I met yesterday with clergy of many stripes.
We were Lutheran and Church of Christ and United Methodist and Presbyterian clergy from Richfield and Bloomington who responded to an invitation. The invitation was this: how might we come to know each other and our shared call to prophetic ministry?
What is prophetic ministry? It is ministry grounded in scripture; ministry that challenges us to consider that a constant strand running through scripture is the insistence the Holy lays before us that we are to bind the wounds of all. The prophets sounded call to those who had wandered from the less-than-easy. They reminded God’s people that without acts of mercy and justice communion with the Holy is not. In particular, people of God are to tend to the needs of the most vulnerable. If they are not cared for, the ways of God are not being lived. Jesus sounded the voice of the prophet throughout his ministry. His was not a message of behave-nicely-boys-and-girls-and-you’ll-eat-bon-bons-in heaven. His was a message of creating the kindom of God NOW, here, wherever it is you find yourself.
And we who were gathered? We are needful of support and a sense that preaching prophetically won’t get us fired.
The men and women in the room yesterday are people of great heart who entered the vocational fray that is parish ministry because they were moved by hope. We who gathered yesterday share a contextual reality. In the sixties, our churches were busting out with young families and the buzz of being suburban dream land.
Now, fifty some year later, we are living in inner-ring suburban churches seeking new ways to be in relevant ministry. Our parishioners, many of whom were part of the glory-days church boom are aging, our membership often change-resistant even as the world morphs outside the church walls, and our voices isolated and more prone to soothing than challenging.
What if, we asked ourselves. What if we talked and learned and listened and discerned where the common woundings are in our communities? What if we gathered with other people of faith from our ‘hood and strategized ways to respond? What if we linked the hearts held in common by the Christ and joined hands to better our communities?
What if we aren’t alone, trying to appease pew folk who do what any of us who are frightened do: clamp down hard on what is and fiercely defend it? What if we dared to trust God enough to step into relationship with each other and the communities God has called us to serve?