Emanuel 9 Reflection: What Will We Say Next Year?

Thank you to the ELCA’s Metro Chicago Synod for inviting me to share in the synod’s day of reflection in commemoration of the Emanuel 9. Following are the words I shared. The video is here.

On this, our first year in the ELCA with a designated commemoration of the martyrdom of the Emanuel 9, one question top of mind for me is this:

What will we say next year? Will we repeat the same words of lament? Will we offer the same confession? Will we do it all again the next year and the next?

Perhaps so.

A bigger question is…will we change in between those years?

I thought, surely, if there was anything that would ingrain in the minds of Christians…of Lutherans…the harm of white supremacy, it would be 9 people killed in their church in Bible study by a shooter nurtured in one of our congregations.

But, today, as we have some of the same conversations as five years ago. As we share book lists and movie lists, refreshed with new titles, as I hear the same kinds of stories coming from my colleagues about the racist microaggressions and macroaggressions they experience in the church, when the same kinds of complaints come from some ELCA members upset because the presiding bishop speaks out about racism, when there are preachers who continue to remain silent, I have to wonder if the biggest impact of the murder of the Emanuel 9 on the church has simply been tighter security at our buildings.

This time has to be different. We cannot continue to call the names of Sharonda, Cynthia, Susie, Ethel, DePayne, Tywanza, Daniel, Myra, and Clementa every single year, read the same words of lament and confession once a year, and not work to dismantle racism all the rest of the year. Otherwise, it’s simply a performative gesture and empty words.

Church, may this time, be different.


Sick and Tired of Being Sick and Tired



This afternoon, I was asked to share a reflection with ELCA Mission Developer Boot Camp participants, as the Congregational Vitality Team followed the Holy Spirit’s urging to suspend its regular agenda and talk about what was on people’s hearts and minds. I shared the following from how I am feeling today:

In 1964, Civil Rights Leader Fannie Lou Hamer said, “All my life I’ve been sick and tired,” “Now,” she said, “I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired.”

Today, I am sick and tired of being sick and tired.

I am sick and tired of watching Black women and men die because of their Black skin. I’m sick and tired of watching videos like that of George Floyd, where for 9 minutes, he had a knee to his neck, where the full weight of grown men crushed his body in the street.

I am sick and tired of the white people who use police as a weapon when they don’t get their way. I am sick and tired of the police officers who choose to prove they are a weapon against Black bodies.

I am sick and tired of people rediscovering racism every time a hashtag or murderous video gets enough social media attention.

I am sick and tired of respectability advocacy. Let’s face it, the reason the Amy Cooper video got as much attention as it did was because there was a dog being visibly abused in the video. If there had not been, would it have gotten as much attention? And, then, soon after we get credible credentials on Christian Copper: Harvard graduate, bird watcher, former Marvel Comics editor, member of the board of directors for the New York City chapter of the Audubon Society. I’m sick and tired of someone having to be respectable to white standards to be worthy of attention or justice.

I am sick and tired of Black women being erased from the story. The silence around Breonna Taylor’s murder in her bed in Kentucky is deafening.

I am sick and tired of the language distinctions around who is a protestor and who is a rioter. We have watched for weeks as armed white people entered state capitol buildings. For days on end, they were not met with tear gas or the national guard. But, within hours, the people in Minneapolis calling for life and justice, were greeted in this way.

I am sick and tired of people thinking people of color should be surprised that Amy Cooper is a liberal. Liberal people have been complicit in racism since forever. We experience it daily in the workplace, church, and world. We’re not surprised but we are sick and tired of being sick and tired.

I am sick and tired of Pentecost celebrations that celebrate language but do not share struggle.

“When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability…” – Acts 2:1-5

We all know this Pentecost text and we also know the story of the new church that follows. We know the Holy Spirit showed up, changing the lives of the people in the room. The winds of change stirred the people in the room that day but it did not just stir them to stay where they were, among themselves. It blew them out into the world around them.

