Learning in Practice
Just when we thought the world could not get any stranger… it did. Last week we witnessed a number of unprecedented events.** On Wednesday, January 6, Epiphany, the state of Georgia elected its first African American senator, Rev. Raphael Warnock and first Jewish Senator, Mr. Jon Ossoff to office. On the same day, several shocking, yet highly predictable, acts of treason and destruction unfolded in Washington, D.C. The world paused and watched a mob advance on the U.S. Capitol. Meanwhile, senators and representatives fled to safety. All of this happened during an already unparalleled global pandemic.
What do these events have to do with ministry, or learning to practice it?
The social and political landscape is morphing before our very eyes. As white power loses ground, dramatic reactions continue to increase. We are witnessing the last gasps of “white Christian America,” as Robert Jones warns. How will religious leaders respond to these massive shifts? How will they speak to the violence and racism that passes as patriotism? And shall will we teach our children?
For religious leaders to act with courage and lead with compassion in these days, they need all the wisdom, insight, skill and relational capacity they can muster.
In another event, one that only made headlines at my house, my book proofs for Pastoral Imagination, arrived, also on Wednesday. Epiphany. A day of insurrection. A day of unprecedented elections and unparallelled pandemic.
Here is what jumped out to me from page two of the book’s Introduction:
“These events and seismic shifts in the social and political landscapes are challenging what it means to be a person of faith in this country and what it means to lead. The need for pastoral imagination is urgent. Whether you are leading communities of faith or people protesting in the streets, holding the hand of a dying person, leading worship in an overcrowded prison, or praying with a traumatized soldier, how you see and respond to the situation can make a difference between life and death.
“The practice of ministry is not for the faint of heart. The learning required is for people who are willing to endure the disorientation and re-orientation of their knowing, doing, and being for the sake of bringing the practice of ministry to life.”
I wrote those words in June of 2020. They remain useful now. Ministers, chaplains, priests and activists are facing unprecedented situations. We need pastoral imagination to meet them more than any time in living memory. Our social fabric is torn, exposing traumas, racism, and unhealed violence. If we want to be part of the change and healing so desperately needed, then we must draw on all that we know, all of the relational capital we can muster, and all of the emotional energy we can sustain to do meet this moment.
I spoke to Erin Robinson Hall about my new book recently. We talked about pastoral imagination. We talked about learning in practice and how that remains crucial, indispensable in a time like the one we are living in right now. And even we talked about how learning ministry for all its uniqueness also starts like every other kind of human learning. When you start out, it is a lot like riding a bike.
Launch of Season Three
Welcome to the launch of Season Three of Three Minute Ministry Mentor (3MMM)! Today we begin another year of attending to the beauty, joy and careful work of learning ministry across time and in practice.
In Season One of 3MMM, we brought you 50 topics about learning the embodied, relational and spiritual practice of ministry. In Season Two we introduced new voices from pastors, professors, and activists into our conversation. They helped us deepen our thinking about a wide range of themes and topics related to the practice of ministry. We also supported you through the pandemics, grief, and crises of 2020.
Season Three keeps the practice of ministry front and center. Each week we will bring to your inbox:
- Weekly Blogs and Videos and Podcasts as you have come to expect.
- Brand new Author Interviews. This week you are hearing from me. In the coming weeks you will read interviews with Chris Scharen, Dana Trent, Pamela Cooper-White and Cody Sanders, to name just a few.
- Newly captioned videos. Thanks to our partners at Central Seminary, we can now offer to you closed caption videos, making it possible for you to watch with sound on or off. All 3MMM videos live on vimeo. This allows you a less cluttered experience of viewing and learning.
The idea of ministry as a practice is still new for many people. I believe it is a powerful and profoundly important way of conceiving ministry. Focusing on learning how to be a priest or pastor or chaplain or activist Is the pathway to cultivating pastoral imagination. And that capacity is needed urgently.
Listen to this episode, “Ministry as a Practice” as a podcast, wherever you like to subscribe to podcasts.
**In case somehow you missed the details of last week’s news, here they are in brief.
In Georgia, the people elected the first Jewish Senator from their state, Mr. Jon Ossoff. And they elected the first African American Senator from Georgia, Rev. Raphael Warnock. Both were closely affiliated with the late, Sen. John Lewis, who died in 2020. Senator-elect, Rev. Warnock filled Lewis’s seat. And he will be only the eleventh African American Senator in history to serve. He pastors Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church, spiritual home of Martin Luther King, Jr. and MLK, Sr.
Just as the state elections were concluding, in Washington, D.C. a sitting president urged a crowd of supporters to march to the Capitol. Once there, they breached security and broke into the U.S. Capitol. Their mis-guided aim was an attempt to stop Congress from certifying the 2020 presidential election. They broke in, destroyed and stole property, and four souls perished. The human casualties were less than might have been expected due to a mild level of security enforcement by Capitol police. Nevertheless, the attempt to disrupt democracy failed. After being evacuated, the two houses of Congress reassembled. And they certified the rightful winners of the election. President-Elect, Joe Biden and Vice President-Elect, Kamala Harris will be sworn in January 20.