This week we are sharing our final conversation with Rev. Alisha Smith Haddock. What a joy to speak with her this month about her calling to do justice work and her many collaborations to rebuild North Nashville after the March Tornado! Today we are talking about what it takes for the faith community to reimagine itself beyond the walls of the church building.
I. Church can’t be contained in four walls
Rev. Alisha says her practice of ministry simply cannot be contained within the traditional walls of the church. It has been that way from the start! She spends her energy both serving through the church and also directing the work of the McGruder Center.
Her congregation, Christian Journey Fellowship, preaches and teaches justice, and that means moving out beyond the four walls of the place where they meet. Many of us have been reminded during the pandemic that the church cannot be contained in a place, even though places are very, very important. To do the work of justice means engagement with the community, something Rev. Alisha does as she brings together people and ideas and services at McGruder Family Resource Center.
As she likes to say, “Ministry doesn’t stop at the church steps.”
II. Ministry takes courage to move beyond the walls and speak up for the sake of justice
The second observation Rev. Alisha makes about getting beyond the walls is that it takes courage. It may be easier or feel safer to practice ministry within the churches that call us. However, getting beyond that safety and speaking matters. And she says, “We need to honor the courage that each person must exercise” in order to do the work of anti-racism and social justice. She appreciates that it takes different kinds of courage both for white people and for Black people to do the work that needs doing. We all have to do our part.
The only way we’re going to make any progress, is to make it together.
-Rev. Alisha Smith Haddock
III. This is a great time for faith communities to get out from behind four walls and take a lead
Many churches are doing little to lead on these questions of justice, speaking up for black lives, or working in their communities for changes. This is a good time for faith communities to find their collective courage and do some much-needed work.
Rev. Alisha points to the civil rights movement As an example of how faith communities can be involved. She remembers how much we need both the energy of youth and the wisdom of the elders. Sometimes that pathways needs care and negotiation. Yet with that model in mind, working together across generations and communities, Rev. Alisha hopes we can work together to make needed change.
IV. Doing the work of ministry requires listening to people beyond the walls
The first time I visited the McGruder Family Resource Center, Rev. Alisha gave me a tour. I saw after-school groups working to help with homework. And I also observed the training center for hospitality workers. I saw the room where the community gathers for multiple kinds of events. And we also took a walk through the new commercial kitchen. I saw the library and study room. And I loved seeing the space where artists and several small nonprofits make their workspace.
McGruder is an important place where the North Nashville community gathers. And Rev. Alisha sees the work of resourcing the community one that is rooted and grounded in listening to what the community needs. And she knows that people who are not even part of the church, can help church leaders know and understand when it’s time for change. They can see it coming faster than we can. And it is up to us to listen.
People outside the church are not still buying into “one-man leading“ mentality says Rev. Alisha. And everyone in the church would do well to listen to them. We need all the voices to contribute to life together.
Listening is not simply a matter of hearing what the needs are, so we can meet them. Deep listening is also a matter of keeping one’s commitment to the fullness of God’s creation in humanity. Rev. Alisha says, “We have to listen to all parts of our community. If we don’t do that, we are dishonoring the people we are supposed to be leading.” And as she puts it, “We do our community a disservice when we are not inclusive.”
So grateful for our conversations with Rev. Alisha Smith Haddock this month! Are you listening to ALL parts of your community? @HearSheComes @ecampbellreed #Listen #lead #practiceofministry pic.twitter.com/fEWLS7FXdW
— Three Minute Ministry Mentor (@3MinuteMin) August 30, 2020
Being inclusive. Listening well. Taking courage. Speaking out. Bringing people together and making change. These are the ways Rev. Alisha inspires us to continue pushing beyond the walls and to keep “moving forward together as one.”
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