Justice. Mercy. Faith.
Through The Christian Citizen, we seek to shape a mind among American Baptists and others on matters of public concern by providing a forum for diverse voices living and working at the intersection of faith and politics, discipleship and citizenship.
Readers in 2022 have the dual task of hearing King’s word to the Montgomery faithful and acknowledging how in need of this word we are as well. The work of civil rights is far from over, and the past few years in the United States have demonstrated deep rifts in the way our politics, economics, and society function.
Honoring Martin Luther King’s leadership and faithful Christian example of peaceful resistance to oppression, violence, and inequality
Now is a good time to reflect again on King’s model for nonviolent protest to bring about peace and justice to a world still marred by injustice and violence. We should not only look for ways to name the evil in our world but look for paths toward redemption and reconciliation with others. And we must do these things in love for God and neighbor, or else we will be shaped by our hatred and fear of the other.
According to a recent study by Lifeway, 49% of Protestant pastors frequently hear their congregants repeating conspiracy theories. In institutions that purport to be about the truth, and tout Jesus’ teaching, “the truth will set you free,” why are churches such hotbeds for conspiracy theories?
There was no dress rehearsal or drill for what leaders have had to manage over the past nearly two years. Pastors and lay leaders in congregations have had to learn new technology not just on-the-fly, but with an audience of people they’ve promised to serve. Furthermore, we as a society have been so desperate for Covid-19 to be brief, to be over, that we have failed to adjust our expectations of leaders.
As we politely but firmly usher 2021 out the door, what is to keep us from committing to more person-to-person contacts? Sure, we still have a pandemic going on. But I’m not just talking about in-person encounters. Instead of using social media as our perpetual online broker for human interaction, what about actually talking more with people in 2022?
Each year as we celebrate the birth of Jesus we have another opportunity to bring Jesus into the world without all the baggage of the past. The question is—will we have the courage and intention to do it? Rather than allowing Mary and Joseph to do all the work, we become midwives at the manger, each and every year, partners with God in bringing hope, peace, and the possibility of salvation and justice into the world.
Responding to COVID-19
The church has been significantly affected by the lingering impacts of COVID-19. The COVID era and its related impacts are here to stay. We would do well as pastors to understand how we can be most effective as we lead.
While we live in a democracy where we are entitled to exercise our “unalienable rights,” public safety has not registered on the hearts, minds, and souls of some Americans. While our rights are indeed important, we need to be alive and healthy to fight for these rights. May we find it in our collective hearts to truly be our brother’s keeper in our efforts to keep one another safe. May we look beyond the narrow view of “rights” to see the broad perspective of public safety.
The most natural way to make restoration possible is to carry the sacred discoveries found within the Eucharist to one’s neighbor as a matter of course. The forgiveness that can come so easily at the table is transferable to each person within one’s purview during the course of the week. It might take special effort to follow through, especially during our current pandemic times, but it could be the only way to fully realize this ordinance of the church. Jesus certainly managed to do it, and humankind has been charged to imitate him.
The struggle to care for the integrity of our creation cannot be waged and sustained apart from the struggle for justice amongst people. Biblically, justice and a spirituality of ecology are linked to each other in one ecosystem.
Books have been wonderful companions through these isolating months. Here are some books I have found to be particularly helpful in the last uncertain year.
Rethinking what it means to gather for worship—One Baptist church considers not returning to the building
At the South Yarra Community Baptist Church (SYCBC) in Melbourne, Australia, moving worship and congregational life online during our city’s four-month hard lockdown proved so successful that there is now a serious conversation about the possibility of continuing it and not returning to physically gathered worship.
The church may become informed on resources for poor families, such as federal aids, and become a part of collaborations to create resources for immigrant families since they do not have access to federal aid. The church may also create informal networks among congregations and social agencies, and work with social services to stay in touch with children who have had to go into foster care.
Informándose sobre recursos para familias pobres: ayudas federales, etc. Siendo parte de colaboraciones para crear recursos para familias inmigrantes ya que estos no tienen acceso a ayudas federales. La iglesia puede crear redes informales entre congregaciones y agencias sociales. También podemos trabajar con servicios sociales para mantener contacto con niños que han tenido que ir a cuido de crianza.
CDC resources for community & faith leaders
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has resources to help you plan, prepare and respond to community transmission of coronavirus disease including interim guidance for faith and community leaders.
American Baptist Home Mission Societies resources for congregational response to COVID-19
Information for American Baptists and American Baptist congregations about best practices to help reduce the spread of the virus in general as well as in congregational settings.
ministrElife community for faith leaders
Find resources, share best practices, and stay connected to other ministry professionals during the COVID-19 pandemic.
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