I’ve been thinking a lot this past week about connections. The question has come up again and again in the days since my ordination Sunday: “How did you feel with everyone coming forward, laying hands on you, and offering words of encouragement and blessing?” I’ve given several answers as I continued processing the experience, but I think the clearest description of that moment is that I felt a profound sense of connectedness. With each thoughtful word shared, each memory recalled, each prayer set free, I began to recognize in a new way the sacredness of our human connections.
A friend I had not seen in years surprised me with his presence, and I remembered that however far apart we drift, we will always be linked together by our shared experiences. One church member let me know that anticipating this service at Pullen reminded her of a friend’s ordination she had participated in decades ago — a friend she now felt inspired to reach out to and reconnect with. Others told me stories of their own ordination services among other congregations in different settings, and I was reminded that while this moment was particular to our own family of faith at Pullen, we are also influenced by and impacting others in the larger tradition of Jesus followers in ways often subtle and unseen, though not insignificant. Most of all, I felt profoundly connected to each of you — those present on Sunday afternoon, and those in other places who have still left your mark on the culture of Pullen Memorial Baptist Church. I recognize that I, myself, have been marked in a meaningful way by my years at Pullen and my relationships with you, in ways I couldn’t have anticipated when we first connected.
In his final book, Chaos or Community, Martin L. King, Jr. wrote: “All life is interrelated…caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.”
This network of mutuality was still on my mind Thursday evening when I joined a handful of other people of faith — fellow Pullenites, labor organizers, peace activists, a Catholic worker or two — for a protest and presentation of a petition at a convenience store on Wake Forest Road. Some of the people driving by who saw our signs demanding adequate housing, wages, and justice for farmworkers may have wondered why we were standing outside of a gas station on one of the busiest roads of our city — about as far removed from farm life as one can get in North Carolina. But drawing attention to the connections between the businesses we shop at, the products they sell, and the laborers who harvest the raw materials that make those products is at its heart a sacred act. It’s about paying attention. It’s about being honest about the single garment of destiny that our individual lives are cut from. Most of all, it’s about recognizing that our salvation is bound up together.
I, for one, couldn’t think of a better bunch of prophets and priests to be bound up with than the people of Pullen Church.