Listening to the pre-recorded video interviews with the Rev. John Thomas during his Saturday evening tribute, my brain got stuck on his comments about courage and caution.
Within the context of the church, he said, we must be courageous to speak truth to power – while cautiously preserving the bonds of unity that make us the church.
I'm sure it's never happened to you, but there have been some less than stellar moments in my life where I thought I was acting courageously. In reality, I was either misinformed, foolish or simply too stubborn to use caution.
On the other hand, being overly cautious could lead to a life with few substantial experiences, limited relationships and – in my estimation – little fulfillment.
Experiencing the events of River City Saturday yesterday, there were many courageous happenings. The Dancing Wheels performances during the day and at the evening tribute showed us that courage moves from idea to implementation with determined purpose.
Challenges came from many voices. Eugene Robinson, Jim Wallis and Krista Tippett, among other speakers, issued courageous calls for the church to move from its "safe centers to exciting edges" – to stop being a church of "resolutions" and become a church of "revolutions."
But such movement strikes many as dangerous. Gathering together with people like us and approaching the issues of the day with distance is a caution that runs through church. And I suggest that it limits the church's potential for growth.
An emphasis on evangelism is stirring in the UCC along with a recapturing of the definition of evangelism as sharing Good News and not just adding members to our churches. This type of evangelism is not possible without great courage – it must trump caution for the church to fulfill its mission.
UCC positions on many issues – gay ordination, marriage equality and Israel/Palestine relations to name a few – have put us in diametric opposition to other people of faith. Courage isn't always popular. But the caution to recognize differences and humbly seek reconciliation is also what the church is called to do.
As we enter into Sacred Conversations on Race today – having remembered John Thomas as the originator of this challenge – may we have the courage to be vulnerable to others and the caution to work patiently for understanding and unity.