I woke up early this morning. I was going to walk or “wog” in the “Battle of the Bean.” This 5K race supports the ministry of Mead’s Corner the coffee shop that is an outreach of the church I serve First United Methodist in downtown Wichita, Kansas. Before I got out of bed, I said my prayers. First I prayed for our new president Donald Trump. Then I prayed for our nation and prayed for many people I care about.
Not that it matters, but I did a personal best on the 5K at 44:30.8. My husband and I enjoyed the race and the energy and helping out a good cause.
Following the race I went home, changed clothes and got in the car with my twin sister and friend and husband and headed over to the Women’s March.
I will be honest, I thought long and hard about whether or not I would go. When the march was announced in Washington, D.C. I was asked if I was going and I said no. It was a long way away, it would be expensive and I wasn’t sure what my presence would add.
Then a march was announced for Topeka, again, I had not planned on going because I had the 5K in the morning and I knew I couldn’t get there in time. Then they announced a march in Wichita. This gave me pause. What reason could I give for going or not going?
The truth is, that I have it pretty good. I am in a place in my life that frankly I never imagined I would be. I am a senior pastor in a historic downtown church. There have not traditionally been many senior pastors that are women, although they are becoming more prevalent. My life is secure. I have health insurance, although like many it went up dramatically for 2017 (60%). I can afford to pay for it. In some ways I could be the poster child for women’s equality.
That is not my whole story, however. I could be a poster child for other things: being raised for five years by a single mom and grandparents and being a recipient of what was then called Aid to Dependent Children and a medical card. I could be a poster child for being sexually harassed by my superiors and not reporting it for fear I would lose my job and not be able to be a pastor, something I was called to do and be. I could be a poster child for women who have been raped in college or anywhere and not reporting for fear of not being believed (actually both the sexual harassment and rape were shared but I was told that it would be his word against mine and there wasn’t any point in reporting it.)
So I marched today for those who could not or those who have not yet seen that equality and justice is possible. I marched today, because I don’t want to go back to where there is an open season on women to be groped and to be raped and to be abused and told to just get over it. I don’t want to go back to when I knew what it was like to be voiceless and powerless and afraid.
The truth be told, I didn’t agree with every sign I saw, or every part of every speech that was shared. I didn’t need to. I needed to stand up and be counted. I also don’t believe in violence. I was particularly grateful there was none in Wichita, not that I expected it. Parents with children, young people, old people with gray hair and wrinkles, women and men gathered and the mood was amazing.
One of the gifts of being part of this country is our right to assemble, our freedom of religion and our freedom of speech. Disagreement is not only necessary, it helps us move in new directions. I know this will sound somewhat shocking, but I don’t need everyone to believe the way I believe. Christians do NOT agree on many things…not the least of which is who to vote for in any given election. Christians don’t agree on baptism, on women in ministry or other doctrinal issues. Jewish people also don’t agree on every doctrinal issues, nor do Muslims or any other religion. In this country, we are free to worship or not in the way we see fit. We are free to assemble and protest and march in order to change the things we feel need changing. We are free to write, to speak and to post what we believe even if others do not.
I prayed for President Trump this morning, because that is what Christians do, he is the president of the United States. I prayed for our government because that is what Christians do. I stood up for those less fortunate, the ones who are afraid and the weak, because that is also what Christians do. I believe deeply that I am part of a long line of those who have worked for justice, for equality and for the hope and promise that all people deserve the unalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. There have been many who have gone before me, my attendance today honors their sacrifice and commitment to building a better world. I attended today for those who come after me, that the time will come sooner, rather than later, when the reign of God, which promises hope, love, joy and justice will be made real.
So today, I prayed and walked. I marched and was present and accounted for. I know that not everyone will think that was important, some will disagree. I honor that disagreement. I also honor those who work tirelessly for peace, for justice for all people. I want to be part of a loving movement which provides safety for the most vulnerable, justice for the oppressed, equality for all people. I want my words and actions to match what I say I believe. As a Christian, I long to live as Jesus did, not only proclaiming good news, but working in ways to change the world….into a world of peace, of grace and of justice.