Creative Faith and Uncertainty

Today's blog is from Ben Rudeen Kreider.  It's the final week of his summer pastoral internship and he'll also be preaching this Sunday.

In a short seminary course on Black church traditions related to land, food, and racial agency, Rev. Dr. Heber Brown III shared a story. When he was a young pastor he thought he had to do everything for everyone. He came to realize what his congregation really wanted him to do was preach on Sunday and lead on a weekday Bible study. That left a lot of open space. So he began to experiment with community gardening and organizing with other Black churches and farmers. Within the role of pastor he carved out space to creatively organize around food sovereignty, founding and leading the Black Church Food Security Network.

As I wrap up my pastoral internship at Columbus Mennonite Church I’ve been pondering the purpose of the church and pastoral ministry. There is a vulnerability and uncertainty of what to do with the openness and boundaries that a pastoral role affords. Similarly, Christian community is shaped by ambiguity. This can be a gift to listen attentively enough to be faithful to where the Spirit is moving. How do you define or write a job description for a ministry of presence?

Yet I am grateful for all the moments of clarity and focus this summer: Attending the Mennonite Church USA delegate assembly in Kansas City, leading Bible sessions with joyous kids at Camp Friedenswald, logging into energizing Zoom meetings (the Rohr study group, men’s breakfast among others). The gift of worshiping, eating, and working together. As I came to see CMC’s presence scattered across the city and all the places you all call home, I also found affinity for routines that led me to particular places: Eating lunch with the Piecemakers group with quilt frames up in the fellowship hall, a mid-afternoon walk to get coffee at Global Gallery, sitting still on the shade-covered bench next to the peace pole.

When I first started seminary I used to tell folks that I was interested in faith-based nonprofit work and for that reason I was studying social work alongside Bible and theology. Social work was supposed to offer something clear cut, a stable skillset in contrast to an uncertain life of ministry. Yet I feel drawn to the belonging and creativity that church communities foster.

I imagine many of us have spaces of openness and potential creativity in our lives. In those places, what might we listen for or pay attention to? Like my teacher, Rev. Dr. Brown III, I am still trying to discern what are the essentials to not neglect and how to also carve out space for the creative and yet emerging.

Pastor Joel in his sermon this past Sunday preached on faith both broadening our horizons, helping us to see God’s movement in the world beyond our limited circumstance, and also faith as giving us the strength to move toward that horizon. I am grateful for your welcome here and for all I have learned at CMC. I give thanks for Columbus Mennonite Church carving out spaces of faith for us to walk forward in conviction and in the uncertainty of God’s unfulfilled horizon!