Why I Love Connecting People

One of my favorite things to be able to do is connect people who have similar passions with one another. When I am in a meeting with individuals or leaders at a non-profit the light bulb goes off, realizing they would be good to know this other person or organization and partner up. I rarely have the answers or best ideas but I am thankful to know people who do and when those who are in need of a resource or leadership connect with those who can meet the need the results can be unstoppable. This is a favorite of my job – hearing people’s stories and being able to link them with others who have similar passions. In a world where the pains run deep and resources run short it is the interweaving of people that can make a difference in the world. To partner with others allows for more creativity to be cultivated, more support to lessen burnout, and a louder voice to share vision. 

For me, this is how I see the institutional church being able to make a transformative impact in their cities. When churches partner with one another, with other organizations, with other groups of people there is a greater ability to move beyond the walls of the institution and care for the city. Being willing to look to others who might do something better than you and partner with them – to support and learn from them – creates strength in a city. The strength comes from not being afraid of others having answers that you do not and realizing there is no threat in that knowledge but power. The power is in allowing others to function from their strengths and you to do the same. Invite others to join you in what you do well, growing the channels of networking and partnership. It also frees all involved to enter deeper relationships of reciprocity; learning that you both need one another and not just one person holding all the cards. 

Think about those in your life or in your city who you might be able to partner with to strengthen a program already running, create something new, or share resources to learn from one another. Once you think of at least one person or institution that you could connect with go out there and make the initial move. This doesn’t have to be in an extravagant fashion but a simple gesture to begin a conversation. You may find out that you are not the one to partner with them but you have expanded your network and now have another resource to share with others in the future. Learn your city and those who are impacting it and allow others to know you. You may have the resource others need, be open to sharing it even more. 

You may not enjoy the connecting piece like I do, and clearly that is normal and fine; I do hope all of us can get to a place in life where we are willing to make deeper connects with each other to care for the cities we live in. Learning we are better together than the one messiah trying to save the city. To all who have allowed me to learn from them and get to know this city I live in a bit more, thank you!

Andrew Brandmeyer's untitled, oil and acrylic on canvas. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/julia-clift/andrew-brandmeyer_b_3921711.html

Andrew Brandmeyer’s
untitled, oil and acrylic on canvas.
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/julia-clift/andrew-brandmeyer_b_3921711.html

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I’ve Been in College a LONG time!

I watch 7 children throughout the week (at different times, not all at once!). Three of these children are 5 year old triplets who I pick up from school Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays. This past Thursday I had an exchange with them as we drove from school to their house, here’s part of it.

Z: “Ms. Morgan, you’re in college, right?”
Me: “Yes.”
Z: “So that means you’re a grown-up then.”
Me: “Yup.”
O: “Wait! If you’re a grown-up then why are you still in college?”

I loved this conversation as it captured the season of life I’m in right now. I have been in college almost 8 years. I’ve changed a great deal within these 8 years. I have gone from being frustrated with the institutional church, to leaving it, to coming back and finding my heart with it. I have lived in Canada, Waco, and D.C. I have spent time in Haiti, India, and Rwanda. I have lived with roommates, lived on my own, lived with other families. I went from thinking I’d never be ordained to being in the ordination process. Many things have changed in my life beyond these few things.

Within these 8 years I have gone from being a teen to entering adulthood to being a pseudo adult (as I refer to life stage right now). I have worked part time and gone to school full time for most of these years. I am currently working part time and going to school full time but something is different this year than any other year in college. This year I’m transitioning into full time work and saying goodbye to being a student in the classroom. That’s why Z’s and O’s comments about me being in college and being a grown-up made me laugh. For one of them being in college was a way for her to mark my adulthood. For the other being in college was what people who weren’t adults yet did. Explaining to them that they were both right was a fun experience for me.

As I leave pseudo adulthood and enter “real” adulthood I am nervous, sure, but I am also excited. These past 8 years have taught me so much and have given me space to grow into my personhood. I can honestly say I have lived these 8 years well. They have been filled with remarkable joy, laughter, pain, and transition. I wouldn’t trade these 8 years for anything. I have no idea what the future holds for me. I have no frame of reference of what looking for a full time job is like. I have no job lined up or city to call home, yet. I have no clue how my skills will be used in the world post college. I have finally moved from fear and nervousness about this entering “real” adulthood to nervousness and excitement.

