Well, the dust has (mostly) settled from Jesse Jackson's visit to the city of Lima. Those who feared that with him would also come violence and anger misplaced their fear. Outside of the controversial statement he made that the officer involved in the shooting of the young woman who died needed to be "indicted" immediately (which is a bit premature as the state investigative agency looking into the matter has not yet released their report on what actually happened) little else has changed on the other side of Jackson's visit. The city still awaits the state's findings, and people keep wondering what will happen next.
I have been to a lot meetings this past couple of weeks. Meetings over breakfast. Meetings over lunch. Meetings over dinner. Lots and lots of meetings. Mostly these have been gatherings where words are spoken very carefully and all involved are looking for common ground.
But the divisions between us pastors are still very real. The possibility of violence in the City of Lima has brought us together for conversation, but there are still issues which we don't even want to think about, let alone address. We are still separated on issues like the sacraments, women in ministry, theology, biblical interpretation, and worship style. Normally these are more than enough to keep us from being in continued conversation with one another. Of course we find out just how important these things really are in a situation like the one we find ourselves in now. Fighting over whether people need to be sprinkled or dunked, or whether they need to be members or not to be eligible to take communion, pale in the shadow of dead mother, a wounded baby, a grieving family, and an angry community. We're not so quick to ask about the nature of church leadership and the role women should play in it when the drug war, social class divisions, education, and the local economy come together in one terrible moment where our collective malaise over the status quo is called into question.
But make no bones about it.... eventually, we are likely to allow ourselves, as clergy, to drift into our own independent orbits once the passion around this issue is spent, and the media goes on to something else. Then, the old animosities over literal interpretation of the Bible and prosperity gospel preaching will unearth the gulfs that exist between us...
that is, unless, you, the ordinary everyday Christian, hold us accountable to seeking the Kingdom, as opposed to seeking our own kingdom.
Do us all a favor, and if you are reading this and you attend a church, demand from your pastor the opportunity opportunities to meet with people from other churches. Demand from your pastor opportunities to do real ministry in the community with other conscientious people who care about the present reality, as well as the future of people who will be living here long after we are gone. Worry less about what we say on Sunday morning, and more about how its being put into practice the other six days in a week. Let those in neighborhoods who want to see postive change, but fear reprisals for taking action from elements in the community that have no conscience, that you stand with them. If you believe that local law enforcement really do have the best interests of the community at heart (as I do), tell your pastor to help find ways that you (and others like you) can be in community with those who do not so that opportunities might arise for trust to begin to grow.
Hold our feet to the fire. Don't let up on us a second. Force us to look past our own narrow theological and institutional fences so that we might truly love our neighbor. Shatter our feet of clay which have been fired by issues of inconsequential importance in a kiln of institutionalism. Remind us that we are leaders... and leaders need to lead.
Otherwise, nothing in the Christian community will ever change.