Hello from my front porch. This 50-square foot spot is a sacred space. As I write seated on my bright yellow, slightly rusted, recycled vintage porch bench, I have in view two things: my first communication to you, the Missio Alliance community, and my street here in Southeast DC. This porch is a sacred place because God has been active here, long before I came along, doing the work God has always been about doing—redeeming, rescuing, liberating, and making whole the things that resemble more of the brokenness of the fall than the renewal that is to come.
For the past six years, I’ve been able to be part of the story that God is telling in my neighborhood and this porch, in its spot on the row, has held space for prayers, conversations with kids and adults about things mundane and life-altering, welcoming new neighbors, send-offs for ones I wish could have stayed, and simply decompressing after a long day’s work. It’s a little noisy here, with the steady stream of buses, cars, and sirens. There’s a lot of foot traffic, plenty of people to wave to as they make their way to their destinations. I love these signs of life.
Just as there are signs of life on the street, there are also the looming shadows of death, which I can see from my front porch as well. I’m 100 yards from a cemetery and a block away from the jail. Both are reminders of the need to live each day fully and for the coming day when justice and righteousness reign. I share this not to bore you with details about my porch but to remember and recount that good theological reflection is done with place in mind. Our theologies and missiologies must have geographies.
Missio Alliance has carved a space that has been known for its distinctively robust theological reflection while tackling some of the most pressing issues facing the church. I’m honored to get to step into that space with the board, the team, our writers, and with you. We will lean in together as we determine what faithfulness looks like in the face of a global pandemic. We lean in by amplifying the voices of those engaged in dismantling systems of oppression, centering the voices of color as they are the ones most profoundly impacted. We will lean in together to continue to cultivate a theology that is informed by the margins and the majority church (outside the West), with the understanding that mutuality is vital for the flourishing of communities and the advancement of the kingdom.
We must lean in together, or we risk propping up an impotent gospel that capitulates to the American idols of comfort and convenience and rejects its responsibility of prophetic witness while retaining a myopic lens of North American, dominant-culture theological reflection and expression. We can’t afford not to lean in! Is the road long? Yes. Is the work hard? Yes. Are we empowered and sustained by the Spirit of the living God? Yes. As we live into our distinctive at Missio Alliance, our posture will remain humble, yet prophetic; reflective, yet engaged; scholarly, yet streetwise.
As I close out this first letter to you, I want to acknowledge the gift I’ve been given. Missio Alliance is an amazing organization, and that is in large part due to JR Rozko’s outstanding leadership. I’m privileged to succeed a longtime friend and partner in ministry. His wisdom and steadfastness have been the heartbeat that has fueled the organization’s impact in your life and ministry. JR—my most sincere and heartfelt thanks, brother!
Friends, I’m grateful for what has been and what lies ahead. My front porch is a literal and metaphorical space that is sacred. You can come “sit” with me any time. I’d love to hear from you. You can reach me via email at [email protected]. I’ll be looking for you. Today and in the days ahead I’m praying for Beirut as the country recovers. I hope you’ll join your prayers with mine.