This week, if not these last couple years have been quite challenging.
Yesterday was even more revealing, though it came by way of a now treasured gift of nearly 24 hours with Chief Fire Ignitor, Shae Bynes, co-founder, now advisor to Kingdom Driven Entrepreneurs, LLC. (See link below).
She has for two years invested in my life, though her Thursday evening stay over with my wife and I, was my first face to face, apart from zoom.
After a light breakfast, she and I took a quick trip around the Village of Clemmons and the greater Winston-Salem, myself pointing out the footprints of my 30 year investment in both church and community. I thought I might provide some tangible evidence of the stories she had first read in my book, "A Catalyst for Change" which eventually led to our personal friendship.
I soon found myself staring at the relics of what was once known as "The God Dome" to university students housed adjacent to the church I once served. The church is now owned by that same nationally known, historically Baptist university. Across the busy parkway that fed the once thriving campus sits one of three HUD funded senior facilities in our city, influenced in part by my earlier and more youthful efforts.
On the other side of the triangular campus, are 328 student housing units initially envisioned as a means of creating much needed income for the church, in hopes of strengthening her influence, as well as appreciating the church's assets by way of wrapping the campus with university students, had the leadership chosen the equity position offered.
My sincere hope, along with the full buyin of an unchurched developer was to sustain her 70 year role as a Christ-centric influencer in the city and upon the adjacent university campus, as well has prospering her growing Dayschool.
Rather, the leadership chose the mere sale of her assets. Perhaps I erred in my strategy given the nature of church culture being such as to seldom think outside the box. I believe this saying best fits my efforts, "the best laid plans of mice and men!"
We also took a journey through the Innovation Quarter, a prized bio-tech sector for our community, founded in partnership with the aforementioned University. Yet, long before the city fathers' silent optioning of some 180 acres, the Goler Renaissance Community Development Corporation (CDC) had envisioned the revival of a once thriving African American business community. You see, the Goler business district had earlier been near leveled by gentrification and the need for a new transportation corridor known as Highway 52. A friend of mine referred to it as a concrete ribbon that divides our city along racial lines.
Sitting somewhat unnoticed though still functioning, is the facade of a church facility that once housed the visionary congregation whose pastor, along with two market savvy members launched the CDC and then invited me on board.
We then drove on further to another part of the city. where the Living Water Family Resource Center was housed, at least up until a downturn in the economy and a partisan motivated political shift of state funding in 2003.
The center had seemed the epitome of a multi-denominational collaboration, named "First Start, Inc." The nonprofit's name was selected to imply the multiple future endeavors envisioned on behalf of those underserved in a transitional community suffering from white flight.
With a voucher funded, A-rated preschool, a state of the art dental clinic and a birthing suite, in partnership with that same historically Baptist university's medical school, we were a prototype for well-intended, love-based, Christ-centric community engagement.
Early on, with its fully funded community buyin, to include local foundation support, it soon caught the eye of then Governor James Hunt, serving at least in part as catalyst for his signature childcare intiative later known as Smart Start.
That community is still quite the diverse blend of Latino, African American and poor whites. The site however, has long been abandoned by the minority congregation that had afforded its success. I almost wept, as the only remaining evidence was a faded directional sign still affixed to the brick facade, "Preschool Entrance Here." A homeless man walked out of the almost windowless building, just as we drove out of a now grass laden asphalt, beer can littered parking lot, that once hosted an attractive preschool playground.
What a provocative morning!
Meanwhile, back to this morning, as my 50 year discipline of early morning scripture reads seems somehow highjacked by other readings. Books have always seemed to find me at strategic moments. Of late, a deluge!
If influenced by the book, I am usually then driven to pursue these authors further by personal contact, often by way of the internet, then on Facebook or LinkedIn, enticed further by their digital posts,
One whom I follow is another quite wounded church warrior, who is convincing in his logic and daily diatribe against Christianity as we now know it. His words adding credence to those I believe offered to me by the Spirit on December 28, 2008, "My Church is in foreclosure."
As I have often responded in love to this former mega-church pastor, others following him have then reached out to me. One a now dear and de-churched Christ-follower, whom interestingly enough I had known earlier by way of Facebook. He just so happened to know and follow my warrior friend well. He is a former Woodstock-like, Christ-centric song writer, now goads my transparency by way of phone calls and texts, along with occasional lyrics from his career as a musician. He pursues my deepest thoughts, frankly encouraging my growing call toward spiritual candor.
Another follower, a transgender who "bares" the pain of being birthed with both genitalia, though married with grandchildren of her own. My eyes leak when I hear her heart and am made aware of the physical reality that exists and the mental anguish that had in the teen years brought suicidal thoughts.
I am also reading a soon to be released moral narrative from a well respected, nationally known author and friend Byron Williams. He writes: "The three elements required for great oratory are ethos, logos, and pathos. Ethos is establishing one’s authority to speak on the subject; logos represents the logical argument of one’s point, and pathos is the attempt to emotionally influence an audience."
I have now attempted and published five books, three self-published, all of therapeutic necessity perhaps. The sixth is now being professionally edited. I am neither hungry enough to dutifully market my books, nor confident that I fit the ethos, logos, pathos formula that my friend offers.
However, I cannot resist the self-revealing thoughts I now carry to bed each night, nor the renewed "call' to transparency each morning. As a still well-churched charismatic Presbyterian, but near "Done" Christian, I deeply treasure my faith journey. However, I have to admit that as a Christ-follower, I am in a crises of faith, given the fruit of my years both in the ministry and the marketplace.
Another quote earlier this a.m. cited by the Reverend Williams, stung deeply given the truth captured in its words and the length of time since first written:
"Before God, I must say, that such a glaring contradiction as exists between our creed and practice the annals of six thousand years cannot parallel. In view of it, I am ashamed of my country. I am sick of our unmeaning declamation in praise of liberty and equality; of our hypocritical cant about the unalienable rights of man.”- William Lloyd Garrison (1805-1879)
Were you to read my last two blog posts, you would better understand the gravity of my thoughts this morning, especially the one entitled, "Life Is A Beautiful, But Fleeting Thing!"
I humbly trust my readers will tread lightly upon my transparency, especially those who have in the past referred to me as a good citizen, a devoted churchman and a "Man of God."