What happens when the Spirit moves and we are able to hear the language of people around us? The Holy Spirit is with us today, still burning like a hot flame and blowing like wind, opening our ears to hear and understand the people around us.

What has happened in the six years in between when we heard Eric Garner say he couldn’t breathe and when we heard George Floyd say the same this week?

What’s the use of hearing each other’s language if it does not change us?

It’s been almost 56 years since Fannie Lou Hamer declared she was sick and tired of being sick and tired and we are still sick and tired of being sick and tired today.

Hear the cries of your siblings this Pentecost and let it blow you in to new ways of being church for the betterment of God’s children.

What would happen if even more we started really hearing and understanding the language spoken by our neighbor –the language of our lived experiences? The Holy Spirit is blowing among us, sparking a fire within us, sending us out, opening our ears to hear the voices that go unheard among us, inviting us to move beyond hearing and understanding to action – to be the hands and voice and feet of God in the community. To share the story of Jesus.

The Holy Spirit takes what Jesus says and brings it to life through us. The Holy Spirit comes that we might have a word to speak and life to give a broken world. The Holy Spirit comes that we might boldly proclaim the goodness of God in the hardest of times.

As you go out into the unique places God sends you, may the passion of peace ignite a fire in you. May the winds of joy lift you off your feet. May the passion of unity light you into action. May the winds of love blow through your communities. May the fire of the Holy Spirit ignite you to speak life to a broken world. May the winds of the Holy Spirit lead you to break down boundaries that divide.

God of wind and fire, embolden us this day to receive your power through your word. Give us strength and courage to proclaim your love as a call for justice for those who are dying to receive it. Amen.

–Rev. Tiffany C. Chaney

Remarks from “Becoming the body of Christ where all bodies are valued: A conversation around the ELCA’s resolution to condemn White Supremacy”

On Thursday, May 21st, the ELCA’s Southeastern Synod hosted a Zoom Conversation with Bishop Kevin Strickland and Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton, addressing the ELCA’s resolution to condemn White Supremacy and the murder of Ahmaud Arbery. The video of this conversation is posted here.

I served as one of several panelists and was asked by some who watched to share my remarks, which follow:

I am a Black woman. I am a daughter, sister, cousin, friend, and pastor of Black women and men who get no days off from navigating systems built on a foundation of white supremacy.

I was asked to share from the lens of how leaders, young adults in the African descent community are responding to the murder of Ahmaud Arbery.

There is a weariness of engaging in the liturgy of adding another name, another hashtag to the list of Black bodies struck down for living life.

There is downright frustration that it took 10 weeks, a video, and a country full of people to bring visibility for Ahmaud’s killers to be arrested. And the recognition that an arrest, alone, is no indicator of justice – George Zimmerman, after all, was also arrested.

There’s talk around what I call Respectability Advocacy. There are people who stand for justice when the circumstance fits within the parameters of what is deemed acceptable in white frameworks.

In the case of Ahmaud Arbery, jogging is a respected activity – people jog every day. But, what if he wasn’t jogging. What if he was doing something else? Does the advocacy remain?

While not as visible, respectability is also seen in headlines around the killing of Breonna Taylor. She was an EMT, a first responder, an essential worker, killed in her bed. But, what if she had some other profession or no profession at all?

I remember talking to a bishop after the murder of Eric Garner. I remember saying, “Whatever one thinks about selling loose cigarettes, the fact is: selling loose cigarettes is not punishable by death.”

If you ran with Maud but never mentioned Eric, why is that?

In her book, I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness, Austin Channing-Brown writes:

Whiteness constantly polices the expressions of Blackness allowed within its walls, attempting to accrue no more than what’s necessary to affirm itself. It wants us to sing the celebratory “We Shall Overcome” during MLK Day but doesn’t want to hear the indicting lyrics of “Strange Fruit.” It wants to see a Black person seated at the table but doesn’t want to hear a dissenting viewpoint. It wants to pat itself on the back for helping poor Black folks through missions or urban projects but has no interest in learning from Black people’s wisdom, talent, and spiritual depth. Whiteness wants enough Blackness to affirm the goodness of whiteness, the progressiveness of whiteness, the openheartedness of whiteness. Whiteness likes a trickle of Blackness, but only that which can be controlled.

