Wednesday, September 8, 2010

"Reflections on Lifting and Serving One Another"

As I reflect upon the rich experience of gathering with my “clergy sisters” at the ABC Home Missions Society’s “Women Together Lifting and Serving One Another” conference a few weeks ago, my mind keeps returning to a common theme expressed by those I met…

“How wonderful it is that we can come together as women and genuinely support, pray for and encourage one another.”

The joyous surprise expressed in the above statement subtly suggests a reality that we must begin to address: our fractured relationships as women.

Although we avoid discussing frankly those issues between and among us as women – those things that divide us, hurt us, create mistrust between us, we must face, confront and prayerfully strip the power from the proverbial elephant in the room!

During our panel discussion, one sister was bold enough to raise the question, “Why do leaders in the church remain silent regarding the things that divide us as women?” A hush fell over the panel – we wrestle to talk about it. But talk about it we must!

We must begin to honestly, lovingly and prayerfully dissect and discuss the origins and systems – historical, societal and theological issues that hinder our unity.

- What keeps us from rejoicing when one sister rises up?
- What hinders us from trusting one another?
- What stops us from saying, “Girl, you got it goin on!”
- What makes the “Cat” jump up in us, causing us to tear one another down?
- What makes us sit back and watch another sister struggle to climb through a crack in the ceiling while we sit and sip a cup of tea on the other side?

Until we can honestly deal with these issues that are very real – we will greatly struggle to lift and serve one another.

I leave with you portions of a powerful message delivered Dr. Julianne Malveaux, President, Bennett College for Women, September 4, 2008…

“…We need to think about the ways that we, in this community, can embrace, enrich, and enforce each other. My sisterfriend, Dr. Suzan Johnson Cook, likes to talk about geese and the way they lift each other, and I want us to think of ourselves as those geese, more powerful together than we are alone.

Picture the geese taking flight from the Canadian shoreline. They lift off the water in a squawking discourse. Yet, very quickly, a line begins to emerge, and it straightens, arches and bends sharply to form a perfect V shape. Canadian geese fly in V formation for a practical reason. A flock of geese flying in formation can move faster and maintain flight longer than any goose flying alone. We must be more like the geese. Synergistic. Working together. Studying together. Learning together.

By flying in the V formation, the whole flock of geese adds at least 71 percent greater flying range than if each bird flew on its own. People with a sense of community get where they are going more quickly and more easily because they are traveling together, getting synergy from each other.

…Whenever a goose falls out of formation, it feels the drag and resistance of trying to go it alone and quickly gets back into formation to take advantage of the lifting power of the bird in front. It’s like groups. When one sister tries to fall out of study mode, her group will push, prod and encourage her to fall back in line. If we are as smart as geese we will stay in formation with those headed in our direction. It’s the company we keep.

When the lead goose gets tired, she rotates back in the wing and another goose flies point. We have to take turns doing the hardest jobs, with people or with geese. We have to have each other’s back. We have to give each other a rest, a break. It’s the company we keep. Canadian geese honk from behind to encourage those up front to keep up their speed. We all need that honk sometimes, that cheering, that encouragement. If geese can do it for other geese, why can’t we do it for each other?

When a goose is sick or is wounded and falls, two geese fall out of formation to help and protect her. They stay with her until she is either able to fly or until she is dead, then they launch out on theirown or with another formation until they catch up with their own group. Like geese, we need to commit to stand by each other, protect each other, and sometimes find new folk who are going in one direction.

Geese have synergy. Do we? Synergy is defined as one plus one equals more than two. This is a synergy that we need here at Bennett. Sticking together. Holding strong with each other. Encouraging each other. Supporting our weariness. Protecting the wounded. Focusing on the good stuff, the ability to reach our highest and best when we do it together.”

Sisters, let’s seek the Lord for ways to follow the example of the geese!

If you’d like to share your experience or post a comment, please post a comment or send me an email at

Until next Wednesday,

In faith, hope and perseverance,
Pastor Chris

1 comment:

  1. An emailed comment...

    Hi Chris, Yes, I have heard this story before. Not just for women, but for congregations, for regions and even families. But you are so right, women don't seem to pull together as often as they could. I guess I am blessed. I have some dear women pastor friends, sisters in Christ who are not worried about climbing into some prestigious position, but simply go about the business of serving God. When I was down, they were there to step in, encourage, support, and carry me if necessary. There are others who are aloof, seem interested only in getting ahead, and don't have time to listen or help or care. Just because we are pastors does not make us perfect. So why would we not struggle with those feelings. They are what should be driving us to our knees and to God, so that we can serve as Jesus did, humbly and with compassion.
    I am working with a group that is trying to find its way and I just might have found the right story to help us work together.....thanks! to you and to God. Pastor Mary