Posts Tagged pastor

Welcoming the stranger = Amy Butler

By Amy Butler

It’s a pretty commonly accepted biblical mandate that we welcome the stranger. As we’ve witnessed in the news of late, in our better moments we people of faith can manage to cross wide valleys of opinion to agree on that sentiment. It occurred to me recently, however, that we make these determinations around occasional issues, and most frequently from the position of establishment — we’re rarely the strangers. We can be good about quoting Scripture, but I wonder if a change of perspective would make us even more vigilant about radical welcome.

What does it feel like to be a stranger? After my first week in a brand new city, I began to remember what, honestly, has not been a common experience for me. And, while acknowledging that my experience of being a stranger has very little desperation associated with it, this brush with being new has reminded me just a bit of what it might feel like to really be a stranger in a strange land.

The first thing I experienced in force was anonymity. While navigating the world with no recognition from the folks around you can be freeing, there’s also something a bit unmooring about it. When nobody trains their eyes on you with recognition, it’s easy to feel a bit adrift. The freedom to fly beneath the radar comes at the price of irrelevance. And I remembered: we all need to be recognized, to fill a role in the lives of those around us.

Being a stranger also comes with a strong discomfort. Nothing feels quite normal; everything is brand new. As soon as the excitement of the brand new passes, however, a nostalgia for the familiar rises to the surface. It’s not that the familiar was especially better but the territory was navigable. As feeling uncomfortable has been a constant companion in these days, I remembered: we all long for familiarity and comfort.

And this experience of constant newness brings to mind the built-in sense of incompetence that comes with being a stranger. Need to get across town? Milk for your cereal? A doctor? These are all puzzles of varying degrees, at first presenting a challenge but shortly growing tedious. As these experiences fill each day, the constant feeling of incompetence humbles, then wears down the spirit. Reminder: competence and value go hand in hand in our society; it’s discouraging to live with a steep learning curve.

With the incompetence of newness, the stranger finds himself in constant need of help. Asking for help isn’t always the most comfortable exercise, and living life as a constant receiver can be frustrating. To learn the art of accepting help can be a challenge for those of us who are accustomed to being on the other end of the equation.

I’ve noticed and tried to mark something especially valuable in the experience of the stranger. Strangers see the world around them with new eyes. In that little window of time before anonymity becomes familiarity, discomfort relaxes into ease, incompetence develops skill, constant receipt gives way to opportunities for generous welcome to others, the stranger can see her world with a clarity familiarity does not afford.

And that gift of new eyes may be worth the pain of newness. Once everything starts to feel a little more normal and I’m the one giving out advice on subway routes, I hope I can remember what I saw when I was the stranger. With that memory, perhaps a stranger’s perspective can more powerfully inform the way I navigate my comfortable world.

And welcoming the stranger might become, not an issue-specific anomaly, but rather a regular Christian practice.

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Eighth Annual Say Something Nice Sunday – June 1

The Eighth Annual Say Something Nice Sunday is June 01, 2014. It is a day to celebrate the people who bring joy to our lives. The goal is to turn down the harsh rhetoric and to replace it with speech that is affirming, uplifting and more Christ-like. The movement started at First Baptist Church of Charleston, the oldest Baptist congregation in the South, and has spread to most denominations including the Catholic Diocese of Charleston. This year the Baptist World Alliance will help promote the celebration.

The steering committee is presenting two civility challenges. These are voluntary and self-monitoring. Civility Challenge One: I pledge that during the next 30 days I will refrain from saying anything ugly, demeaning or derogatory to anyone in my workplace and/or daily activities. If I need to offer correction, I will do it in a respectful manner. I will keep a record for each day that notes whether or not I kept the pledge and any reactions directly related to the exercise. Civility Challenge Two: For the next 30 days I will say something nice, uplifting or encouraging to at least one person every day. I understand that comments that involve physical appearance are off limits for this exercise. I will keep a record for each day that notes whether or not I kept the pledge and of any specific reactions directed related to the exercise. Cardinal Dolan of New York said, “How wonderful it would be if all churches and their members decided to say something positive about other Christians and Christian groups at least one Sunday per year in recognition of our common belief in Christ.”

Pastor Jan Culpepper, pastor of Park Circle Presbyterian Church, North Charleston, SC, added, “Let’s make this more than a celebration for a day. Let’s make it a way of life.” There is nothing to buy or join. Free materials are available at www.fbcharleston.org. Click on Messages/Resources at the top of the home page and then click Say Something Nice Sunday on the right side of the page. Others are encouraged to develop and share their own materials. In 2014, Say Something Nice Sunday and Say Something Nice Day fall on the same day.

