They say summer is a time of less work and more play. Pastors know this all too well. The pattern seems universal in most congregations: lower attendance, virtually no young people, and very little if any willingness of everyone that's left to commit to anything more. So I was in my feelings as I struggled to figure out next steps following a leadership transition at the beginning of this summer. We were "losing" Joey Lopez and Patricia Perkins at the same time, two founding facilitators and just all around wonderful human beings. And I couldn't shake the nagging question of whether or not we had developed "enough" direction and momentum to sustain the downtown city village through the summer. Scarcity mentality held me captive. I should've known better. After all, I can articulate the toxic norms of empire culture with the best critics. What I strive so hard to fight externally was showing up inside of me.
Joey and Patricia challenged me to reconsider things. To do the unthinkable: for us to make the ask for new leadership in the midst of what felt like instability. With this challenge they were implicitly asking me to trust in God's abundance. To live into our vision that there is incredible potential that exists inside of our people, people who society and the institutional church regularly dismiss because they are different than the mainstream. There was no space for my embarrassment or guilt in that moment. Joey and Patricia were holding me accountable, lovingly challenging me to believe in us! This is the power of shared leadership. This is the power of trusting what emerges from the grassroots. Movement elder Ella Baker put it this way: "Strong people don't need strong leaders … Give light and people will find the way." Baker knew well the power of shared leadership as she often did the behind-the-scenes work of organizing the Southern Black Freedom Movement while others were the spokespersons for movement. It was Baker's capacity for building community and grassroots leadership that sustained the strength and discipline of the movement within a longer tradition of faith-rooted black liberation.
I am thankful for Joey and Patricia giving light that day. I am grateful that the light made clear a path forward for new directions and new leadership to emerge amongst our downtown presence. The future of our movement to cultivate good neighboring is dependent upon the power of shared leadership from the margins. It is with honor that I share the new facilitators of the downtown city village: Vheenah Dei-Tumi and Aiden Keller. In addition, Sydney Richards, our Duke Divinity ministerial summer intern, will join Aiden and Vheenah in facilitating the work of being good neighbors in downtown Greensboro. Aiden, Vheenah, and Sydney bring incredible gifts and callings to our community and work in downtown Greensboro. Read their full bios here. And read more about Aiden's powerful story here.