Today I finish up a wonderful year participating in the Leadership Winston-Salem program. (woo hoo!) I’m so grateful to Ed Pleasants for opening this door for me and
encouraging me to apply. Many cities across the country have a similar program that help leaders learn about their community, its origins, how things function, who leads what, what the current problems or challenges as well as the successes are. I have learned more in 9 months than I ever would have in the next 5 years.
As I reflect back on all that I learned I am struck by this challenge from Micah 6:8, “What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (NRSV) Two of the three requirements cause us to focus beyond our personal selves and relationship with God. God calls us to pay attention and care about what is happening in the community around us. Doing justice and loving kindness are communal challenges. My eyes have been exposed to all kinds of ways I personally and my church can “do justice” and “love kindness” for others in our community. There are some amazing projects and work already taking place and merely need a helping hand, some public attention, or some well placed resources. Friends, I discovered things that are not, in fact, overwhelming that can be done. I did not leave feeling discouraged or helpless. It’s actually not that hard to positively impact the community around us because there is good work already taking place! And that is exactly what God longs for us to do as witnesses into this world of the amazing love of Jesus Christ. This is the nature of the Church that God created.
This past weekend our church celebrated something we call Pentecost Festival and it was a glorious day of worship, music, and fellowship together around delicious food. Our theme for Pentecost this year (the birthday of God’s Church) was focused around
Spiritual Gifts. We talked about how God has indeed gifted each one of us when we profess our faith in Jesus Christ with some sort of Spiritual Gift that we are given to build up the Body of Christ and the Kingdom of God. We have been gifted to make a difference in this world! God has prepared YOU to do justice and love kindness in your communities! I love that idea. We are not tasked with some larger than life expectation to figure out on our own. God has prepared you with all that you need to lend a hand!
I have had the chance to get to know 50+ wonderful classmates but to work closely with an eight member Action Learning Team. What a wonderful opportunity to practice leadership skills among a diverse and talented group of leaders. I’ve made friendships that I hope will stay with me for years to come. Our assigned group studied the challenge of raising public awareness around the issue of Universal Pre-K. That fit nicely with our church’s work with Winston Salem-Forsyth County School System on the Pathway to K with our sister United Methodist Churches. I have already seen the huge need for better preparations for all of our 4-year-old children for school (and last year there were over 400 children in this county on a waiting list for a spot in a Pre-K class!).
I am committed to helping raise awareness about this important need and support the work community leaders are doing to help bring Universal Pre-K to this community. I believe this will help all children have a fair and equitable start to the learning environment and be ready for the classroom both socially and academically. I may just be a pastor with no education background who has no children and shouldn’t really even care. Except I do. Because what helps children struggling the most helps all of our children be successful.
Thank you Leadership Winston-Salem for exposing me to so many opportunities and so much information. I’m grateful for the new friends I have met, learning more about the community leaders that I admire. And for the reminder that we, the church, have the opportunity to be a strong member and positive force in this community and that we, Centenary, have made, and will continue to make Winston Salem a just and kind community.
Grace and Peace,