Where Two or More Are Gathered, Bring Out the Food

Columbia Theological Seminary

Sweet tea, Dark Presbyterian History, and Half Naked Men in Leather Harnesses. Four days in Atlanta, Georgia, visiting Columbia Theological Seminary.

Thank you Lord, the Heat is Bearable

I think I gained 10 lbs. There was a meal or snack every couple of hours and I even refrained from eating donuts at one point. I declined donuts, good Lord there was too much to eat.

One of our classes, Old Testament Interpretation, was taught by Dr. Brennan Breed. We dissected Hammurabi Code in comparison to Israelite Law. The majority of the 1.5 hour long class was a history lesson on Babylonia. We expanded on the humanitarian notions that “an eye for an eye” actually act as a level playing field in a society where the rich are no different than the poor in the eyes of the law. My stance on the Old Testament has always been a turbulent one, I see its value in the storytelling aspect of the story of God but with so much violence I wonder how much MAN is in that story, and how little God? This one lesson challenged me to dig a little deeper, Rome was not built in a day and we are still waiting for eternal heaven.

Throughout the weekend a few students spoke about their stories of being challenged in the field of ministry. One story that stuck with me was by Gerlyn Henry, a girl of Indian descent who grew up in Canada. On a seminary led trip to South Africa she was challenged to accept that there are cultural idiosyncrasies that she could just not understand. Even when coming from a cultural experience of being a minority yourself, to think that you can understand another minority (or systematically oppressed group) is not always the case. How can I be an effective ally if I do not fully understand?

Dark Histories

Chatting with the Dean of Students, Rev. Brandon T. Maxwell, on the important issues of ethnicity and race on campus it was made apparent that there are 1.5 hispanic students.

The majority minority group is African American, which is interesting considering the seminary’s history. The school was founded by slave owners who theologically defended slavery. (Not Verified)

Austin, I also understand, once segregated its hispanic students. They were not allowed to enter the classroom but instead had to learn from out in the hallway while their white counterparts and professors learned in discussion. (Not Verified)

These tenets of education are not present today, but to think that the ramifications of their existence once in time do not play a role in the present is dangerous. “All men are created equal,” says our Declaration of Independence, a commonsense understanding among Christians, and yet… here we are.

Oh You Know Hebrew? That’s Nice.

I found this whole experience at Columbia to be more academically stimulating than Austin, as opposed to emotionally, and yet one of the statements made by a current pastor and ex-student rang in heavy contrast:
In that moment in the hospital, when someone is going to be unplugged, no one cares that you know Hebrew.

Nightlife Ministry

Making a point to explore the LGBT scene in each city I visit I made my way to The Eagle. Being a leather bar it was no surprise that several of the men were walking around in leather harnesses and with wiggly tails. A lovely gentleman, we’ll call him J, introduced himself and asked what I was doing in Atlanta. I explained seminary and he told me his story:

He moved to Atlanta with a partner. They have since broken up and he is now having to rediscover Atlanta as a single man. There is a loneliness to him, a kindness, and a knowing of mistakes made.

He was very kind and pointed out that another gentleman, we’ll call him K, was eyeing me all night. I motioned for K to join us and he did, buying me my first ever drink from a stranger.

J left us and when K found out why I was in Atlanta he told me his story over the course of several hours:

He moved to Atlanta with a partner. They have since broken up and he is now having to rediscover Atlanta as a single man. There is a loneliness to him, a kindness, and a knowing of mistakes made.

That wasn’t a typo. The gentleman I met in Austin the week prior also shared the same story. Overcoming the déjà vu I wondered what is it that is bringing these similar stories into communion?

New Church

The alarm harassed me Sunday morning and I made my way to Central Presbyterian Church downtown. Interestingly enough, the church currently has an interim pastor, so did Central Presbyterian Austin, and as I return to my home church of Mission Bay Community Church we too have entered into an interim period as my pastor, Rev. Dawn Hyde, has accepted a call (there is that Presbyterian use of the word I can not stand) at a church in South Carolina.

Her last sermon with us was while I was away in Austin so unfortunately I was not there to say my goodbyes. As I look back at these last few weeks my idea of what church is, what it’s supposed to be, and how we are to be in it has changed quite drastically. In this moment I feel like I am in interim, in waiting, in discernment, for what is to come next and how it is supposed to look.

After service I was given a ride to the National Center for Civil and Human Rights. Never have I entered into a place with a more robust collection of stories. Chronicling the civil rights movement, and that of other civil liberty movements in the US and worldwide, I was surrounded by accounts of the oppressed and their oppressors. I was warned that the Lunch Counter Sit-in Exhibit was exceptionally difficult. As I partook in the auditory experience with my eyes closed and hands placed firmly on the counter, I had a moment of PTSD back to my middle school days of anti-gay bullying. I shook there for a moment before making my way through the rest of the museum and obtaining a collection of sermons by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King.

It is interesting to note that Atlanta was the seat of the American Civil Rights movement, that the most diverse square mile in America is in nearby Clarkston, GA. That I am struggling with these notions of white church, and the role that our faces of change are supposed to play in it. That I live in a country that is divided in its politics, and in-turn how it loves one another.

Where Austin certainly tugged at my heart, Columbia pulled at my brain.

Once I landed back in San Francisco I sat on my couch for just a minute and then I balled. I thought I was in the clear this time. I guess I was wrong.

Next Stop: San Francisco Theological Seminary. Do not be fooled by its name, the seminary is actually in San Anselmo, California. Fortunately I won’t need to fly for this trip, will be going by Ferry instead.

Love and peace, in Jesus’ name I pray.

Amen.


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Where Two or More Are Gathered, Bring Out the Food Where Two or More Are Gathered, Bring Out the Food Reviewed by Unknown on 09:45 Rating: 5

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