Wednesday, February 08, 2017

If not now, when? And if not me, then who?

turkishdisco/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

"Who knows—perhaps it was for a time like this that you became queen?" -- Book of Esther 4:14

You know you have struck a nerve when the meeting you hoped would attract 15 people ends up drawing 50.

That was the delightful reality of the first-ever Sisterhood of Progressive Christians meeting, where the initial circle of chairs I and the founders had set up in the middle of the echoing church hall kept growing and growing and growing until it took up two-thirds of the room.

The women who'd arrived earliest patiently obliged our constant reshuffling, moving their purses and bags at least five times before we all settled, and became veritable professionals in chair hauling dynamics. The women who came in last found exactly the number of empty seats required, as if Elijah himself had instructed us on the mechanics of predictive chair filling. And every time we added a chair or a person, we caught one another's eyes with an incredulous look that communicated, "MORE PEOPLE ARE HERE OH EM GEE," followed by a collective pooping of the pants.

I have often encountered the nonprofit jargon "growing the circle" in my day job, but until this meeting I did not understand what it meant to witness a circle's literal growth -- to see new faces appear at your side, to feel your wildest hopes pushed at the seams, to experience your heart expanding in direct proportion to the number of squeaking, rickety chairs. Such was the gift of the first Sisterhood meeting: the discovery of a modern-day red tent in which everyone was welcome and all could fit.

But I should back up.

What is the Sisterhood of Progressive Christians, exactly? (Official mission statement here.) The Sisterhood is a response to the challenging times we live in. It is a call to women to organize -- as they always do, as they always must -- and become the change they wish to see. Above all, though, it is an opportunity to wrestle with the unanswerable questions, to dialogue with God about our individual and collective purpose, and to do it all within a loving, seeking, vulnerable-in-the-best-way community.

As we went around the fifty-woman-wide circle that first night, our calls, responses, and questions steadily thickened the space between us:

I'm a mother/grandmother/mother-to-be.
 I'm a church philanderer.
I'm a patriot.
I want to reconcile my faith with my politics.
 I want to find a middle way.
I want to engage with loved ones with differing views.
I want to affect the federal and state legislature.
I've never felt this embarrassed to be a Christian. 
I want to reclaim the label.
I can't be silent anymore.
There is danger in silence.
We've lost the art of conversation.
We're looking for a voice. 
God will use me as a bridge.
You can follow Jesus and work for social justice.
What kind of Mecca do I want to make for me?
The only thing that makes me feel better is acting.
Inaction is not an option.
Faith and facts are not mutually exclusive.
The tide is not necessarily against us.
We must end intolerance and bigotry.
We're all called to authenticity.
We must make it a movement, not just a moment.

And within it all hung one big hairy question: Are we willing to be Christ's hands and feet and build his Kingdom here on earth? I left that night on fire with my answer of YAAAASSSSSSS! The next day it was, Yes! The day after that -- yes. A week later ... I think?

To keep saying YES at full volume -- to become the hands that feed the hungry and the feet that walk with the outcast and the body that puts itself on the line for every.single.one of God's children, no matter their creed or ideology or fake news posting habits -- I need this community in my life. It can become the Mordecai to my Esther -- the constant, gentle reminder that God has made us of the world and for the world. It can become the lesson of a lifetime in what being a Christian truly, frightfully, wonderfully entails.

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If you have said YAAASSSS QUEEN to any of my reflective ramblings, I encourage you to check out the Sisterhood of Progressive Christians on Facebook and Twitter as well as our Sisterhood Chronicles blog on Medium for a regular diet of thought-provoking discussions and opportunities for action. We and the world await you!
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Prayer #309: Hands, Feet, Body, Blood

If not now, when? And if not me, then who?

True confession: I already know the answers, God. But if I give them voice I will consign myself to living them, and I'm not sure I will ever be ready enough for that.

Please nudge me from this place of not enough. Show me I am enough. Remind me you are more that enough. Help me say the answers out loud and live them even louder.

Amen.