23 January, 2009

Why I'm a Pastor

It's been slightly historic lately. Others have written/blogged/poem-ed/benedicted more eloquently and more thoughfully about the inauguration of President Obama and what it means historically, culturally, politically and even religiously.

On Inauguration Day, I was in Arkansas with a number of dear friends and was reminded of why it is I'm a pastor. (OK, ultimately, it comes down to feeling called. As Tex Sample says, being called by God is a lot like throwing up - sometimes you can put it off for a while, but eventually you're gonna have to do it.)

Watching said Historical Presidential Inauguration, I noticed the people in the room with me. Many of them are pastors. Many of them are the people who have taught me how to live the roles of pastor and priest. They are people who challenge me to be a prophet.

My friend Bill (who is a badass) has been working for civil rights since before I was born. He shared a story about the one time he saw MLK speak in person at an antiwar protest in Arlington National Cemetery.

My friend Milton (who did not speak Cajun over the weekend - major disappointment) reflected on the time that he helped to lead the first integrated campus ministry meeting in Louisiana. The governor declared that such an abomination would never take place on a state school campus. When the group decided to meet off campus, at a Methodist retreat center, the governor sent state troopers to block the road. An hour-long standoff ended when federal marshals showed up and cleared the way.

My friend Morris (well, he's more of a hugging aquaintance than a friend) listened quietly to our stories and conversations. Someone prompted him to share his connection to the history of the civil rights movement. Morris, it turns out, served in the National Guard. The Arkansas National Guard. In 1957. Barely 18 years old, he was part of the drama at Central High School - one day serving the governor's orders to keep black children out of the school; the next, serving the President's orders to do just the opposite. Morris and his fellow guardsmen donned riot gear, formed wedges and walked 9 kids into school through a mob of angry protestors.

I was born after the integration of schools, after the Civil Rights Movement, after the Voting Rights Act.

Last Tuesday, I sat and watched the inauguration of Barack Obama with people who, in some small and not-so-small ways, were part of making the day possible. People of faith, struggling and striving towards God's Kingdom and seeking God's justice. People who are part of my story also.

In terms of time, it is not such a long way from Central High School in 1957 to last Tuesday. In terms of righteousness, it is a massive span.

Some folks, looking back on that tremendous journey, have suggested that, after Tuesday, anyone can imagine themselves as President. It is true that we have taken a major step forward, but we have a long way yet to go. The journey is not yet finished.

A number of my sisters in ministry will tell you that there are plenty of people who cannot imagine a woman as a pastor, much less President. But we shall overcome.

How many of our gay brothers and sisters are still longing for the day when they can simply live without fear, let alone openly serve as pastors, parents or Presidents? But we shall overcome.

It is humbling to stand with God's servants and to proclaim the Good News of freedom and forgiveness, to bear prophetic witness to God's Kingdom and to receive and share a foretaste of the heavenly banquet. It's easy to get caught up in the mundane frustration of life in the church: budgets and meetings, holes in the roof and arguments about choir robes. But there are moments when I am reminded that the Church is more than "the church." Moments, surrounded by colleague I am privileged to call friends, when I am reminded that I am called, along with so many others - lay and clergy - to be God's Kingdom. I am reminded that God's Goodness shall overcome evil, light shall overcome dark, and love shall overcome hate. And that is Good Stuff Indeed. Amen and Alleluia.

much peace, much love, etc.


  1. This is why I'm privileged to be a part of the church you pastor - and today's service was unusually inspiring, perhaps because of the inspiration you received this week. Thanks, Clay! Cilla (still haven't figured out how to get a persona)

  2. We stand on the shoulders of so many who inspire us to keep working in the midst of the struggle that someday we might be finally freed from the bondage of xenophobia and intolerance -- all the "isms" that keep us from letting the kingdom (the one Jesus said was within us) truly be within us. flowing from us and nourishing all of us. Truly, truly we shall overcome!