Cross-Cultural, Urban, Reformed, Ecumenical

Leading Uncomfortable Conversations

12-17-2020

Good preaching, it’s said, makes the comfortable uncomfortable and brings comfort to those who have been uncomfortable. For McCormick students, leading uncomfortable conversations is part of the call.

“I didn’t know what sexual violence was,” began Maryclare Beche. “Perhaps if someone had told me, I could have prevented what happened to me.” So, Beche is using her voice to educate students from six schools in western Kenya on sexual violence through expressive arts, such as poetry, dance, song and drumming. A second year master of divinity student, Beche believes that as more survivors share their transformative stories from trauma to hope, the more they are able to experience a deeper healing that can in turn heal the world.

Beche is one of many McCormick students who is including in her call a willingness to tackle conversations that were often considered off-limits. Beche takes her strength to enter such dialogue from her own childhood experiences and courses that have changed her perspective about herself and survivors of sexual violence.

“Deciding to get a theological education was one of the best decisions I’ve made because my experience so far has been one of healing,” said Beche, who has served as co-editor of the seminary’s student newspaper. “McCormick leads from a place of compassion and empathy. I’ve learned that it’s okay to be angry but to channel that anger.”

Blake Collins never gave much thought to being accepted in grocery stores, churches, or a university campus. He moved with ease around his childhood community in Columbia, Maryland, as well as where he worked in Baltimore or attended college in Philadelphia. He can’t recall being heavily policed or ever questioned about why he was in a particular neighborhood.

“As a white Christian, I’ve felt welcomed, and some sense of ownership, in almost every space,” said Collins, “but our theology should encourage us that we are accountable to that reality.” For Collins, a second year master of divinity student and former associate for the Presbyterian Church (USA) Young Adult Volunteers program, that accountability has meant inviting young people to connect with communities by cultivating relationships, visiting detention centers, or exploring and nurturing their Christian faith by recognizing those who are marginalized and engaging in honest identity-work from those experiences.

“One workshop, Bible study or sermon series will not eradicate how white supremacy is manifested in white Christian theology,” said Collins. “There’s a sense of belonging that we have that hasn’t been allowed for others. We need to ask how others feel in the spaces we created for ourselves; actually listen and act.” 

“The Girl Became Flesh,” a poem by Adriana Rivera, reimagines and celebrates women as bearers of light and life. Written for a worship service at McCormick, Rivera, a second year master of divinity student, later performed it at McCormick’s first Divine Wisdom Festival this summer. 

“It’s a womanist approach to social injustice,” said Rivera who teaches English as a Second Language at an elementary school and church. In it, she intertwines the Creation stories found in the first chapters of Genesis and John and lifts up the role of the feminine and a concern for the environment. It’s an invitation to transformation, to change how the earth and diverse people groups are treated. Rivera views the creative arts as a tool for change, for without the change, “we’re the ones left broken and bruised,” “The Girl Became Flesh” reveals. 

The Girl Became Flesh

In the beginning was the Girl
And the Girl was with God
And the Girl was God And the Girl became flesh and breasts and hips and lips and life
We have seen her glory, the glory of God’s beloved, full of grace and truth

Before the Girl became flesh, she danced among us, delighted because of us
Then the Girl became flesh and dwelt among us
When the Girl became flesh, she bled among us, bled because of us

Still some did not heed her call
Still some did not believe her cause
Still some believed they did not need her at all

Through her all things came into being, were birthed through her
But while the world was still wet and warm from her womb
The cold, bitter darkness began to loom
But remember in her was life and that life was the light of all people
Her light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome her
With her light in our eyes, we will rise, and we will not be torn asunder
But forgive us God, if and when we have forgotten our Mother

Does not wisdom call, and does not understanding raise her voice?
In her is love and light and life
For hers is our rally cry, the reason why we fight
Against the darkness, against the hard hits
And this is the part that most people miss
With her, we have nothing to lose
Yet we choose to refuse our muse
Preferring our own way which only leaves us broken and bruised

Does not wisdom call, and does not understanding raise her voice?
Does not falling in love with Divine Wisdom illuminate a new choice?

We see her, we feel her
We are answering the call
We fear her, we hear her
We are giving her our all
We serve her, we learn from her
We’re moving as she prods
Because it’s always been about her
My Girl, My God

©2020 Adriana Rivera