Tomorrow morning I’m heading out to the Ohio-Meadville District Assembly where I’ll be speaking on Mission to a crowd of Unitarian Universalists. This should be a good time to present an important Vision for what the liberal church can be and where it can go. But right now I’m a little freaked out.
I’m fine with the public speaking part. As a preacher I always experienced some amount of fear every time I get up in front of folks. But I’ve learned to feel this kind of fear as an important dynamic because it simply means I care. And when I say I care what I mean is that I care about the people with to whom I’m preaching. In fact it is compassion for the “who” that has driven my calling and shaped my ministry, including how I preach and what I preach about. The “who” was the reason I risked starting Micah’s Porch in the first place, and the source of sorrow when I left.
I think part of my anxiety is simply the fact that I’m no longer clear about who the “who” is. On the one hand the who for my my message are the listeners who will be gathered at the keynote event. When it comes to the theme of mission there is going to be a wide spectrum of folks present. Perhaps I’m freaked out that I am sure that I will offend some folks and perhaps scare others. I remember getting that reaction when I started Micah’s Porch, which was a missional expression of Unitarian Universalism. I suppose I also remember the enormous amount of rejection I received from my denomination during that time, including some of my fellow clergy telling me to my face that they hoped I failed.
So yeah, I suppose I’m having some flashbacks and its freaking me out.
Yet, I also know that the “who” includes folks there who are experiencing what I think of as a holy restlessness. There is an emerging movement of leaders who are working, hoping, praying, learning and striving to move our faith into the 21st century before we hit the 22nd. These are folks who are asking the question that there must be more to our religious life than is currently being expressed. These are folks who may be frustrated with the way things are and have an emerging vision of a faith that is rising to the challenge of our times. They may be folks that have been around forever and some may be brand new. My hope and prayer is that something I say might give them an insight or encouragement to move faithfully forward. For them I feel called to give what support I can, to assure them they’re not crazy, and offer what painfully won wisdom I can.
But ultimately I know that the “who” that I want to speak for are those who are not there. This is the “who” that our congregations have not been reaching. These are the folks outside the traditional demographic niche that fills our churches. These are the folks who are disconnected and excluded from our current way of doing liberal religion. These are the wondering, the lost, the broken, the hopeful, and the seeking. These are the populations who are beyond our walls. These are the people for whom we need to break down our walls and replace them with bridges. These are the people who I have long felt a burden to reach and connect to this progressive covenant we call Unitarian Universalism.
Maybe I’m freaked out because when I get out there to speak this weekend there will not be just one “who” but many (and that’s a lot of responsibility.)
My prayer is, like always, for a whole lot of grace. In this case grace for myself, for the people who will be present, and maybe most of all, for those who are missing.
You’re prayers are graciously accepted too.
Peace and grace,