May 2019 was one of the most exciting months so far in my almost 23 years of living. I graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with two majors and a minor, and just a week later, I was on a plane with one of my best friends, Amanda, ready to take on Europe for two weeks. Since our first stop was London, visiting Wesley’s Chapel was at the top of my list, right next to Buckingham Palace and the London Bridge, of course. Amanda and I surprisingly had figured out the red double-decker busses rather quickly (let’s be real, it was all her – I was clueless).
On the morning of our second day in London, we got on a bus and made our way to Wesley’s Chapel. This history-nerd & daughter-of-Methodism, Hannah, was fangirling as soon as we walked onto the property. We were greeted by John Wesley himself (in statue form) with his right arm outstretched. What intrigued me the most, though, were the words on the statue: The World is My Parish. Perhaps these words struck me because I was traveling to a new country for the first time. Maybe I was reminded of the Great Commission in Matthew 28, a central part of my call story. Regardless of the reason, thinking of that moment in London when I read, “The World is My Parish” still makes my heart pound. I am going to be honest: this heart pounding response is not just a result of joy, it is also a result of fear. The whole world as my parish? How would God ever think that I could do that? It is scary enough to think that I will be pastoring a church in two and a half years. But the whole world? Unbelievable.
It is now eight months later and I am not in London anymore. I just finished my first semester at Duke Divinity School and I see that God’s call for me to speak truth to the world is even more messy and challenging and beautiful than I ever imagined. Through the wisdom of my family, friends, professors, and mentors, I am starting to uncover the radical reality that this call is not about what I can do, but what God can do.
God is already in the world. Majoring in American Indian and Indigenous Studies in undergrad taught me just how often people get this wrong. AKA: settler colonialism. I am not bringing God to any appointment I serve or to any people I meet. My call requires this of me: to be present with the people of God whose souls and bodies fill this world. My call is to help them see that God was with them yesterday, God is with them now, and God will be with them forevermore. This reality makes the heart-pounding words “The World is My Parish” just a little more touchable. I can travel to every country, every city, and every town and I am sure to find one of God’s beloveds. It is a heart-pounding work because it is a work that is never done. It is a heart-pounding work because it involves living, breathing people. It is about a living, breathing God. Jesus.
Each time I stand in the pulpit, will my heart continue to pound? You better believe it.
Each time I visit someone hurting, will my heart continue to pound as I search for the words to say? Absolutely.
There is something beautiful about this heart-pounding work. It keeps me expectant of the grace of God that I can never seem to escape.
What makes your heart pound?
Maybe, just maybe, that is God saying, “Do the dang thing. I am with you.”
Hannah is my lovely roommate and also a first year Master of Divinity student at Duke, following in her father’s footsteps by pursuing the path towards ordination as an Elder in the UMC (she became a certified candidate last month!!!) Hannah graduated this past May from UNC-Chapel Hill and while she and I are a bit concerned about our living situation come fall 2020 when JMU and UNC will play each other in football, we are enjoying living this new season of life alongside one another & can’t wait to see what semester two of seminary has in store for us.