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The Modern-Day Priesthood

There is a growing question among Christians and non-Christians alike, “Is the Church relevant anymore?”

People are looking around at our world and wondering if the Church is going to do something about injustice, systems of oppression, and the violence and harm that is ubiquitous.

I had the great privilege of chatting with Rachael Clinton-Chen of the Allender Center on the Arise Podcast about her role as a pastor working the field of trauma care. The reality is that we are living in a time and place where people need trauma care. They need healing and tending to and they’ve been without a safe place to receive it. Clinton-Chen believes that it is a part being a pastor to provide that space because the “Church is supposed to be a safe space where you can bring the fullness of your humanity… [and] the truth of your heartache.”

She says, “That’s my job; To be the person tending to the fragmentation and the harm and bringing a healing presence. As a pastor, a lot of my role is to provide sanctuary to people who are in need of recovery and healing and a safe place to connect with God … [a place to] have safer connections back to themselves and to their relationships.”

She admits that it’s not cool right now to love the church; it doesn’t feel hopeful. But she believes that this is what she is built for—She is made to contend with bad theology, spiritually abusive theology that has been used to justify oppression, violence, death and sexual harm. And a part her job is equipping and empowering people to transformative action.

“I know a part of my calling is to call people to transformative action. To call people to love in ways that are tangible. To participate in the kingdom of God in a way that is actually bringing about the reality that we as Christian say, ‘Jesus changed something! The old economy, the old ways of power, they no longer stand as the way of being.’ … We have to tend to people with profound kindness, and we have to contend with the systems that continue to perpetuation the trauma and fragmentation…”

This call to action is for all people.

Clinton-Chen says, “We all have these places that we’re positioned by our stories, by the resources we have, by the gifts and talents we have, by the grace of God that finds us when we least expect it [and] sets us up to be a blessing in ways that we couldn’t have anticipated.” This means that everyone can participate where they are just by bringing who they are and what they have to the table.

Ultimately, Clinton-Chen says we need people working on both ends of the problem—we need people that are going to content and dismantle systems and we also people that are building new, beautiful and life-giving alternatives. Alone we don’t dent the system, so we each do our part. We must be faithful in the small, the places we are living and working, the relationships and faith communities we’re already engaged in. Where awareness deeply forms us, it is relationship and proximity that transform us and moves us to action.

As Biblical people we always find ourselves in the shadow of hope, Clinton-Chen says. “People of hope are willing to bear disappointment and still say, ‘I have tasted the goodness of God in the land of living, and I believe there can be more.’”

This is the face of the modern priesthood. It is to step up, to ask questions like, Where are we contending with the structures that prevent people from loving God and loving neighbors? Where are we leaning into healing [ourselves and others]? Where have I been blessed in order to become a blessing for others? How can my story, my resources, my gifting, talents and time be used to provide others sanctuary from the pain and violence in the world?

You can listen to our incredible conversation with Rachael Clinton-Chen on this week’s episode:

You can connect with Rachael and her incredible work at the Allender Center.

This post was originally published on the Arise Podcast blog, 03/03/2020


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