If these past 8 years have taught me anything it is that you never know what the future will be but if you remain willing to learn, open to change, surrounded by honest & loving people, and lean into what you know God’s voice to be then you’ll get through whatever life has for you.

Here’s to leaving pseudo adulthood and entering the next phase of life. May I continue to grow into my personhood even more!

In the last 47 days …

It has been 47 days since my last post! I have not done well at keeping my thoughts on paper in the last month, most likely because there’s been too many thoughts to make sense of them … or because I’ve been too lazy to sit-down and write them out.

In the short version of the past 47 days I’ve:

  • celebrated Easter with Calvary
  • packed my things to move from Hosting Unions
  • flew back to Texas
  • delivered my colloquium presentation on The Ethics and Practice of Working with Welcoming and Affirming Congregations
  • completed my course work for my Master of Social Work degree
  • hung out with my little munchkins
  • celebrated a sister’s birthday and mother’s day with the family
  • had multiple breakfasts, lunches, and dinners with friends to catch up
  • had pseudo roommate situations with two of my Texas favorites
  • saw my little man play baseball
  • graduated from Baylor School of Social Work
  • returned to DC
  • moved from Hosting Unions to Outdoor Familia
  • began the transitioning of my projects
  • returned to the joys of the tapestry
  • celebrated a high school favorite having her first child
  • hiked humpback rock with Political Religion
  • submitted my syllabus for the class I’ll be teaching at the Sitar Arts Center: Can you say 1950’s
  • Dinners and coffees with DC favorites
  • Saw Bridesmaids (very funny) with Political Religion, Kindhearted Law and her girlfriend.
  • lived through week 1 of pastor boot-camp: bulletin and sermon #1

Hello life in DC it’s good to be back! And, hello to my blog … it won’t be another 47 days to my next post.

Licensed to . . .

In the past week I began considering getting licensed as a social worker. There are many things to consider in this decision and in all honesty I do not know what the verdict will be. I was surprised by the response I received to a random facebook status of mine that said “Morgan Caruthers is considering getting licensed … what?” Five likes and 31 comments later I learned that there are many of my social work colleagues who are pondering the same thing. Some who have already graduated and others, like myself, are finishing up their degrees. I predict there will be more conversation around this licensure business in my future.

What was funny to me were the comments asking if I was referring to licensure for ministry. Granted the questions in and of themselves are not funny but the timing of the questions is. In the past few weeks I’ve discussed with a few people my feelings on becoming an ordained minister but this topic is always brought up in conjunction with becoming an LMSW. The topic never begins the conversation nor ends it. It sits safely between the beginning and end of discussions around me becoming an LMSW. This particular licensure freaks me out to be honest and is something that I hope to keep from becoming the beginning and end of discussions on licensure.

I have a great deal of respect for licensure for both of these vocations. I also see a significant purpose for both within their respective fields. Those two things are never up for debate during my questioning about my getting licensed.

As my journey continues who knows what I’ll end up being licensed to . . .

Pondering(s), Wonderment, Curiosities

Two weeks ago I had the privilege of attending two thought provoking, character strengthening, life wrestling conferences, of sorts. The first was School of Conversion by New Monasticism and the second was Christian Community Development Associations annual conference. From these two conferences I have pondered a great deal about community, discipleship, intentional Christian community, poverty & wealth, community development, including all levels of voices, etc…etc…etc. Since my brain has not sorted many, if any, of these pondering(s), wonderment, and curiosities I’m going to let you all into the inner workings of my brain. So sit down, get in your comfy spot, bring along a cup of coffee (or tea) and enter into this sacred space that is my inner most wrestling.

How many conversions do people have throughout the course of their lives and how do those conversion relate to personal and communal conversions?

Is there a connection between redemption and conversion … if so what is it?

If our conversions are not for ourselves who are they for?

How many people would voluntarily have a conversion?

Do I merely project my vision of communal discipleship or do I actually live it out?

For transient people, like myself, what does commitment to a community look like?

How can intentional Christian communities be done in what society deems as “stable” communities, i.e. the suburbs/developments/middle class?

