healers, bridge-builders, and community cultivators

kathyescobar church stuff, down we go, dreams, equality, faith shifts, incarnational, leadership, women in ministry 29 Comments

henri nouwen we keep forgetting who we are

it was a great weekend at transform 2014 in san diego. it was lovely & inspiring hanging out with old friends & making some new ones, and on my middle-of-the-night-and-trying-to-stay-awake drive from san diego to LAX to catch a morning standby flight that ended up getting cancelled, i had a lot of time to reflect.

and a weird thing happened as i was driving:  i started crying for the church

no matter how mad i get at it, no matter how frustrated i am at the same-old-same-old conversations, no matter how grieved i feel over how far it has strayed from what i think was the big idea, i still love it.

i still believe that it could and should be the most transforming force in the world since it’s supposed to be the representative, the ambassador, the living-flesh-and-blood spirit of Jesus here on earth. 

i still believe in what could be.

i still believe that somehow it will prevail even though i think it will begin to look much different.

through some different encounters, i was struck this weekend by how broken the church is, how divided we have become, how much pain exists, how the chasm between progressives & evangelicals is so hard to bridge, how difficult it is for us to find unity in the midst of this tricky shift in christianity.

i also saw so much hope & beauty that is emerging despite the obstacles. 

i am incredibly grateful to be connected to people who truly care about change and are trying to be ministers of hope in the midst.  it is no easy task.

as i was driving in the dark up I-5, i was thinking that while i firmly believe we need dreamers & boat-rockers & prophets to speak into change in the church and help everyone imagine a better future, i also think there’s a critical need for another group to rise up to help nurture this movement as it struggles and strains to move to new places:  we desperately need more healers, bridge-builders, and community cultivators!


this is what’s sorely missing.

the pain, the division, the fear, the criticism, the mistrust is so real.

i am more convinced than ever we need more healers, bridge-builders, and community cultivators–guides, pastors & shepherds (the good kind), and spiritual midwives–to make it to the other side. 

here’s the role they can play:

healers / there is an incredible amount of woundedness related to faith & church & life. the stories sometimes make me weep, so many deeply dedicated people who have lost so much along the way–beliefs & doctrine, structures & churches and relationships & community.  we need people who won’t minimize this pain or magnify it but will tend to it with love & offer safe spaces and places for stories to be told and hope to be found so we can begin to get up off our knees and walk again. faith shifts are hard but don’t have to be quite as devastating, but because there are so few healing communities to grieve properly, we get stuck and lost in the process. we need more healing spaces, therapists, pastors, and spiritual directors & guides to help us navigate these changes & uncover hope.

bridge-builders / if we’re not careful, this evangelical-progressive theological war is going to get worse & worse. we all can see how it’s getting crazier by the day. as a person who’s done my share of bridge-bombing, i feel clear it’s time for me to enter into a better season of bridge-building.  we need people who can hold the space for dignified dialogue between those of more liberal persuasions and those of more conservative ones. to find what we agree on instead of only center on what we don’t. to lay down our swords & harmful words and find ways to make peace. to learn to listen & understand each other better. to learn to agree to disagree and put love & relationship above all. to foster unity and diversity, not uniformity. to cross divides between government agencies & different faith streams & other brothers and sisters who care about similar things.

community cultivators / there’s a big difference between building churches and cultivating communities. we definitely need new wineskins for new wine, more women, more shared leadership, more living systems. we need places of equality & justice & healing and vibrant & diverse & flexible & challenging & transformational communities of all shapes and sizes to emerge. we need so many more options for people who leave traditional church to actually find places to live out their passion for justice & mercy & community & healing with others without feeling so lonely & fragmented. we need little pockets of love and freedom to pop up all over the place so that we can all become more whole. we need communities of contemplative action, nurtured by a deep sense of God’s presence & calling and bravely dedicated to practice. we need people and groups who will partner with government agencies, non-faith-based organizations, other nonprofits & churches-not-like-us for the common good; collaboration is what will sustain us.

yeah, we need more healers, bridge-builders, and community cultivators to help nurture a more hopeful future.

without them, the bruises & scars of all this change are going to be our defining mark instead of signs of life & hope.

if you are some form of a healer, a bridge-builder, a community cultivator, please know your gifts, your heart, your presence, your leadership, your imagination is desperately needed out here.

we need to you to help us remember who we are.

may you step up and out and help us all move toward a better place together.