By Jerry Wolgemuth, Director of Communications
If cardio exercise develops fit bodies with toned muscles, than 700-plus leaders from across the Northeastern Jurisdiction got a good cardio workout for their “ministry muscles” in Hershey. (See lead story on page 1.) Thanks is due to the design team of the “See Know Love” event and its chair Rev. Ann Pearson.
Through their choice of principle speakers it was obvious that the design team intentionally gave us three different perspectives in reaching the world outside our church buildings. They represented the academy and the world of human resources, but also a world that begs us as followers of Jesus for honesty and authenticity in what we profess.
Rev. Nadia Bolz-Weber probably sent some home from Hershey scratching their heads pondering but, perhaps, re-examining, their sensitivities.
Nadia is the Lutheran pastor of Denver’s House for All Sinners and Saints. In her delivery she took her audience in Hershey on an engaging account of those she meets in bars and at her local diner. Her delivery is peppered with occasional profanity. She has been a member of Alcoholic’s Anonymous for 22 years. Heavily tattooed, she freely shares the story of her own foibles and faith. She was very clear-eyed about the personal travails faced by the marginalized and those without faith, and offered her own vulnerability.
Nadia combined her own painful insights as a youth growing up in a fundamentalist faith community. “But,” she said, “I learned how to overcome spiritual roadblocks with those to whom I have been called. I now can speak to persons who doubt in themselves, in God, and in their fellow humans to reconsider how their own conclusions may be the one thing they need to change for a better, more stable outlook.”
Some who hear and see Nadia will accuse her of playing a certain “shock value” to get attention, but in fairness to Nadia we need to step back and do a little real and honest thinking, which she certainly drove her audience to do.
So, let’s start with some honest thinking. Let’s recognize that, like it or not, conventions change. That’s almost an understatement. Over the years words drift in and out of acceptable status. Some of us will remember that “kid,” “gosh,” “darn,” were not to be used. Tattoos were considered disfigurement of the body. Many church pews in 2015 display manners of dress that would have been shocking years ago. Tattoos have become a graphic language for many.
Cultures and sub-cultures have their own conventions. Nadia may argue that certain language and dress opens doors to her that are closed to the rest of us. She has not suggested that all of us follow her example but that we provide space for someone who loves Jesus and those who Jesus loves.