A conversation about Ahmaud leads to a conversation about everyday experiences of people of color. The risk Black people face in this country begins well before it becomes a hashtag. It is the everyday experience.

For some, it is easy to say, “No, I would never kill a Black person in my neighborhood!” Then, they strap on their sneakers and run 2.23 miles to prove it. But, when we’re talking about white supremacy, it is not just lived out in murderous acts.

White supremacy is also lived out in the mountainous microaggressions people of color experience daily.

It is lived out in predominately white leadership teams making decisions for ethnically diverse communities.

It is lived out in choosing to talk about white supremacy in a call to a senator but not in a call to a racist relative, colleague, or church member.

It is lived out in whole systems of people working together to circumvent, weaken, and dismantle the leadership of people of color in the church, community, and world.

White supremacy is felt in the daily acts so insidious the recipient of them still feels it in their gut hours, days, weeks, months, years, decades later.

Yet, despite it all, Black people continue to have an unequivocal resolve to keep going, to recognize the value of all God created us to be, even when others are still discerning whether or not they agree. A resilience rooted in our ancestral history to keep standing, to keep jogging, to keep using our voice to stand for better.

Still, like air, we rise.

You asked my hope…My hope is, if you run with Maud, then you no longer walk in the silence of oppressive systems that crush people of color daily in the church and the world. My hope is if you run with Maud, then you do not expect, encourage, or celebrate respectability. My hope is that if you run with Maud, as you commit to dismantling white supremacy, that as you commit to allyism, that your allyism moves past your place of comfort because if you are an ally only to the point of your discomfort, then you are not an ally.

–Rev. Tiffany C. Chaney

Beneath the Surface: Going Deeper with the Words of Dr. King

Following are my opening and closing blessing from the learning experience at the 2020 MLK Day of Service planned by Inspiritus

Opening Remarks

Every year in January, when the nation commemorates the legacy of The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., his words from some of his most popular speeches and writings can be found in quotes shared across social media.

In his 1963 Letter from the Birmingham Jail, King wrote: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

In his most popular speech, from the 1963 March on Washington, King, in describing his dream, said: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today.”

At commencement at Oberlin College in 1965, King encouraged: “The time is always right to do what is right.”

In 1967, in“Where Do We Go From Here,” King said, “I have decided to stick with love, for I know that love is ultimately the only answer to mankind’s problems.”

And, in his final speech the night before he was assassinated, “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop”, King spoke the prophetic words, “I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land. And I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.”

Frequently, quotes like these are shared as sound bites and memes. Perhaps you have seen some of them on social media today or heard them this weekend. They even surround the Martin Luther King Monument in Washington, DC. I was there last week and there were people from all over the world of varying ages and races walking the path and reading his words.

King Memorial

Beautiful words, indeed; but, without the context of the full sermon or speech from which they come, as Dr. King’s children have noted, his words are often watered down.

In a tweet last week, on King’s 91st birthday, Dr. Bernice King said, “Many wish Happy Birthday to a man they would have hated then. The authentic, comprehensive King makes power uneasy and privilege unhinged.”

Bernice King - Happy Birthday

In 2018, Martin Luther King, III said:

“I think individuals certainly perceive his work, but I really believe that even the masses of people have yet to really understand Martin Luther King, Jr. and his real mission. Mainstream media promotes the vision of a dreamer. Dreams do come true, but sometimes they don’t. He is actually watered down. The revolutionary that he really was is not yet appreciated by the total population. We have a lot of work to do.”

In many ways, I feel like the memory of Dr. King has been crafted into a false narrative, molded into a comfortable place that suits white fragility, shaped into a lukewarm toe dip in the shallow waters of justice without stepping knee deep into the muck of mud still weighing Black people down in this country.

