New Movements in the Journey

Blog Post by
Rev. Vanessa Hawkins
Designated Associate Leader of the
Presbytery of Giddings-Lovejoy
vhawkins@glpby.org


This past Sunday as I sat in First Church Edwardsville, Illinois, as they dedicated their new building, I was in awe at this new stage of their journey. Entering the building I was engulfed by the sound of excited voices and the smell of newly painted walls, new carpet, chairs, and windows.  My feet sank into the firmness of the mixed grey carpet as I made my way to the pastor’s office with a picture window displaying a winter scene of rural America. New chairs, still wrapped in plastic wrap, were stacked to my right and as I toured the sanctuary I was greeted by the rich colors of the stained-glass windows. The new stained-glass windows complimented the old ones.

I listened as the pastor and members talked about the features of the church and how the past had not been shunted aside, but artfully blended into the new. With this new building in this new location, this discerning congregation made the decision to following the promptings of the Spirit and move onto an unknown path trusting that God walks with them. The dedication service was wonderful.

As I sat in the pews, I thought about the presbytery office building. The Presbytery of Giddings-Lovejoy has made some significant decisions over the last couple of years—ne major decision was to sell the presbytery office building and to rent office space. Each day I walk into the office and I see the evidence of that decision. We are in the midst of moving and there are fewer items in the building to move because our history team has found new homes for some items, presbytery members have claimed a piece of the rich history that has filled this building, and the Presbyterian Historical Society has claimed journals and minutes which they will digitize and store. Boxes are still in offices, along the hallway walls, and tucked away in corners. As staff, we have moved from a distant understanding of the move to a restlessness to once again be settled in one place without the disruptions of packing, purging, and second-guessing ourselves as we discern the best way forward.

I look forward to the next step of our journey in a new location as we discern how to best use that sacred space in creative and life-giving ways that witness to our neighbors that we are a community of faith, willing to walk an unknown path for we trust that God walks it with us.

Rev. Vanessa Hawkins

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dreamer of Dreams

Blog Post by

Rev. Vanessa Hawkins
Presbytery of Giddings-Lovejoy
Designated Associate Leader
vhawkins@glpby.org


May 2006, I participated in a guided tour through several neighborhoods in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina had swept through the city. Starting in the Garden District, our guide systematically led us, a group of nine, through neighborhoods bustling with joggers, commuters, and restaurant employees preparing for the dinner crowds. There was little noticeable damage in this area.  Bit by bit, we meandered through neighborhoods and we witnessed the damage suffered by those living in the lower areas. In the Ninth Ward, it felt as if we were driving into a desolate place – a place of death and destruction and silence. Unlike the Garden District, there was little to no evidence of life—no birds, no commuters, no movement, no sounds, no smells, no people laughing, loving, or moving about.  Katrina had left her mark.

As we began to return to higher ground, we encountered one young woman from the Ninth Ward.  She and her husband were reclaiming their lives, their home, and their neighborhood. Standing alone on a deserted street, the wife turned and pointed from one demolished home to another, she called out the names of her absent neighbors and shared her dreams of a revived neighborhood.  She stated, “If we build, then our neighbors can see that they can come home.  It just takes a little work.”  One by one, through the power of naming and memory of what was- she (re)claimed the future—a neighborhood once again thriving as a community. In reclaiming her past, she was birthing not only her future, but also the future of those left behind.  Vision, faith, memory, and tradition were her tools of resistance to trauma, loss, and disruption. One group member commented, “New Orleans will be rebuilt by people like her. People who can dream dreams and envision a future even when there are no visible signs of renewal.  People with the drive and dedication to do the work even when doing the work seems hopeless.  She is what New Orleans needs because it will be people like her who will create the new New Orleans.”

In many ways, their story is our story.  Over the last 7 weeks, I have meandered Northside, Westside, Southside, and center of the city.  I have listened to narratives of loss and disruption.  I have felt the grief of some as they recounted the challenging decisions made to reclaim a flourishing future for this presbytery. I have heard the sighs of resignation and sensed the fears that the recent undertakings may only lead to failure. But, I have also witnessed the fierce dedication of many seeking to move us towards a more loving, sustainable and just future. I challenge us to be like the young woman from New Orleans and to continue to (re)claim our sense of community and reform our vision of what it means to be a vibrant life-giving presence in the world and in St. Louis.  For this presbytery to be the vision of the Kindom that God holds for us – we all must participate in the reclaiming and rebuilding.  Giddings Lovejoy is not just on the path of claiming a new future, but is also trailblazing a new model of ministry.  Remember, we belong to God and it is God who has extended to us and through us – a call to new life. We are walking an unknown path with God who is very present in our new unfolding drama of discovery. We are the bearers of God’s dreams for this presbytery today.

Rev. Vanessa Hawkins