Dear 2014 Chelsey,
Congrats! You’ve done it! Seminary is done, you’ve moved home, found a new job, and everything is exciting and scary and hopeful. You know (from personal experience, books, and other people who have gone on before) that the roller coaster of church planting won’t be easy, but you’re secure in “The Plan” for at least the next five years, as well as the belief that God will accomplish what He means to, no matter what.
I mean…that’s what you say when people ask you about the future, right? It rolls off the tongue much more easily than: Honestly, I’m terrified. What if the whole thing implodes? What if we run out of money? What if, what if, what if…?
I get it. I do. And I’m here to tell you that the next two years will exceed your expectations. I’m here to tell you that there are incredible, faithful people who will surround you with love and support and will become not only the church – they will become your church. It will be a place in which you feel known. You will finally have a place of worship where you actually look forward to being there.
But it will not be easy.
You cognitively know to expect this. But feeling it – these bruises, this loneliness, these disappointments – the actual feeling of it is something you’re not expecting. And how can you? How can anyone? I’m not sure it’s possible, even if you’ve already gone through the emotional ringer in other places. Maybe the hard truth of this is that an “easy” ministry is a deluded one. Sin is tempting and awful and real and Jesus made you a promise, after all: In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.
So before I share anything else with you, let that sink down into your anxious and baptized heart. Jesus has overcome. The saving work – the real work – is done. It is a gift and it is finished.
But there is still work to be done. And again – it’s not easy. So, after you’ve remembered your baptism, start with these:
White people, you have heard it said that you must talk to other white people about racism, and you must. But don’t talk to them about their racism. Talk to them about YOUR racism. Talk to them about how you were socialized to view, talk to, and engage with people of color. Talk to them about the ways you’ve acted on that socialization. Talk to them about the lies you bought into. Talk about the struggles you continue to have in shedding the scales from your eyes. Don’t make it “their” problem. Understand it as your own problem, because it is. To not do this would put you in danger of being yet another well-intentioned racist, convinced of their own goodness and living a life wholly unexamined and unaccountable to anyone. We don’t need any more of those. It’s confession time.
Tawnya Denise Anderson
I remember exactly when and where I was when I first heard the slur ‘n****r.’
I was sitting on my parents’ old blue-and-white gingham couch, watching The Wonder Years. My parents were gone and my sister and I were home with a babysitter. The living room windows were open and as the show’s theme song began, I heard the babysitter say from his spot on the back porch:
“Turn off that damn n****r music.”
I looked at my sister. She stared back at me. After a moment, she grabbed the remote and switched to The Andy Griffith Show.
When my parents returned, I asked my mother about the word. She stopped what she was doing and looked at me in astonishment.
“Where on earth did you hear that?”
I told her. Her face reddened in anger and she pulled me into a hug.
“Don’t ever, ever use that word,” she said. “I’m sorry you heard it.”
I nodded into her shoulder and never did.
For my dear church work family receiving their placements today (and for those who are already in the field).
On our vicarage placement day, I had no idea where we would be moving. Half-formed, excited visions of Colorado and the Pacific Northwest rushed through my mind, while selfish dread at the idea of some nowhere-town in the Dakotas made my stomach twist uncomfortably.
Vicarage is a funny thing. Well, LCMS seminary itself is a funny thing. I had moved to the Midwest (a mythical land of baseball-obsessed Yankees and frozen custard, as it was then known to me, a native Texan) as an unemployed newlywed. After two years of making St. Louis my city (and unexpectedly feeling at home there), it was time for us to move for my husband’s internship.
This internship is only a year, and logically, you know you can put up with pretty much anything for at least that long. It’s a trial run; a chance to experience a different culture; a ministry bike with training wheels. Even so, as the pastor for that placement service preached, I wasn’t expecting to feel so illogically opposed to putting even my temporary fate in the hands of the seminary.
“As seminarians, you’ve all studied the Bible’s teaching on the sheep and goats,” he began, and I thought: Great, an obscure eschatological reference. Tuning out in three, two…
“But I’m here to tell you something different,” he continued, and my ears perked up. “I’m here to tell you about myotonic goats.”