God is at work,
Collaboration is happening.
"But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear."
On Tuesday, August 27 eight folks came together to celebrate over fellowship, dinner, and dessert. Large desserts! From the greater Milwaukee area, from the state capitol, and from a farm in Randolph, Wisconsin, we came together in a mid-way point to share pieces of what we see God doing in our midst and within us.
Half of the folks represented the three projects that received grants from the most recent New Wineskins initiative. The other half of us were ABC/WI representatives who were honored to witness up close the excitement of the awardees and listen for how we might offer continuing support.
The conversations across the wide rectangular dinner table were continuous, synergizing, respectful, inspired, and inspiring. “Elevator speeches” were given about each project: a pastoral community of practice focused on mental health; a support group by and for intersectional trans people; and a new campus ministry that seeks a true collaboration between the local church and students on campus. The New Wineskins initiative stressed the importance of three main values:
- New means new: informed experimental ideas
- New relationships: populations currently not connected with, or who are under-served, within ABC/WI
- With and among, not to and for: relational – not transactional – ministry
Though all three projects were clearly distinct from each other, they all authentically exemplify the values we encouraged. It became also clear that they all sought to lift up people who are often misunderstood, the invisible, and/or the marginalized in mainstream society. Huh! Just like Jesus! Beyond the elevator speeches, we began to hear the personal stories that fuel and connect our project coordinators with the work they pursue. Isn’t that how God works though–starting from something that is already within us–a conviction, a hurt, a hope–and calling us deeper into it so that it has nowhere else to go but overflow outward–into action, into partnership, into light?
More than seeking church growth results, these ministries show human action fueled by human experience, seeking to foster spaces where people – in all of their humanity – can encounter Good News and God’s grace. They are going for it…narrow-path-taking power-turning kingdom-seeking bridge-building Christ-like-loving gospel work. It’s at times controversial and stigmatizing, all-the-time sacrificial and Spirit-led, and it is putting new wine into new wineskins.
I am still savoring the good fellowship, just as I am the first bite of my delicious chocolate dessert! Yes, I went for it! (By the way, I did share with someone else at the table — and we still had some to take home!)
Blessed (filthy) Feet
On April 18, 2019, my eyes and ears (and feet) were blessed at Underwood Memorial Baptist Church in Wauwatosa for a Maundy Thursday foot washing service. Underwood partnered with ZAO Milwaukee – a United Methodist Church plant describing itself as “Jesus rooted + justice centered + radically inclusive” – and the First Unitarian Society of Milwaukee. All three ministers, Rev. Kate Fields, Rev. Jonah Overton, and Rev. Jennifer Nordstrom participated in the service through reflections, serving communion, and washing feet.
Rev. Fields challenged us all to lean into the awkwardness of the service as a form of resistance, embracing the downward mobility that challenges dominant power. Rev. Nordstrom asked us to accept Jesus’ offer to wash our filthy, mucky feet with relish and rest. Rev. Overton reminded us to follow Jesus’ example of taking the lowest and simplest place in the most basic form of service. When we find Christ washing our feet, we feel a sense of humility or even shame. But when we recognize Christ, both in the feet that we wash and in our own hands that do the washing, our whole perspective can be transformed.
It was a humbling yet joyful experience, seeing such a diverse gathering of brothers and sisters both receive and give this simple act of service. There was a spirit of generosity throughout, as all sorts of people took off their shoes and moved forward to participate in the service with quiet smiles and peaceful spirits. I’m grateful for the experience of having my eyes and ears and feet blessed in this Maundy Thursday, further grounding Holy Week in the incarnation, in the most basic forms of obedience and humility.
ARM-Education – ABC/WI
Malaysia/Myanmar American Baptist Discovery Mission Trip
January 6-23, 2019
Rev. Dr. Marie Onwubuariri; ABC/Wisconsin Regional Executive Minister
#AsiaJan2019 Day 5 Journal Post – Saturday 1/12
“FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT: LONGSUFFERING”
This morning our group went to the Myanmar Institute of Theology for another meeting that was just full of educational
information that was both head-spinning and heart-wrenching. While I can’t say too much I’ll just say how complex the process of peace-making is. I know that sounds obvious. But it’s sobering to hear about real examples of the complex web of history, economics, politics, and geography and the equally complex resulting impact on human welfare: identity, belonging, addiction, disease, etc.
These are things we see, if we are open to it, in our own country—and I cannot help but think of the parallels: far-reaching strategies and decisions driven by economic interests for select populations; drugs as weapons of manipulation; mentalities of “tribal” superiority; exclusive decision-making tables; and on and on…But a part of this web of systems are the human stories. Again, there are
parallels…yet…the peoples of and from this land have their own stories, and their stories are worthy to be heard as that—lived experiences of particular humans who yearn for real, not representative or allegorical, lives.
Longsuffering…a characteristic of one who claims acceptance of the love of Christ and the submission to the Holy Spirit. Contrary to the instant culture we have been shaped by, the path of peace-making has taken and will still take longsuffering. It is the collaborative
work of multiple generations. This is sobering yet still calls for action today.
After our morning meeting we drove several hours through lush countryside to Karen state where we find home for the next couple of nights. Good team debriefing at dinner. Our team is made up of staff from three national entities (OGS, IM, ABHMS), four region execs, two IM missionaries based in Asia, and global ambassador (GS-Emeritus) sharing this experience from diverse geographical, theological, racial, ethnic, ministryemphasis, generational, ideological perspectives—and with all different personalities. What a gift of the Spirit’s work among us—-unifying us around a recognition of injustice and a call for compassion and companionship. God grants us the capacity to do this. To BE this.
Let it be so in many more areas of our joint lives together.
To read all of Marie’s daily reflection posts while on the trip click here: #AsiaJan2019Journals
To view an online photo album of this trip, go to: abcwisconsin.shutterfly.com and enter in the
ARTICLES PUBLISHED BY ABC:
- American Baptist delegation visits Myanmar—an interview with A. Roy Medley, general secretary emeritus, American Baptist Churches USA – 2/20/19
- Pursuing freedom, security and human rights in Myanmar – 2/21/19