What do bridge builders look like in intentional community?

Was Moses a bridge builder?

Am I willing to be vulnerable, dedicated, and intimate with a community to the point where I won’t make a decision that affects all of us without having mutual discernment and in the end mutual consent on the answer to the decision.

Is Satan a figure or symbol of the brokenness in humanity?

Who do I vilify?

Does justice alone look different than communal justice?

In social work and/or ministry do I ask what the root of the problem is and then address it or do I simply address the symptoms of the problem rather than the root?

How do I expose the injustices in life non-violently?

Is my subconscious in Shalom?

Do I walk on equal ground or have the foundation of equal footing as my neighbors? How does this manifest itself in my roles as social worker and pastor?

Are church and community separate from each other? Or is it that it’s more of a church/community kind of thing?

Where is my fidelity in life?

Do I diligently seek and discipline myself to stand on the solid rock/foundation of Christ?

Do I/we treat all people as citizens of Christ, first and foremost?

What called your forth? Where has your Sankofa journey brought you?

How do we have continual, equal representation in leadership without leadership reaching the standards of middle class and without keep the poor in “their place” so that their is continual equal representation?

Who/what is the prophetic presence in my life?

Do I have to return to my indigenous roots or is it possible to “lend my whitness” to others who, of no control of their own were born with a different skin color thus, different opportunities?

What is my known and unknown ideology in life?

Can communities be developers without developing programs?

The word community has been used a great deal at these conferences yet I wonder if all fo us have the same definition of community?

With that in mind what is community commitment?

How do we created intentional/organic communities

That is all the questions for now … more to come … few answers yet.

The Enigma of this Journey

In the past few months I have been presented with the question of how to follow the path of social work and the path of ministry. For me these two paths are often meshed into one but a recent struggle has come with not knowing if I can become a Licensed Master of Social Work (LMSW) and hold a leadership position in the church.

The conflict comes in with the National Association of Social Work Code of Ethics and doing holistic ministry; one of the code of ethics is to not have dual roles. Yet, if I were to become an active member (a small group leader, a deaconess, or pastor) at the church I practiced social work there would inevitably be dual roles … thus my question of  is it possible to be a social worker (which is a protected title in Texas and only happens if you receive your MSW and are Licensed) and live out a holistic life serving the church. Now some might say don’t become a titled social worker and use the skills you learned from your master’s … I would have to say this is a definite appeal to me but I truly believe it is possible to be licensed and do ministry, I’m just not sure what that looks like.

I believe it to be possible for many reason but the main one being that I think Jesus was the greatest social worker of all! There is no question about it; he gave a voice to the voiceless, hope to the hopeless, met the needs of the needy, and fought for justice in all of his actions. I desire to follow that model (with my flaws and all) by becoming be a social worker and living out this thing called community within my church. I believe it is possible and I think the church needs social workers just as much as social workers need the resources and community of the church.

The church (being the church at large), in my opinion, has missed the mark in caring for God’s people and working together to serve God’s people. Now this isn’t to say there are not churches doing amazing things within their communities, that is not what I’m saying at all. What I am saying is that for various reasons, and they differ from region to region, the church has not continually reached out to their communities and worked with other churches in their communities to serve God’s people, no matter where they are in life. It is for this reason that I have to believe that the passions God has given me, to do social work and to work within the church, can take place together in a beautifully divine fusion.

It is beyond confusing to be passionate about where you feel you will work in life and see these two paths possibly colliding before they even get to embrace each other within  your own life. Nonetheless, the wonderful part to this is I know this intertwined relationship of vocations is possible, I simply have to fight for it and allow the Spirit to move and lead me to it.

The journey isn’t meant to be one of clear answers or unquestionable paths. No, the journey is meant to be a passionate wrestling between the certain and the uncertain aspects of life. I’m thankful that God welcomes these questions and is strong enough to handle all the punches  I might throw.

Nothing worth while in life is easy so I would have to say this journey I’m on in grad school: working on my MDiv and MSW, living life in my community, and trying to fall in love with my church again, is a worth while journey; even if I don’t always see it until my 20/20 hindsight comes into play.

Until next time … keep loving, laughing, seeking, and questioning!