by Bea Franklin, Staff Writer

I was born at MLK Hospital in Compton. I grew up in South Central, Los Angeles where gun shots were as frequent as the street lights turning on at dusk. Now that I am looking back on my childhood memories and my community, I can’t help but ask myself, “what in the world does this theological education that I’m receiving at Wake Forest School of Divinity, have to do with real life?” I can’t go home and have a theological conversation with the BPS members that stand on the corner. I am pretty sure that the ESE’s are not interested in Martin Luther’s 95 Theses. They are most interested in how they can survive in a community that is being oppressed, policed, and brutalized. What in the hell does all of this have to do with God? This concerns me because it seems that my African-American counterparts are more focused on doctrine that perpetuates religious social cues and how well they can or cannot “preach”. Unfortunately, the truth is that oppressed people don’t care about the ins and outs of doctrine. They are looking for something more than whooping and shouting. In a world where their humanity has been relinquished, the people of God are seeking true and authentic interaction. Can you cry with a mother who is holding her 12 year old son who has been gunned down by the LAPD? Can you sit with a man who has been diagnosed with stage four cancer? Can you spend a whole day on skid row where educated folks struggle with mental illness and are fighting countless addictions? Can you hold someone’s hand as their body starts to shut down?

Some of us have never had to step outside of our churches into the community and bear witness to the grief and pain that comes with living. We have to put down our shiny shoes, matching suits, “I love Jesus” stockings, and our church hats trading them in for baggy jeans, white T’s, and fitted snapbacks. Only then we can get a glimpse of where God is and what God is doing. This is what ministry is. This is where the work resides. I believe that the education that we are receiving prepares us to go out into the world. However, sometimes our own ego and our ambitions keep us comfortable in pulpits. I cannot speak for the entire community. Moreover, I will not attempt to embody each individual experience. My belief is that when you say yes to God, you say yes to be a minister of the Gospel truth. For me, that entails more than just preaching or teaching the word of God. It means to be in community, drenched in the concerns of God’s people, and actively serving those who are marginalized. So let this be an open invitation to all who have received God’s call. Let us all be challenged not just to pass Old Testament or History of Christianity, but to grow in our gifts, getting our hands dirty in the messiness of life. I know that we can lead by being transparent about our shortcomings, our humanity, and more importantly, our longing for God. I know that the year presents new academic trials and tribulations. However, I firmly believe that the God that gives us strength to minister is the same God that gives us the grace to be successful. I praise God for the professors who not only recognize this as simply an academic experience, but a life altering experience that calls individuals forth into the trenches of human suffering.

This is not an attack but a loving reminder of what is at stake…