This hand-holding, candle-lighting, song-singing, reshaping of history stands to miss that the same non-violent, freedom-calling dreamer, also understood civil disobedience, tension, and disruption as intentional methods of goal achievement. It misses that every single day King and those who stood with him were willing to put not just their reputations on the lines but their bodies in the face of harm to stand for someone else. It misses that the beloved man we celebrate today was viewed unfavorably by most of America on the day he was murdered. Misses that our present day martyr was seen as a radical resistor.

The same King who talked about an inescapable network of mutuality in his 1963 Letter from the Birmingham jail, wrote in the same letter: “My citing the creation of tension as part of the work of the nonviolent resister may sound rather shocking. But I must confess that I am not afraid of the word “tension.” I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth.”

In the “I Have A Dream” speech, in addition to describing children judged by the content of their character, King also said: “It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. 1963 is not an end, but a beginning. And those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges..”

In his Commencement Address to Oberlin College, in addition to saying the time is right to do what is right, King also said, “we are challenged to work passionately and unrelentingly to get rid of racial injustice in all its dimensions. Anyone who feels that our nation can survive half segregated and half integrated is sleeping through a revolution. The challenge before us today is to develop a coalition of conscience and get rid of this problem that has been one of the nagging and agonizing ills of our nation over the years. Racial injustice is still the Negro’s burden and America’s shame.”

In “Where Do We Go From Here,” in addition to talking about sticking with love, King also said, “What is needed is a realization that power without love is reckless and abusive, and that love without power is sentimental and anemic.”

And, in his final speech the night before he was assassinated, “I’ve been to the Mountaintop”, in addition to talking about the promised land, King proclaimed: “We don’t have to argue with anybody. We don’t have to curse and go around acting bad with our words. We don’t need any bricks and bottles, we don’t need any Molotov cocktails, we just need to go around to these stores, and to these massive industries in our country, and say, “God sent us by here, to say to you that you’re not treating his children right. And we’ve come by here to ask you to make the first item on your agenda fair treatment, where God’s children are concerned. Now, if you are not prepared to do that, we do have an agenda that we must follow. And our agenda calls for withdrawing economic support from you.”

At the time of his death, King had a 75% disapproval rating according to a 1968 Harris poll. His courageous stand for justice struck a cord of disapproval for those he made uncomfortable. In a 2019 poll, his approval rating was at 90%. Have people become comfortable with his call for justice? Or, have they just ignored the pieces with which they are uncomfortable?

To continue unfolding the true mission of Dr. King, we must understand:

This King…

Source: Time

…is this King.

Source: Time

This King…

Source: Time

…is this King.

Source: Time

This King…

Source: Time

…is this King.

Source: Instagram

All, a part of achieving the dream.

Closing Blessing

MLK Blessing

In the Struggle Together,

Rev. Tiffany C. Chaney

“I Wills”

Morning Devotion

Back to the Mountain Retreat

November 17, 2019

Hear the word of God found in Genesis Chapter 12, verses 1-4a:

“Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”[a]

So Abram went, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him.”

The word of the Lord.

These three and a half verses from Genesis zoom in on Abram’s call. I’m used to continuing to read and consider far beyond these verses, to get into the details of who Sarah and Abram were, how old they were, what happened when they got started on the journey. But by focusing in on these verses, it centers our attention squarely on the promises of God.

“I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

Abram and Sarai were being called to a new beginning, sent for something great. Sure, it was going to require them to leave some things and some people behind. It was going to require them to step out of their comfort zone. They didn’t even know where they were going yet.

Can you imagine God telling you, “Go to the place I will show you”? “God, what do you mean go to the place you will show me. I’m in the car with my stuff packed up. I need you give me the address to put in my GPS.”

Then, God saying: “Don’t worry about that. Right now, I just need to you open the garage door.” Then when you get out the door, God says, “OK, now I need you to back out of the driveway.” Then, you get on the street and God says, “OK, go to the stop sign.” And, it’s not until you are there that God tells you whether to go left, right, or keep straight.

