged below, but go here for the full text):
1.Our church has Clinton supporters, our church has Trump supporters, and our church has a bigger range of people who hold all sorts of hybrid positions on the matter.
The elders believe that we should continue to be a church that draws in all people. And even more, to be a church that unites all groups together in the gospel.
We are to be a people who have “sincere love for each other” and who “love one another deeply, from the heart” (1 Peter 1:22).
2. Some might think that the current issues related to race, politics, and other controversial issues should not be talked about within the church. Indeed, that we make things worse by talking about them.
The elders believe that we can and must talk about these issues as a church family.
Clearly, dealing head on with social issues like abortion or sexuality or race will always be risky, especially in a church like ours that seek to reach a diverse range of people. However, we want to be the type of Christians who have an open Bible in one hand, an open newspaper in our other hand, and alongside our neighbors who are different from us.
3. Some might think that we can talk about whatever we want, however we want.
The elders believe that as Christians our words, especially to one another, should be more carefully considered and circumscribed. Our posture and the way we speak to one another matters deeply.
4. Our witness is at stake.
The elders believe the way we fellowship with one another shows the world around us if we are truly disciples of Jesus or not. We do not seek unity with one another simply for the sake of being a closer community. We are a people who have been called to declare the praises of him who called us out of darkness and into his glorious light (1 Peter 2:9).
Then, each of shared! We opened up on two questions. (A) How do you personally feel about the political and racial divisions of our day? (B) What would you like your church family to know about your heart and motives in the midst of this? And we prayed together!
Well, here’s where I could tell you who said what, but I won’t. I will tell you that, according to Tim, my husband of decades, I used to work for the ACLU (this is not true). There were tears. There was anger. There was humility too. I think the different emotions stemmed from a variety of political positions: we didn’t necessarily share viewpoints. I would imagine that the individual dinners in this pastoral series each had their own “flavor” or, dare-I-say it, “bias.” Maybe not.
I didn’t come out of there with my mind changed. I came out, hopefully, a little softer—and I think, maybe, not so inclined to be a defector from my people.