A prophetic calling: Reflections on the “Dare we speak of hope” conference

Posted Feb 12, 2015 | Pastoral Excellence Network


By Alex Creager and Rachel Vogado

Allan Aubrey BoesakOn a cold, snowy November week, a group of Lutheran, Baptist, and Presbyterian pastoral residents and supervisors gathered in Ann Arbor, Michigan. We gathered to learn from each other and to listen to the prophetic preaching and message of Dr. Allan Boesak, South African theologian and principal author of the Belhar Confession. We listened as he spoke of arrests (including his own), of people forced from their homes to make way for white families, of violence and injustice during apartheid, and of continued racial division and economic poverty still in place in South Africa. We also heard stories of the Holy Spirit at work in incredible ways. These were stories of churches standing up for human dignity and rights, of the hearts of church leaders being transformed even after decades of supporting the apartheid state, and of a mother forgiving the man whose bombing attack killed her child. That grace went far deeper than anyone could have imagined, as the two of them, once on polar opposite sides of the struggle, now work together for racial reconciliation and peace in South Africa.

But for Dr. Boesak the work of speaking for justice is not finished. One striking example was a story he told of two young men who approached him after he gave a speech celebrating the anniversary of the end of apartheid. With courage and conviction they told him that it was hard for them to celebrate with him. While they were glad for the end of apartheid, they told him how their own lives and their communities had not changed much in the past twenty years. They continued to live in severe poverty, without much opportunity for good education, jobs, or safety. For these young men and many others, the need for justice and reconciliation did not end in the 1990s. The challenge Dr. Boesak gave is to continue hearing these voices and stories, even when it disrupts our sense of comfort and accomplishment.

The gift of this conference was the opportunity to hear one another’s stories, to ask questions, and to open our eyes to new ways of ministry. We shared meals, we prayed, we listened. Pastoral residents shared their work of speaking prophetically. One resident spoke of her experience teaching a Sunday school class on the inequality and destructiveness of our prison system. Another has worked closely with the homeless neighbors in her community to ensure that they are welcomed and given space to live safely and with respect. In each story these pastors faced challenges and resistance. Even as the body of Christ, we are not always ready to face the truth and realities of our broken world in need of God’s grace. But together at the conference leaders across denominational lines were hearing and following the call “to bring good news to the oppressed, bind up the brokenhearted, proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners.” The Spirit of the Lord is at work not just in the Baptist Church, or the Presbyterian Church, or the Lutheran church, or in any one place or group, but throughout the entire body of Christ. And partnered together we are more inspired, flexible, creative, and strengthened to listen for and live out God’s mission for this world. Gathered that week we shared our hopes and dreams for ministry, the challenges we face, and where we hear God calling us to go and serve. With friendships formed and energy renewed, we returned to our churches.

Rev. Alex Creager and Rev. Rachel Vogado comprise the 2015 class of Lake Fellows in Parish Ministry at Second Presbyterian Church in Indianapolis, IN. Lake Fellows serve as pastoral residents for two years in this Transition into Ministry program.

The Pastoral Excellence Network at CTS seeks to connect and nurture groups for clergy at all stages of ministry. To request permission to repost this content, please contact wsordillo@ct.edu.

1 Comment

  1. 1 Youth Resilience Speaker 27 Oct
    I love reading stories like this...hearing the struggles and triumphs of others. Internalizing it and then being so moved to take action after. Thank you for sharing!



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