Abram certainly faced some uncertainty. But, God did not give them a command without also giving them a promise.

I will make of you a great nation, I will bless you, I will make your name great…

I wonder…what are the “I wills” God is trying to produce in your life right now? What has the Lord promised you?

Where might you be saying “I can’t” and God is saying “I will”?

How often is this us? It’s difficult to walk away when God has not fully told us where we’re going.

God hadn’t told Abram and Sarai where to go. God said go to the place I WILL show you. I cannot imagine packing up my car backing out of the driveway, getting to the stop sign waiting anxiously to hear from God about whether to go forward, left, or right.

But, one thing I know for sure…the “I will” of God will lead you to more reliable places than anywhere Google Map, or Garmin, or Siri, or the Amazon Echo, or Mapquest can take you.

But, here’s the thing. The enemy will constantly try to get you off course. While God is declaring “I will.” The enemy will be whispering “you can’t”

Maybe you struggle with consistency and follow-through, self-confidence, or fear. In the very place you struggle, the enemy will try to wear you down. Try to convince you the promises of God aren’t real, at least not for you. That they are unattainable or not worth the effort.

It’s our natural inclination to return to our own power. That’s a trick of the enemy. If we focus on what we can or cannot do, we miss what God can and what God is already doing in our lives.

To this temptation that tries to break us down, we are called to respond, this is not about what I can or cannot do, this is about what God WILL do!

Because, let’s face it, we can’t do it – at least not by our own power.

But, by the grace of God, all of our “I can’ts” turn into God’s “I wills”.

This call from God to Abram is far more about God’s faithfulness than it is about Abram’s. In our lives, we aren’t reliant on our faithfulness, we are assured of God’s faithfulness.

Here’s the thing, we know the journey won’t be without challenges. Abraham makes several mistakes along his journey. Just in these three and a half verses, we have a hint at a challenge to come.

God told Abram to leave his family and go but who does he have tagging along – Lot! Before God can even get them out of the door good, there is already something happening that’s going to be trouble on the journey.

Not only will there be trouble and bad decisions along the way, it will be a long, long time before they begin to see some results. Reason to begin to wonder if this thing is ever going to happen. So, God continues to remind them of the promise along the way. God reviews the “I wills” with Abram many different times.

They hear the “I wills” in Chapter 12, go a little ways, experience a little trouble, then in Chapter 13, God reviews the “I wills”, they go even further, start to have some doubts, Chapter 15, “I wills”, they are closer to the promise of God but still not there yet, Chapter 17, “I wills”. Over and over, God reminded them of the promises.

Likewise for us, just when we start to lose hope, the Lord, will offer a little reminder of the plan.

As we enter our last day of this journey together, our theme for today is “Sent.” As we prepare to move towards reentry and the return home, I wonder what “I wills” God has for us. What are the places the Lord is telling us to go?

I wonder…are we ready to go?

One last thing from our text and then I’m done. Immediately after hearing from the Lord, verse 4 says…”So Abram went.”

Not, and so Abram procrastinated.

Not, and so Abram discussed it with everybody he knows.

Not, and so Abram posted it on Facebook to see how many people clicked like, love, laugh, cry, or frown.

And so Abram went.

As we hear the “I wills” of God to us, are we ready to go?

If our story was chronicled, would it reflect us hearing the “I wills” of God and then say…and so they went. Or would it say we heard the “I wills” of God and then we met about it and talked about who should do it and then went and worked on something else and then met about it again and talked about it some more.

Have we packed our bags? Do we have the right people along for the journey? Do we believe God will do what God promised? Do we have a mindset limited only to our faith in ourselves or are we trusting in the faithfulness of God? DO we hear the call from the Lord today? Are we ready to go? Do we believe the Lord will bless our path?

Whatever the Lord is sending you too likely won’t be easy. But we would be hard pressed to find a time in scripture where God called someone to something comfortable. Just asked Sarai and Abram. But, we are reminded, the one who calls us is faithful and God WILL do it. So, let’s go.


