(This is a revised version of the charge Rev. Dr. Randall Bailey presented at my Ordination and Installation service this past Sunday. I hope it inspires someone who reads it. Critically and compassionately yours, Billy Michael Honor)
I charge you to be faithful to the liberating Gospel of Jesus Christ and to help others to be nourished in this understanding through the best of the Black religious traditions.
I charge you to take seriously the ravages of the corporate sins of racism, sexism, classism, heterosexism, ageism, ethnocentrism, and all other forms of oppression and internalized oppression, helping the congregation to become aware of these and to develop skills of resistance to the oppressive forms.
I charge you to be active in community struggles, bearing witness to God's love for the world and thereby being a sign and symbol of Emmanuel, God with us in times of trouble, standing with the least of these.
I charge you to take seriously the ministry of presence as expressed in visits to congregants in times of joy and in times of sorrow. Continue to develop a listening ear so you can be an effective pastoral counselor to those going through shadowy valleys and climbing mounts of transfiguration.
I further charge you to continue your education, reading materials which will sharpen your analyses of the world around us and the spirit within us. As you do so, share with others through formal Christian Education venues, blogs, and other forms of social media, being mindful that pictures of yourself are not necessary to get the messages across.
I charge you to take care of yourself, physically and emotionally, and to keep close those who love, nurture and support you in your career & personal development. Also, always find the time to nurture and support others with whom you share your life, whether they be family, friends, spouse and/or children.
I also charge you to keep a healthy sense of humor.
I also charge you to preach in powerful and liberating ways, bringing to the pulpit strong spiritual power, immersed in social justice, contoured by sharp intellectual and hermeneutical insights, engaging cultural criticism, pointing always to Jesus, who wants us to be responsible agents of his love and promise to always keep our back.
Randall Bailey, Professor of Hebrew Bible, Interdenominational Theological Center
I’ve always thought that one can choose to view the day that commemorates their birth into the world as an annual event of regression or progression. This is to say that we can view getting older as an opportunity to remember how we used to be or it can be an opportunity to envision what we have yet to become. Personally, I choose the latter. Call it whatever you may, whether it be youthful optimism or delusions grandeur, I still believe that the future has good things in store. It is this hopefulness about the future that keeps me excited about life and getting older.
Today is June 1st 2011 and it has been exactly twenty-eight years since I was birthed into this world. A whole lot has changed since 1983 and yet a lot remains the same. One thing that remains the same is the truth that at the core of human experience is the reality of evolution. Try as we might, it is nearly impossible to deny that a fundamental aspect of life is cultivating the growth of one’s self. However, let’s be honest, the fact that it’s fundamental to life doesn’t make it an easy part of life. Robert Stepto once wrote that “narratives of ascent are often narratives of alienation,” I interpret this to mean that the more we evolve, the more we have to leave behind. This can often be a painful and nerve-wrecking process but nevertheless a necessary component of personal growth.
I’ve spent the greater balance of this day contemplating my own personal evolution and during this time I’ve come to several realizations about my life which can be summed up in three words: Art, Love and Inspiration. As I sit in this familiar place of work and contemplation listening to the soothing sounds of John Coltrane and Duke Ellington’s In A Sentimental MoodI am thoroughly aware of the role artistic expression plays in my life and evolution. In fact, even as I write these words I am sporadically gazing at the bookshelf behind me that at times appears to be hovering over me like rows filled with a great class of witnesses. In these rows sit literary titans such as Ralph Ellison , James Weldon Johnson, Zora Neal Hurston, James Baldwin, Richard Wright, Toni Morrison and Bell Hooks. There are intellectuals like WEB Dubois, Franz Fanon, Marcus Garvey, Harold Cruse, Shelby Steele, and Angela Davis. And there are religious luminaries such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Harry Emerson Fosdick, Reinhold Niebuhr, Howard Thurman, Paul Tillich, Martin L. King Jr., and Karen Armstrong, to name a few. Through their various literary works these artist along with a host of musicians and spiritual leaders encourage and inspire me on days like this when I am most aware of the fleeting yet precious gift of life.
Like so many, I am blessed with the love of family, friends, and an incredibly loving fiancée. If it were not for the love of these precious folks I truly don’t know where I would be on this journey between womb and tomb; so I am indeed grateful for the gift of love for it is through love that I live, move, and have my being.
In addition to love, I realize how profoundly I depend upon inspiration in my life. I often seek this inspiration in the work and life’s witness of religious scholars, cultural critics, writers, public intellectuals, jazz musicians, and neo-soul artists both past and present. In all of their contributions to culture and society I find my own personal sense of meaning and purpose in life. From them I find inspiration to continue to teach, preach, write, and speak about the relationship of God, self, and the other in the complex matrix of human experience.
It is with these three of life’s gifts that I boldly march into the days ahead. And though I do not know totally what life has in store, be it days of joy and/or pain, what I know for sure is that it will be all worth it if I can look at myself and by the grace of God say “well done.”