Centered in Crisis, Connected through Conflict
October 9, 2022
By Rev. Nicole Jones
I remember growing up in Charlotte the frequent spring and summer storms that marched up through the Piedmont. Some of those storms flashed red on the news channel, alert notifications rolled across the bottom of the screen warning folks to seek shelter if they were in the path of the storm. Occasionally, when a tornado warning was issued, our family would trudge down to the basement. I’d set up camp with our little battery-operated radio, blanket, flashlight, and of course of few choice snacks. Fortunately, we never had to deal with the devastating effects of a tornado on our property. But we were grateful for the diligence of our meteorological team who alerted us to surrounding conditions and gave direction for what to do when conditions deteriorated.
One summer I was camping with my Brownie troop. That evening a terrible storm hit. We were all gathered in a screened-in shelter when suddenly a powerful wind kicked up. The screen door blew open. The screens started popping out of the windows as a sideways rain entered the structure where we were staying. Whimpers bubbled into tears as several of the frightened girls huddled together. There wasn’t much we could do as we rode out the storm. To distract the girls from the ferocity of the storm outside, we gathered closer together and began to sing some of our camp songs. After a few minutes our boisterous singing drowned out the howling wind. The camaraderie of the girls created a sense of security despite the chaos of the storm. When morning broke, there were limbs down around the camp and a few uprooted trees. We learned that the campsites by the lake had been evacuated. It was quite the adventure! But it was the trust and security of being together that helped us get through the night.
As a Church, we are called to be at the front lines of God’s mission in the world. That often means showing up in places of great poverty, sickness, heartbreak, injustice, and crisis. How we show up makes all the difference. When we are centered and connected, we are better prepared to offer the most faithful response to a world in need. It is easy to become scattered in our attempts to help, jumping from one reactive response to another. But taking the time to be prayerfully centered, listening to the Holy Spirit’s guidance for the best next step, is critical for fruitful ministry.
I think of how much I rely on a meteorological team whose radars and equipment provide a perspective that extends well beyond the scope of what’s happening right outside my house. How often are we stopping to connect with God who has the ultimate radar view of creation? God’s vision and perspective captures the whole picture: each moving part, person, situation, and circumstance—and how those can be best connected for healing and wholeness. I continue to be amazed at how much more effective the ministry of the church is when a group invests time, energy, and attention to the critical act of prayer, holy listening, and discernment.
When a crisis hits—the loss of a job, a devastating health diagnosis, the imprisonment of a family member, a global pandemic, food shortages, or natural disaster—a sense of isolation and disconnect only exacerbates the crisis. Having community with which to weather the storm can make a profound difference. When the church shows up relationally, before, during and after a crisis, the missional response is more authentic and impactful. How are we as followers of Christ reaching out to know and love our neighbors before the crisis? How are we riding out the storm together rather than just coming in to clean up after? How are we building networks of connection that strengthen a communal response to those in need?
The answers to each of these questions will be very specific and particular as a church listens intentionally and closely to the Spirit of God. Centered and connected, loved and loving, served and serving, the church is a profound missional entity in our world today.