I just completed my first preaching course during my second year of seminary at CTS where I was surrounded by poets and prophets every single day. From the speakers amid breaks and smiling faces greeting me at the door, to the deepest dedication to growth I’ve ever encountered at a conference… I am truly forever changed. The way my theology has grown, been stretched, expanded, and deepened, is a testament to the first Mixed Methods Preaching Conference and the PhD Program in African American Preaching and Sacred Rhetoric at CTS (Christian Theological Seminary).
There were healthy and respectful disagreements, kind and generous discussions, and an undoubtable Presence making room for all of us to grow alongside each other.
It was an incredibly important experience for me to be one of the minority white folks in the crowd because it gave me a MINUTE glimpse of perspective in what my colleagues face on a daily basis AND gave me an even DEEPER respect for Black theology––and (perhaps especially) Womanist theology. It was a great honor to be entrusted, welcomed, and included in the vitally important studies represented in this space. There was more than enough room for me to listen and a blatantly clear message to heed the call to the truth, love, and justice represented.
There was a power in this space that I have seen nowhere else in Christianity and nowhere else in my theology. I believe that heeding these truths is the way forward in redeeming American Christianity which is now all too frequently lost in white supremacy, political power, and certitude.
I’ve practiced random speeches in my car and the shower for as long as I can remember. And yet, I never ever thought I’d find myself offering a sermon. My very first sermon––this week, was a lot about finding words and finding my voice, and I was lucky enough to be in a room full of love and support. More than that, I was lucky enough to be in a room that reminded me, “Your silences will not protect you” (Audre Lorde) and nor will my silences protect my fellow human or the earth below my feet. The previous day, Womanist theologian Rev. Dr. Teresa Fry Brown told us, “the God that I love does not have a box to put me in,” and went on to share, “all of my writings are about the survival of all people.” Echoing that, I hope, all of my words in speech and writing will forever be about the survival of all people. ALL people.
Thank you is the biggest understatement for this conference, these relationships, and these lessons that will forever change my life and my theology. And no, attending a conference doesn’t complete the work nor even begin to scratch the surface of the work. It does, however, propel the work, create clarity, and offer insights to forming a theology that TRULY and WHOLLY includes ALL people.
“…and when you have a new lens people don’t understand you can see clear”
––Rev. Dr. Teresa Fry Brown
“…This meeting is united in a flame of hope whose temperature has not yet been taken and whose effects have not yet been estimated, because it is a new fire. The reason for the fire cannot be apparent to one who is not warmed by it. The reason for being here will not be found until all have walked together, without afterthought, into contradictions and possibilities.”
––Thomas Merton, Message to Poets (1964)