“In the beginning….” These three iconic words bring to mind at least two of the most popular passages in the Bible. Genesis ignites sacred Scripture with these three words and the Gospel of John does for the New Testament what Genesis did for the Hebrew Bible. “In the beginning God created…” and “in the beginning was the word.” What rings true behind these words is that you only get to start something new once. Everything after that is a restart! While I imagine that there will be multiple 2.0s and 2.1 reboots in the future of my tenure here with CBFMS, this is the only time I’ll start with the weight of “in the beginning.” In the beginning, what? That has been burning in my mind and heart for months now—actually, ever since I was approached about this possibility. What would I do if this actually happened and I became the Coordinator of CBFMS?
If I’m reading Genesis and John closely, they are both about relationship. Why would the eternal and transcendent God of the universe create? Of all the things that this God could do, why create what was created? Our whole universe came from the mind and heart of God (to anthropomorphize just a little). The story that follows in our Bible is about how God relates to all that was created, with priority given to humanity—God’s relationship with humanity. The Gospel of John retells that story with a little more intimacy and describes how that same God became manifest as a human for humanity. In both these origin stories we have profound and even impassioned stories of relationship. I want relationship to be the foundation of everything we do here in CBFMS—and that’s not new at all. You already function that way! Most of Mississippi functions that way. Sitting at this “in the beginning” moment, I will make relationships a priority for my own life and ministry. I want to be present with you—I want to be in your churches and around your dinner tables. I want all of us to know each other so that we can care for each other.
Simultaneously, I want CBFMS to forge new relationships with other denominational bodies in Mississippi in order to find a common ground for the common good. Specifically, we can model for the state how denominational and congregational relationships can build bridges over the “tracks” that still exist in the state of Mississippi. I want us to be an overpass! We will intentionally build an overpass so that we can begin conversations around racial reconciliation. Racial reconciliation is no small task and one too large to begin without relationships. There is already good work happening in Mississippi in this arena, so we don’t have to reinvent the wheel, but we do have to participate.
Delta Hands for Hope is a great example of some of that good work. Lane Riley has done an incredible job building a ministry in Shaw, Mississippi, that has already created an overpass. This week she has taken a group of teenagers from Shaw to Dallas, Texas, to help a local church partner there do missions in their backyard. The relationships that have been built through Delta Hands for Hope has made it possible for us to boldly and humbly seek a deeper conversation about race in Mississippi. So many of you have already been to Shaw and seen what is happening there. I want to us to work with Delta Hands for Hope and use it as a model in other towns throughout the Delta and the rest of Mississippi so that we can build more overpasses.
I can’t wait to hear about what you and your churches are already doing. I have so much respect for so many of you and your congregations. I am humbled and inspired by your resilience and hard work. Please feel free to contact me because I want to know you and know how to work for you. My new e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll have a new phone number soon—one with a Mississippi area code! Until then, thank you for this beginning.