Next week I’m attending The Ekklesia Project’s Gathering in Chicago where the topic is “Neighbors Near and Far.”
As descendants of a wandering Aramean, our lives are caught up with those of our neighbors who, in the marvelous, wondrous diversity that is God’s work of creation, come from across the street, across the border, and across the ocean. In his sending of the seventy and in the parable of the good Samaritan, Jesus not only instructs us to love our neighbors, but he also redefines for us those relationships we name through such words as “alien,” “stranger,” “guest” and “host.” As those who have received the merciful hospitality of God, he sends us to learn what it means to welcome, and to be welcomed, by these neighbors.
This will be my first experience with Ekklesia and I’m looking forward to attending with a couple of church friends. You can read more about the gathering on the registration page. The registration fee is very reasonable and financial assistance is available.
Anyone planning to attend?
Not long ago I asked for your suggestions about what to say in my commencement speech to the eighth grade graduates at the school where our church meets. You had some quite helpful ideas, many which made their way into the speech. I’m happy to say that the address seemed to go well and I had the chance to talk with a number of the graduates and their families after the commencement. It was a huge honor to be asked by the school to deliver these remarks to their students.
I’ve copied the whole of my twelve minute speech here for those of you who might be interested.
Good morning. Congratulations to the eighth grade graduates of Drake Elementary School. Congratulations also to all of the parents, grandparents, relatives and friends of these graduates. As a pastor and community member I also want to thank the teachers, staff, and administration of Drake. I continue to be so impressed by your dedication to your students. Our city needs more schools like Drake. It is an honor to be with you this morning. Continue reading
Once again, I solicit your help. A couple of weeks ago I was asked to be the 8th grade commencement speaker at the elementary school where our church meets for worship on Sundays.
Drake Elementary, site of Monday's 8th grade commencement.
This invitation elicited two responses. First, I was thrilled that the school administration trusts our church enough to ask me. Second, I had no idea what would be helpful to say to a bunch of students who are about to enter high school. It’s been twenty (!) years since I made the transition from middle school and it’s a stretch to remember the emotions and thoughts of my eighth grade self.
What would you say to these eight graders? I have about twenty minutes to speak to the theme “Who I am. Who I will be.”
Commencement is on Monday so I’ve already begun to work on my speech but there’s still plenty of room for your feedback. Think back to your eighth grade year. What were the hopes and fears on your mind? Assuming you actually would have paid attention to the random commencement speaker, what would have been helpful to hear?
On Wednesday evening I’m participating in an “Interfaith Discussion” at a local university. There are five of us on the panel, each representing our own faith (or non-faith). It is, frankly, a bit intimidating (and impossible) to be the representative of Christianity, but I’ll do my best.
Each of the leaders are being asked to address a few different questions, but I’m curious what you think. The event organizers are hoping for about 100 undergraduate and graduate students representing a variety of faith backgrounds to show up. What should I say? What aspects of Christianity would you want shared at this sort of event?
Of course, I have my own thoughts about this, but I’m very interested to hear yours.
One of the things our new church- New Community Covenant Church in Bronzeville- has said repeatedly is that we will exist for the good of our neighbors and neighborhoods. In other words, our times of gathering together for worship are meant to align our minds and heart towards God so that we may be sent to participate in God’s mission in our city.
So it was no small thing for us to spend last Saturday, less than two months since our weekly services began, picking up litter and planting flowers at Drake Elementary where we hold our Sunday services.
While we got a lot of flowers planted and litter picked up, I’d be lying if I said we didn’t have a lot of fun as well. Because we’re a new church it’s helpful to have chances like this to spend time getting to know each other, even while we take very small step in mission together.