Close to the Concrete

I love being a pastor, because it keeps me connected to the concrete, linked to the practical, daily aspects of life. And even if there is some sort of academic future in/beyond a Ph.d., I hope to always continue in a pastoral role.

I’ve read two pieces recently that reminded me again hope important concrete life is, and concrete protest and reform. The first was The Beloved Community where Charles Marsh talks about the Civil Rights Movement, and how the dual moment of forgetting its theological roots and abandoning it concrete reforms (voting registration, changing concrete social practices, engaging in law suits and protest in favor of cosmic critique of the White Man and his society) was the movement the Civil Rights Movement began to break down. It went from the concrete to the cosmic, and died.

The second was an interview with Han Dongfang in the New Left Review where he describes his involvement in Chinese student and labor protests and how he has to stay connected to concrete situations, and help people organize for particular goals, even if meager. Otherwise things never get done. He sees a benefit of organizing concretely as being a way of instilling self-esteem to oppressed people. This is similar to how the Civil Rights Movements began.

So what does this mean for me as a pastor? Well, it means remembering that the concrete form, the daily fabric of every life in our congregation needs tending to (it needs re-imagining, re-narrative, re-ritualizing) and that we must always enter into concrete forms of ministry, rather than abstract forms disconnected from the life of our church. It means caring for marriages and relationship, cultivating virtues of stewardship of resources and time, the putting off of the old-self through putting on of Christ in each and every generous gift through words of encouragement, and every thing else I could think of.

But it also means encouraging concrete local involvement as expressions of love and justice to those in our community who are neglected and oppressed, forgotten or deemed worthless. It means finding a place outside of the walls of our church on which the Kingdom might slow seap through. That through the solid concrete of our selfish and unforgiving culture, there might bloom flowers of peace and generousity. Of course, most people think it annoying when the sidewalk crack and weeds spring up. But that is what we are called to do. Keep to the concrete until it cracks.

Really people; real situations. That’s my motto. Let’s see if I can keep it through grad. school.

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