A Pastoral Account for Millennial Womanism
Engaging in ministry as a millennial woman of African descent, in the urban American context is an honor. Being a millennial black woman in ministry is an opportunity to live at the intersections of faith, service, culture, history heritage, innovation, and gender in a 21st century.
As we seek to expand the traditional womanist epistemologies, I believe we must further engage a full narrative of flourishing, while in the wildernesses of life. For one, I have found that we have lived into the narrative of being co-sufferers with no glimpse of hope for far too long. While, I believe that womanism is a discipline that seeks to be inclusive, we now have an opportunity to build upon the assessment for human flourishing. Writing and teachings that uplifts the black woman or her community beyond the cross and the wilderness are scarce. We who believe and follow Christ, specifically, are people who prescribe to a narrative of resurrection. Therefore, as a preacher, I must share a gospel that teaches redemptive suffering and one of resurrection. Bearing crosses are not our only assignments. Christ did not die only to leave people in their suffering, but to give them life beyond the graves of society and the tombs that leave people to die and remain forgotten. The tombs must be emptied and we must emerge with hope. Preaching and pasturing that is rooted in hope will expand the current landscape of the womanist discipline. In the new formation of Millennial Womanism, we are called to be whole people who are made to flourish; my daily work also seeks to accomplish this.
As a pastor, my daily work is grounded in the prophetic and redemptive gospel of liberation and healing that addresses urban trauma among the lost, the least, and the left out, with an afro centric hermeneutic. I sit among those who are considered to be “the other” and the voiceless in our communities. I have specifically worked with black women, black and brown youth, the seasoned saints, the formerly incarcerated, active and former substance abusers, and families who are heavily impacted by gun violence. I serve in a wilderness where the death of a young person is not uncommon. Police involved shootings are not foreign. The cost of living is high and grocery stores are few and the education system is one that fails our local students. And yet still, there is a well in the wilderness that reminds us that we are to flourish.
In addition, it is important to note that flourishing is also based on context. I think of how a seasoned saint grandmother in my community who is on welfare and is in jeopardy of losing her home. Her grandchildren are in the foster care system because the parents are in active addiction. Yet this seasoned saint woman can still flourish and thrive in her personal and communal wilderness. How is this possible? She has made a choice to say that her hope is built on Jesus, even in the face of the systems that seek to disenfranchise and disinherit her. Her flourishing is not contingent on the world as is, but it is in her ability to tap into the place and imagine that there is one who can sustain her. And this teaches us that when we can imagine it, then we also have the capacity to believe. And when we come to believe, then we inherently become unstoppable based on faith that flourishing is real.
The emerging formation of millennial womanism seeks to foster intergenerational bonds between the elders and the younger generations. As a pastor who serves in a multigenerational congregation, my work seeks to be a bridge that promotes dialogue between the elders and the youth. Currently, millennials are in the position to be the bridge that merges the two. Currently, we are in dialogue with one another with the foundation that we all have a story that we are charged to share. The elders are invited to share their wisdom, but the children are also invited and encouraged to ask their questions without reservation.
As Womanism progresses further in the notion of flourishing, millennial womanism is needed. Millennial Womanism creates a space for dialogue and collaboration that gathers an array of voices. In the academy specifically, the experiences of women are present in the material; however the women themselves are not always represented or present at the table, as they would be in the non-profit sector or the local church. There needs to be more of a value of the practical work prophetic transformation in the local church context within the academy that will be accessible to the practitioners and to the women who’s lives shape the discipline. There needs to be more writing with and by the pastors that are actively engaging the work of being present with the people who are suffering, yet are still ushering them into a place of hope in the resurrection.
In addition, millennial womanism seeks to include necessary a narrative of wholeness as a non-negotiable. In this current society, we need scholars, practitioners, and ministerial leaders who are willing to cultivate wholeness in the wilderness at the Calvary of our lives. Wholeness is found in the resurrection. To be whole is to be healed and to have the pieces of your life in tact or to at least have a sense of what they are. It’s a place where you come to know yourself as God has created you. A place where you get back the pieces that others took, get back the pieces that you gave away, and the pieces that you lost become found. Unapologetically, wholeness includes peace, joy, love, and kindness. Wholeness is what many of us have fought to have and will fight to keep. Wholeness is a journey that one must be committed to traveling, as the destination will not be obtained overnight.
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