Dear Alliance Family,
As I reflect on 12 years of ministry in my role as co-director of the Alliance of Baptists, it seems only natural that my reflection includes all 42 years of ministry—a ministry that began with the amazed look of disbelief when introducing myself to a homebound community member of the first church I served as pastor. Her outburst when looking at me, 26 years old, standing at her door was, “When I heard they had a woman pastor, I was expecting something else!”
It is quite probable that throughout the 12 years I have served as a co-director of the Alliance, that many of you expected “something else.” Even in the midst of some expectations met—and some resulting in disappointment, my experience has been one of grace upon grace.
As I bring to a close my role as one of the directors of the Alliance, I am filled with gratitude for those who have accompanied me in this journey with love, affirmation, challenge, unmet expectations, forgiveness, encouragement, prayers, and energy. For those who have opened their hearts, homes, lives, pulpits and communities of faith to me, I am exceedingly grateful.
I will always cherish the welcome I received the first time I visited Covenant Baptist UCC, Ft. Washington, Md. As I entered the sanctuary with the bold image of Black Jesus front and center, already alive with pre-service music, I handed my card to the usher and asked her to let the pastors know I was glad to be present for their anniversary celebration. To be welcomed in this historically Black church, with these courageous pastors, was a welcome undeserved—pure gift and grace. And now to be at a place organizationally where the Alliance follows the lead of BIPOC pastors and teachers is also a gift and a grace that is undeserved.
These twelve years have been filled with discovery of how deeply related and connected we are to one another; not just those who look alike, sing alike, dance alike, speak alike, pray alike or believe alike make up the Alliance of Baptists. With all our differences, we still belong together. As the African “Ubuntu” philosophy teaches, “I am” only because “we are.” The Alliance exists because we have one another.
The common bonds forged with partners in Cuba, Zimbabwe, Brazil, Morocco, the Republic of Georgia, Mexico, and justice-seeking congregations in those countries and the U.S. have deepened our identity as followers of Jesus who grieve the pain and injustices in our world, increased our love for one another as a people who seek healing and wholeness for all, and energized us for the prophetic work of God’s justice. This ministry of partnership relations has been much more than a job—it has been life-giving!
Today I welcome Elijah Zeyhoue into leadership alongside Carole Collins with full confidence in their ability to point in the direction of where the Spirit is leading the Alliance of Baptists. And I invite you to join me in that welcome and embrace with readiness to risk and follow in that direction to a place truly embodying equity and justice, a place of constant learning and adapting, a place of power with—not power over, where actionable change and collective healing reside. It’s what we’ve together been called to give ourselves to.
In my retirement I expect to focus more of my energy in my backyard, in the land that was home to the Cherokee people whose waters feed the Little Ivy watershed. I am committing to do what I can to nurture God’s justice and love among and with my neighbors, holding the earth and all its inhabitants sacred, while foolishly risking for the sake of love.
And in my retirement, I will have high expectations of the people who make up the Alliance of Baptists, as you tenaciously seek to live in joy, humility, and gratitude welcoming the reign of God!
One thought on “A Letter from Paula”
Thank you Paula for your work with the Alliance and for your visit to our home many years ago. Though we have moved into the Christian Church Disciples of Christ fellowship as there are no Alliance churches in our area, we maintain our interest in the Alliance and are grateful for our Baptist roots.