Beloved Community & John Perkins

Myself with John Perkins

Brown Bags are a big deal. Area church leaders getting together and rubbing shoulders with one another. In a city like Seattle, we need churches to work together, to let egos fade and the greater work of God’s Kingdom to become the paramount objective.

This, in fact, is the basis for my position at Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission. To discern those communities that are moving in their service to those in great need and to jump in and give them a hand. So when I heard there was a Rainier Valley gathering of church leaders called The Beloved Community, AND that John Perkins was speaking, it was a priority for me to attend.

John Perkins has been a part of my story for some time. He started showing up around SPU when I was graduating and he said something that really shook me. “If you can’t walk to church, you are going to the wrong church.” I had devoured his autobiography, Let Justice Roll Down, accounting his growing up in the south as a Black man under great oppression. Full of anger he moved to California where an older white minister took him under his wing and by God’s grace he eventually found Christ, got married, and went back to his community in Mississippi to bring hope and justice to it.

For John Perkins there is a clear understanding that one’s community, and physical presence in it, is foundational to one’s preaching of the Gospel. A good Brown Bag, then, is an avenue that allows community investors to percolate. Soon lofty ideas are spilled, key players arise, action items are imagined, hope is sewn, plans materialize, resources are discovered, change is made and lives move toward transformation.

Allen Belton

There are brown bags all over King County, and I am slowly becoming aware of them ( would love to know about more.) Each one has the potential to break down Denominational barriers, to humble and excite church leadership and to gain much needed perspective on how to care for the place in which you have been positioned.

Allen Belton is heading up the Beloved Community and oozes with care for both the community of Rainier Valley and the local church. His booming voice, and engaging personality is known throughout the city. (I had never met the man and he just came up and gave me a hug.)  Having a caretaker like Allen at the helm will ensure that a Brown Bag will engage in the building of God’s Kingdom…even in its own existence. I can say this because my first visit to the Beloved Community was an encouragement and inspiration to me.

Thanks Allen and John, and please make sure your church leaders are engaging with there local church partners.

Our goal is to create a beloved community and
this will require a qualitative change in our souls
as well as a quantitative change in our lives.

~ Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

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The First Day

iPhone photo of Seattle...probably shouldn't take photo's while driving.

I took the job.

As I sat in my car in the parking lot (behind the oldest looking Safeway ever…70 years I overheard.) I avoided raindrops for awhile before my 9:00 meeting. Not wanting to be late, and not knowing what a drive from North Seattle to Rainier Valley in morning traffic would cost, I brought along a couple of books. For some reason I always think I will just read two or three entire books whenever I am going to have a few moments to myself…and this morning, like most of my free moments, yielded no reading list success.

This morning, it seemed appropriate to crack open the Bible. After all, I am now the 161st employee of the Seattle Union Gospel Mission. As the Church Development Officer, it will be my job to network with church leaders in the county and help to mobilize, support and learn from local ministries that are serving those in greatest need.

Hoovertown/Seattle Man 1930's. Photo created by Virna Haffer

In my interview process I was surprised to learn that Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission was 79 years old, and started shortly after the great depression. Hoovertown, (modern day Pioneer Square) was booming with unemployment, and churches from the area were providing food, clothing, encouragement, prayer and companionship to those struggling to get by. This association of churches became Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission, and my role was to reclaim the original spirit of the mission and bring churches back into the forefront of serving the poor.

I hadn’t read Galatians in awhile and chose to use my 15 minutes to chew on the first chapter or so. What I read was remarkable. Paul explains how Peter and the other Apostles officially accept his testimony and agree that he is no longer oppressing the church, but is radically changed by Christ to join full-force into the building of God’s kingdom. It is agreed upon that Peter and the apostles will minster to the Jews while Paul and Barnabas will go to the Gentiles. With this indefinite split Peter and the apostles has only one piece of advise for Paul, “All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I had been eager to do all along. (Galatians 2:10)

With most of my professional life being in the local church, I was a little taken aback by the simplicity of this reminder. No other tips Peter? No leadership suggestions? No public speaking pointers? No study guides? No conferences? No fundraising wisdom? Nope. It seemed that “The Rock” of the Church knew that engaging with the poor was easy to forget to do, easy to avoid, but was mission critical in building God’s kingdom. Paul eagerly agrees.

I took the job. In doing so I expect to be stretched, emptied, amazed, filled, encouraged and humbled by the privilege of joining God’s incomparable Kingdom work, and it is my hope (and I suppose my actual job description) that Seattle’s church will lead the way.

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