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Government shutdown comes to church – Amy Butler – ABPNews

THURSDAY, OCTOBER 3, 2013TALK WITH THE PREACHER

You may have heard: we’re having a little national crisis right now.

By Amy Butler

Little did I know last year when I planned this month’s sermon series on the cost of prophecy — the story of Jeremiah — that we’d be living at such an intersection of despair and hope.

But such is the case in my town, where a national government shutdown translates to individual, personal panic for many in our city and our country. And we, the church, stand squarely at the crossroads of the two.

So I’ve been pondering anew this week: how do people of faith speak truth to power and simultaneously proclaim hope in the middle of personal pain?

While I’ve been trying to channel the prophet Jeremiah, pundits are making varying statements downplaying the government shutdown. Some say it’s really no big deal at all. I mean, the worst thing that happens is some museums close and you can’t get in to visit a national park, right?

I’m not a politico, so I’ll leave politics and economics to the people who know about those things. But I know about pastor things, and here’s what I see.

There are a lot of people in my town who have to pay their bills, just like you and me. They are gifted, committed and hardworking federal employees who support the incredible infrastructure of our government and help make our society one of most advanced in the world.

They’ve already seen salaries frozen and gone through furlough days over these past few months. On Monday at midnight, their jobs stopped, and so did their paychecks. They don’t know what’s coming next.

At Calvary, I’d guess at least 75 percent of our families are directly affected by the government shutdown. My inbox and voicemail this week are filled with messages from people who are scared about what’s ahead.

I’d send the federal government a bill for out-of-the-ordinary pastoral care services required by this situation, but I’m pretty sure whatever office I’d bill has been shut down.

Beyond federal employees, recipients of government assistance are now being denied food and other critical services.

That means, for example, that over 9 million poor women and their children in this country have stopped receiving nutritional support services and healthy food through the WIC program, among other things.

And this is but one small example of critical services stopped with the grinding halt of the federal government because of the disagreement over the Affordable Health Care Act.

Basically, Congress has decided to deny people food so that they can then deny them health care.

Jesus didn’t say much about federal budgets and debt ceilings, but he had a lot to say about denying food to the hungry. (See Luke 16, most of the rest of the Gospel of Luke, Matthew 25 and, well, basically all the Gospels.)

Some suggest that churches can pick up the slack while the government sorts itself out. I don’t know about your church budget, but our fellowship fund is a bit short of the $7 billion dollars it takes to fund the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children.

As each day of government shutdown passes, the needs of the most vulnerable and precious in our society get more and more urgent, and churches don’t have the infrastructure and cash reserves to meet those needs on a wide scale.

Still, as people of faith, step up we will. We will love, encourage and support each other. We will pool our resources to help as much as we can. We will ask those who have more to help those who have less.

We’ll continue to find ways to be God’s hands and feet in a world where the weak and vulnerable suffer at the hands of the rich and powerful. We’ll keep raising our voices and speaking truth to power.

In short, the church will do its job. Wouldn’t it be nice if Congress did the same?

OPINIONViews expressed in ABPnews columns and commentaries are solely those of the authors.

Tagged under: Leadership Politics Obamacare

Amy Butler

 

Amy Butler is senior pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Washington. She blogs at Talk With the Preacher. Her “Talk With The Preacher” column appears biweekly at ABPnews.com.

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Thankful Thursday – The Rev. Phillip Bryant

            On this Thankful Thursday, I am thankful for the gifts The Rev. Phil Bryant brings to my life. I first met Phil years ago through Tita and Charlie Heins. They thought that he hung the moon and I felt the same way about them. Phil is the senior pastor of the French Protestant Huguenot Church in Charleston. He is a graduate of Charleston Southern University when it was still the Baptist College. He is a native of Lyman, South Carolina and is an ordained Baptist minister. He gives much of the credit for his success to the encouragement he received from the late Dr. John A. Hamrick. Phil is a member of the Hamrick Lectureship Committee and one of the Lunch Bunch that meets on Mondays. He knows practically everyone and is a fantastic story teller. He has a creative mind that absorbs the meaning of every encounter. He is a genius at putting the right people together. He and Margaret were married several years after the death of his first wife from cancer. Before accepting his current position, he was a member of the staff at CSU. Phil is an ardent reader and a fantastic conversationalist. He is a great encourager. Phil Bryant brings so many gifts to my life and on this Thankful Thursday I want him to know how grateful I am.

            Thankful Thursday is a day set aside to recognize the importance of someone to our lives and to let her or him know of our gratitude. Develop an attitude of gratitude. Say Something Nice; Be a Lifter. You will be glad that you did.

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