–Rev. Tiffany C. Chaney 



A Blessing for Youth Leaders…


This weekend, I had the privilege to serve as Chaplain for the ELCA’s Youth Leadership Summit. Youth from 46 synods across the country came together for a time of learning, prayer, fellowship, and fun with the theme, “Equip to Gift” from Ephesians 4:11-13. Our youth are filled with passion, compassion, joy, hope, and desire for diversity, welcome, and inclusion. I am excited to see how God will continue to use them in the world!

I wrote and shared the following blessing throughout this weekend and was asked to share:

And now, may the Spirit of the Lord stir within you.

May the Spirit of the Lord help you recognize the gifts with which you have been equipped.

May the Spirit of the Lord direct you to the particular places and spaces where you have been called to use your gifts.

May the Spirit of the Lord surround you with people to accompany you on the journey to live out your call.

May the Spirit of the Lord fire you up to live into all you are called to be.

May the Spirit of the Lord give you courage to be authentically you, just as you have been created, by the grace of God, for the sake of the world.


–Rev. Tiffany C. Chaney

Faith Reflection: Love Until Freedom Comes

I was asked to share the manuscript of the faith reflection I shared at the August 2019 Faith in Action Alabama Montgomery Hub Meeting. The following reflection contains excerpts from the sermon I preached at the African Descent Lutheran Association – Atlanta Chapter 2019 Summer Festival and includes my perspective on why I participate in justice work, including that of Faith in Action.

I am Tiffany.

I am a 39-year old Black woman.

I am a Lutheran pastor.

A lifelong Lutheran.

My grandparents are among the founding families who started the Lutheran church I grew up in.

From a student in primary Sunday School class to a preacher in the pulpit, faith stories have shaped me.

In the Christian tradition, a popular story from our faith text is that of the Good Samaritan. In the story, an unlikely candidate is the one who shows love to a man who needs it. After the faith leaders, people like you and me, pass the hurting man by on the side of the road, the Samaritan loved him…and he loved him more than just enough to get by. When he left the man with the innkeeper, he told the innkeeper to take care of him. He said, whatever you spend, I’ll repay you. He loved him without measure. There was no limit to his love. There was no quota – no rule that says once you have loved “this much” you can stop. No. He loved him extravagantly.

This is how I believe we are called to love – love the one who is hurting, love the one who is alone, love the one who is passed over, love the one who is not yet free, and love them extravagantly. We are called not just to go be nice; but, to break down the stereotypes, break down the walls that have been built.

I believe we are called to an out of the box kind of love, not just loving the people we are comfortable loving but even more than that. Love the one outside our family, love the one outside our church, love the one from a different faith tradition, love the one who is from a different country, love the one who speaks a different language, love the one who has failed to love us. Love the one who is beat up, bloody, lying on the side of the road. Love them too.

And, it is this belief about love that brings me to the work of justice, as a person and as a faith leader.

I realize there is still so much more love to give. We have to love until we are all free. And, we’re sure not there yet.

I cannot fully celebrate my freedom while living in a state where the prisons are so oppressive, that they have been deemed illegal, unconstitutional. And that’s in a state where the death penalty is legal, so as one Alabama legislator put it, it’s more legal to be put to death in Alabama than to be in our state’s prisons.

I must keep loving until freedom comes.

I cannot fully celebrate my freedom while living in a time where a person can work 40 hours a week at a job and still not earn a wage that will allow them to be able to afford food and housing.

I must keep loving until freedom comes.

I cannot fully celebrate my freedom while some people’s lives are stifled by fines they cannot afford to pay – they are being punished simply for being poor.

I got a speeding ticket back in the Fall. Because I had a clear driving record and because I had a disposable $40 or $50 dollars to pay for a driving class and because I had the availability to go to a class on a Monday night for 4 or 5 hours, I was able to avoid the much larger ticket cost and avoid having the ticket on my car insurance, preserving my lower car insurance rates.

