leadboston illumination

In Uncategorized on October 23, 2010 at 2:29 pm

for the past couple of months i have been participating in leadboston, a leadership collaborative that connects emerging nonprofit, private sector and government leaders who are committed to substantial social change. last weekend at our fall retreat we spent an evening discussing how our spirituality effects our understanding and pursuit of social change.

since the room was filled with 35 diverse individuals, i figured that a number of us would discuss how our faith traditions and communities infuse and inform our pursuit of social change. so you can imagine my surprise when only 3 of the 35 people in the room – myself, a reformed Jew and a radical Anglican – indicated that they regularly participate and are a part of a local faith community.

at the end of the discussion the group facilitator – who grew up as a handbell playing Presbyterian in ohio but is now more focused on personal spiritual practice than participation in an identified faith community – surprised me by noting that while personal spiritual practice and devotion to one’s family is nice, he was not convinced that personal practice empowered people to “move mountains.” citing sources as diverse as martin luther king jr. and w.h. auden, the facilitator sent us into small group discussion with the charge to discuss at greater length the connection between our spirituality and collective longing for social change.

by the end of the large and small group discussions i was struck by how different my justice orientation is from my valued colleagues. i live and work beside people – many of whom i adore – who often fail to see or make any connection between the important, often life-giving work they do on a daily basis and a teleological or eschatological vision such as the beloved community described by dr. king or the Kingdom of God announced and initiated by Jesus. the little work that i do is so dependent upon my belief that the Kingdom of God belongs to the poor, the humble shall be exalted and the reconciliation we effect is possible only on account of the reconciliation that has affected us, that i find it challenging to understand how my friends who do not share similar visions cast by Christianity or other traditions continue to persevere and proceed with hope in their good work.

so, there’s that.

i was also struck by how different the context of my life and ministry is from the context created by most evangelical theological discussion. as i partner with people of many diverse faith or non-faith traditions to pursue justice on a daily basis i fail to see how debates over women in ministry or the ontological operation of God’s providence provide any guidance or resources for the collaborative work that i am currently doing. since these intramural discussions are so disconnected from the work that i do on a daily basis, i don’t see much, if any, value in continuing to suit up and play. that is not to say that these discussions have no value or that i am in any way superior to those who are continuing these conversations. i’m just moving towards discussions that seem more relevant to my life and mission. 

right now, i’m plumbing the theological resources provided by the Hebrew prophets and Christians like cornel west, dr. king and taylor branch in order to find guidance and inspiration for my mission. feel free to either suggest other conversation partners that would be helpful. of course, you can also critique my current approach to life and ministry if you feel so led.


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