As we prepared for the 2017 Princeton Forum on Youth Ministry, we asked various practitioners to write about what the word “declare” means for them, for their ministry, and for the church. Throughout history, prophetic voices have made declarations—often ones that are uncomfortable to the religious elite. We hope to bring some of that same discomfort and disruption into our lives and yours as we consider this calling together.
In This Moment
In this moment of emerging new leadership
of outrage, fear, sadness, and tentative hope,
where spirituality is constantly being understood anew
In this moment of national, international, and local reengagement,
of movement building and collective organizing,
of reconfiguring the spaces, praxis, and polity, of the institutional Christian Church
In this moment of creative generativity,
In this moment of coming together, questions of purpose, methodology, and goals persistently arise. What are we working toward? How do we win? What does wining look like? How will I survive? What is our next…or first step?
In this Lenten moment, we are invited to renewal, recommitment, and reflection on the cost of discipleship. What does it mean to be faithful in these times? How do we live our faith in the public square? What should I risk? When is the cost, pain, or sacrifice, too much? How do I access the Divine? Is my faith strong enough to sustain and protect me? Where does inspiration come from? How will I know if I am doing the right thing?
This truly is a moment rife with questions, tensions, grief, contempt, debate, and possibility. It is nonstop, and a climate of insecurity, frustration, and fear abounds. Simultaneously, people are collectively coming together to strategize, process, think, and create. The public square is full, and public witness is running the risk of being narrowly defined as establishing dominance over and/or generating and sustaining resistance to an opposing force. Dominance leads to the destruction of life-giving and sustaining forces of those being dominated. And while resistance can be a powerful and transformative strategy, in isolation, it does not create a new way of being.
We, as followers of the Christian tradition are called to a path of righteousness. Righteousness as defined by biblical tradition refers to right, just, and balanced relationships. In a moment when so much of life demands immediate and reactionary responses, there is a distinct call for the faithful, the inspired, the artists, the visionaries, and the prophets to transcend the tenor of the current moment and provide the bass line for a new melody.
The Power of Prophetic Witness
Prophetic witness in our public square calls us toward right relationship and a balancing of power. It beckons us to transform the broken relationships that lie in the wake of oppression, to establish equity in our communities and parity with our planet, to create and sustain community that actively recognizes and protects the full humanity of each individual, to attribute dignity to all peoples, especially to the most vulnerable sectors of society, and to be in communion with and accountable to ourselves, each other, and the Divine.
Prophetic witness, inspired by and attuned to the Divine, acts on behalf of the whole landscape, is a steady drum beat for right relationships (righteousness), opens new spaces for creativity and life giving forces, holds the powers and the individuals to account, and ushers us toward God’s peaceable kingdom where peace with justice truly prevail.
Kendra Dunbar has a long-standing commitment to justice, peace building, and the transformation of communities through education, dialogue, and leadership formation. She is the Executive Director of The Intersection, a nonprofit organization in Baltimore that cultivates empowered student leaders who are equipped to cope with personal stresses, engage in community change, and achieve career and college goals. Additionally, Kendra serves as a member of the JustPeace staff collective, the conflict transformation and restorative justice organization of the United Methodist Church. She received a B.A. from Williams College, an M.Div. from Union Theological Seminary, and a M.Sc. in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Loyola, University of Maryland.