As you head to Portland, please know that you will be in my prayers and thoughts every day. I will be thinking of you as you rise at 4am, work long past midnight, steel your heart against hate speech, juggle ridiculous logistics and subtle politics. I know the next several weeks will be difficult, but they will also be filled with life-changing worship, more Holy Spirit than you can process, laughter, joy, new loves and friendships, hopes and tears.
I wish I could be with you for the entire journey. I wish my situation here had not become so bizarre, and that vacation time was easier to come by. But since I cannot be with you in person, I send you some words of love and advice as you prepare. These are written because I wish I had done them better in past years, not because I think I know what is best, but because I remember my own failings with such poignant regret.
In 2012, Westboro baptist church protested our work, but the complaints I heard afterwards? They were about harsh words done to friends from within our own church. Please, do not make those mistakes I and others made in forgetting the most important people around you are those you love, work, laugh, drink, pray, march, and live with.
- Be kind and gentle with one another. Remember that the Methodists around you agree with you on what is most vital, want the best for you, and that the only enemy here is evil. Your allies, fellow staff and volunteers, leaders of other organizations? You may disagree with their decision or prioritization, but they want what you want – to transform the United Methodist Church into one which represents the Justice and Gospel of Jesus Christ.
- Trust and think well of one another. None of us are perfect, but we can assume well of one another’s intentions. Correct gently, give the benefit of the doubt. Our disagreements are usually about tactics and strategy – not the overall goals. Keep that perspective, and build your persuasive speech upon principles of collaborating, not tearing down one another.
- Apologize readily, and forgive immediately. Yes, we all have egos, struggles, weaknesses and will make errors. People you trust – and those you work with begrudgingly – will make mistakes between now and May 20. When they do, remind yourself they do so out of weakness, tiredness, or inability – NOT bad intentions.
- Prioritize respectfully. You will not be able to do all things. Individually, as a coalition, legislatively, or witness wise. Absolutely important, can’t-be-dropped balls will get dropped. Go back and try again, find another way to elevate that goal later, acknowledge the pain caused from within our own family of the UMC. Do not neglect to empathize with the pain of your siblings simply because it was unavoidable. Remember The most important people are right next to you.
- Remember to rest and sing. There is no “one last hope.” This is a marathon, and your absence for an hour, a morning, a full day in fact, is not going to ruin everything. If decisions are made while you are missing and you disagree? Trust your beloved siblings, their goals are your goals. Sing together, find harmonies. I mean this literally and metaphorically – bond over something that reminds you that you’re different, but together.
- Be good to yourself. God’s abundance is greater than human stupidity. You are divine. You are loved. You are enough. You have done enough. There will be pieces that can’t get done, and losses you believe could have been turned around “if, if, if…” NOPE. Your witness allows millions to stay in relationship with God. You have pleased God by your love. You have already transformed the world from what it used to be.