A few weeks ago, I read the story of Rev. Chenda Innis Lee, Associate Pastor at a United Methodist Church in Virginia. Her open letter to the leadership of her church is available HERE. Please read her story in her own voice. It is powerful and has been on my mind since my first reading. I've been thinking about my four grown daughters, my experiences in the church, the way it has pained me to see the wounds inflicted on our clergy who identify as women, BIPOC, LGBTQIA+ and the intersection of all of that with the work I am doing this year with Designed for Joy, an organization that provides living wage jobs for vulnerable women making dangling earrings as a highlighted product.
Pastor Lee's story has me thinking about how we determine what we deem acceptable. Judging by their anonymity, the persons writing these letters knew they were wrong. Everything we embrace and celebrate today made some one say "that's not the way we used to do it" at some point along the way. What if we took the time to listen and appreciate the diversity of our world instead of bristling when presented with something new or different? What if we just listened to the stories of our siblings?
My daughters have stretched me in ways I so appreciate. I want the world to look like them, gracious, intelligent, curious women who recognize their privilege and have helped me grow in seeing my own. (They are rolling their eyes and claiming this is overstated, but I'm going to take this moment to share my pride.) They have taught me about facing my own discomfort and being willing to sit with the stuff that feels uncomfortable, both the big stuff (white supremacy.) and the little stuff (nose rings and tattoos). Why does any one viewpoint, any one culture, get to decide what is acceptable? Following their lead, I am learning to be curious, to listen and appreciate, especially when I feel some kind of way. I am learning that silence is an act of complicity. I need to share my siblings stories, especially when it feels a little risky.
As I think about all of this, I am so grateful for the women who are way ahead of me on this work and are willing to link arms and bring me along. I am one quarter into my Year of Impact with Designed for Joy and have already learned so much from these women. I want to support them in all the ways I can. So here is my challenge and offer to you. Read Pastor Lee's letter and think of how you can support her, then buy a pair of dangling earrings from Designed for Joy. Buy a pair for a clergy you know who loves earrings. Get some for your Easter baskets or plan ahead for Mother's Day. Use the discount code DEChallenge to get 10% off your purchase. In addition, I will make a donation for every time the code is used between now and the end of April.
Ultimately we will all be better for doing this work.
Because you are worth it!