Rev. Kay Ash

by Rev. Eric Folkerth

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Now and then, I want to use these weekly columns to brag about our great staff. I intend to write you about each of them, eventually. Today, I’d like to start out by bragging on Kay Ash.

In the past two weeks, I’ve seen Kay do remarkable things with two different groups of children. Each Wednesday night, she takes a large group of neighborhood kids —who have found our church and the incredible program we now have for children— and she shares a story time. I’ve now watched in awe several times, as the children sit spellbound by her storytelling skill.

I saw this same skill last week with the Kessler School kids too. Once a month, we lead chapel for the Kessler School children. On a morning last week, Kay grabbed and held the attention of those 100 or so elementary children, through storytelling and song.

In both cases, the children were mesmerized as they listened to Kay tell stories of the Bible and our faith.

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I told Kay after both events something I hope you all realize too: It’s an incredible gift to be able to do that…to be able to keep and hold the attention of children as you spin out a story. Not everybody can do it, but Kay can.

In case you didn’t know, we are averaging 25-30 children on Wednesday nights, who are coming for supper, a craft, playtime…but always also a time of prayer and a Bible story led by Kay. Many of these are neighborhood kids who we are privileged to serve and to help, in our way, with their spiritual and social development.

She is slowly, and masterfully, working through the entire Biblical story with them, using words and visual aids each week that help her tell a story at a child’s level.

Kay has also done marvelous things to bring new organization and structure to our church’s “Parent’s Day Out” (PDO) program. The care with which she’s shepherded the school through a challenging transitional time is impressive.

We have a newly formed “Parent’s Group” for our PDO program. This is a group that has bubbled up from among the PDO families. Their goal is to function as something akin to a “PTA” for the program. They arose, I’m convinced, because Kay’s presence has inspired them to get involved and give of their own time and talents to support the school.

And, finally, I know you all appreciate Kay’s leadership in worship, and the caring pastoral presence she brings to our worship life every Sunday.

God bless Kay Ash for her many ministerial gifts and skills. I give thanks for her presence at Kessler Park. I’m sure you do too.

See you on Sunday,

Eric Folkerth

Brokenness

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by Rev. Eric Folkerth

Broken World.

Broken Savior.

Broken Bread.

As I move through this week —where the eyes of the nation are on our city and the Amber Guyger trial and verdict— these words keep coming back to me.

Broken World.

Broken Savior.

Broken Bread.

We live in a deeply broken world.

We serve a Messiah who was broken by the “Powers that Be” of his day.

And we “remember” in worship by celebrating the gift of Holy Communion…broken bread.

Whatever you believe about the verdict in the Amber Guyger trial, the message it points to is: that this is still a deeply broken world. There is mistrust between police and people of color.

Does this verdict make things better or worse?

It probably depends upon who you are and where you stand.

I know that many People of Color are breathing a little easier this morning, perhaps believing for the first time in years, that the scales of justice are a bit more even, and the playing field a bit more fair.

But I also know many caring and dedicated police officers and law enforcement officials are feeling beset and blamed by these events; even as they work hard to reform their profession and do a good job every day. And, of course, they put their lives on the line every day too.

Here’s what I hope.

I hope that this decision is seen as a moment of justice and a message about the future. I hope that the police —for their own safety, as much as for the safety of the public— review and perhaps change their methods of engagement with the public. More “community policing” for example, to build trust among all people.

But they must also be more transparent going forward. This is a similar dynamic to what we clergy have experienced regarding sexual abuse. As we all painfully know, in both Protestant and Catholic traditions, Christian denominations have struggled with how to admit, confront, and reform on issues of abuse.

It’s not fun for any clergy when some are accused of wrongdoing, just as I’m sure it’s not fun for officers today to feel associated with Amber Guyger.

But on the other side of new procedures, accountability and transparency, can hopefully be a new place of trust and respect for them in their relationship with the public.

One thing is for sure, I have compassion for everyone in this case. I believe justice was done, but also that there is no cause for celebration. Because, in the end we will find…

Broken World.

Broken Savior.

Broken Bread.

This Sunday, we’ll celebrate World Communion Sunday…and this will be our theme. As we move through our brokenness, and name the brokenness of the world, we find that God brings healing in just those times. It’s painful. But it appears to be the way God works through the world.

God brings us healing and the bread of life, through the brokenness.

Let’s hope for this in our world and in our city.

See you Sunday,

Eric

A Family of Strangers

by Rev. Eric Folkerth

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The trial of Amber Guyger has fairly well gripped our city this week. Everywhere I go, people are talking about it.

Two Mondays ago, I was honored to be with an interfaith group of clergy called “FaithForward, Dallas.” There were perhaps forty clergy from all faiths and all parts of our city gathered together. We talked about the trial at length.

We noted that whatever the jury decides, there will be high emotions from our community. There will be strongly held opinions. There will be screaming headlines in the media that feel to many that they twist the story, sometimes beyond recognition. There will be “spin.” Already, as I went on social media last night and this morning, there is macabre rehashing of details of the case. (I myself am not immune from this…) We are all…North and South…Black and White…rich and poor…leering in on these proceedings like Roman spectators watching gladiators.

The “Hunger Games” atmosphere…the fact that every spectator becomes a commentator and “legal expert?” I must say, there is something about this that makes me a little ill.

Whatever you believe about the facts of the case, let us pause to remember that there are real lives behind the headlines. Botham Jean’s family is here in the city. No doubt, Amber Guyger’s is too. They must now walk the gauntlet of this social and paid media frenzy each and every day. I pray for them. I hope you will too, whatever you hope happens in the case.

One of the most powerful moments in that meeting of clergy last week was when one colleague said that our “calling” post-verdict must be to allow people the space for whatever reaction they have. To not judge, criticize, or explain away the feelings of anybody.

I think that’s a very powerful observation.

Simply know…there are clergy of all faiths, across this city, who are ready to hold space for the emotion and feeling that will come from the verdict. I hope to be a part of that. I hope that whatever your views, you will listen to those who think and feel differently from you.

I have written of my own views of the case online, will repost those views at my blog today if you are interested in finding them. Sufficed to say, though, I hope to “hold space” in the crucible of this moment, for all the people of Kessler and North Oak Cliff, whatever your view of this trial.

Malcolm Gladwell’s new book “Talking to Strangers” is deeply affecting me in all of this. The basic premise of the book is that we are all really *bad* at talking to, and understanding, the people we encounter as “strangers.” We misread their body language, their non-verbal cues. Sometimes even their clear verbal language too.

The problem, of course, is that we now live in a world of “strangers.” We live in a world of folks with different social, political and spiritual views than ours. He suggests that we must re-remember how to be compassionate, thoughtful, and above all how we must not “assume” when we are connected to those who are different from us.

That’s helpful to me. It’s also, of course, our calling as Christians. Jesus is the one who reminds us that the “stranger” is actually a member of our family (As Dr. Owen Ross reminded us last Sunday). Our calling is to love the stranger, the outsider, the “different” as ourself…as our family.

We are blessed with living and worshipping in a very diverse neighborhood where we get to practice “talking to strangers” all the time. That’s a blessing we can share with our world. So, pray for our city. For everyone here. And pray that we, here at Kessler, might be beacons of light, and agents of change during a difficult few weeks here in Dallas.