Because I had money, I saved money. Yet, someone else who could not afford $40 or who worked at night and couldn’t take off for the class, would have had to then pay more money for the ticket and potentially higher insurance. And, if they didn’t have the ticket money available, then, of course, we know the spiral that comes from not paying fines – suspended license, losing vehicles, not being able to get to work, missed income, and so on. Disposable income is a privilege. Flexible time is a privilege.

I must keep loving until freedom comes.

I don’t believe we can settle for a world where anything less than love and compassion is accepted as the standard. We have to keep calling for our leaders to see us, to see our children, lying on the side of the road, bleeding. We have to keep calling for justice in our legal system, demanding policy change until it comes. We have to hold our leaders and public officials accountable, hold those we elect accountable, not settle for silent voices.

And, this isn’t about politics, it is about love. In all of our faith traditions, we are called to love.

Sometimes, the story of the Good Samaritan is read as a warm and fuzzy story. But it is anything but warm and fuzzy. It is about loving beyond our comfort zone. It’s “helping the bleeding person in the ditch kind of love,” which sure ain’t warm and fuzzy.

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. talked about the Good Samaritan in his last sermon, “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop,” the day before he was assassinated. He compelled those to whom he preached to employ a dangerous unselfishness. He talked about how risky it was for the Good Samaritan to stop when he did. He talked about the Jericho Road, the setting for this text, and what it was like when he and Mrs. King drove it themselves. Dr. King said this of the Jericho Road:

“It’s a winding, meandering road. It’s really conducive for ambushing. You start out in Jerusalem, which is about twelve hundred miles, or rather, twelve hundred feet above sea level. And by the time you get down to Jericho fifteen or twenty minutes later, you’re about twenty-two feet below sea level. That’s a dangerous road.”

He said of those faith leaders who passed the hurting man by, it’s possible they did so because they looked over at that man on the ground and wondered if the robbers were still around or they thought the man on the ground might be faking in order to attack them.

Dr. King suggested that the question the people who passed by the hurting man may have asked of themselves was: “If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?”

But, he said, then the Good Samaritan came by, and he reversed the question: “If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?” To his congregation, Dr. King said: “That’s the question before you tonight.”

That was the question before the people present with Dr. King on April 3, 1968 and that is the question before us today. “If we do not stop to help our neighbor, what will happen to them?”

In a way, I’m preaching to the choir, as the saying goes. I believe the people in this room are here because we desire to help. Tonight, as we lean even more into the work of determining how we help, I pose the following questions to us:

  1. Who are the people by the side of the road you are most passionate about in this season and what risks are associated with accompanying them to freedom?
  2. As you engage in justice work and know the associated risks, how do you flip the question from “what will happen to me if I help” to “what will happen to them if I don’t help?”

Rev. Tiffany C. Chaney

August 19, 2019

On Being Bi-vocational and Saying “No”…

I’ve had to say “No” a lot this week…which reminds me of my commitment to not only share publicly about the great joys of being a bi-vocational, part-time pastor; but, also the challenges.

I’ve had to say no this week to several great opportunities in other cities to preach, participate in trainings, facilitate trainings, etc. Why? Because I will end this month with 4.83 hours of accrued PTO at my health system job; and, with the things already on my calendar for the rest of the year, I am scheduled to end the year with 4.87 hours of PTO – I use it as quickly as I accrue it.

The reality is I use about 70% of my time off from my health system job for ministry. Participating in the ADLA Assembly and Churchwide Assembly meant being away from Montgomery for 10 consecutive days – that’s a huge chunk of time! I have to be very intentional about how I plan out my time off and often plan it out months in advance. (There’s a complicated spreadsheet with color-coding and hyperlinks involved.) I say “yes” to opportunities as often as I can and as is appropriate; but, there are also times I have to say “no” and really wish I didn’t.

As someone reminded me this week, I am really tri-vocational – my mission development work at Gathered by Grace, my business development work at Baptist Health, and the synodical and churchwide work I engage in that is not directly a part of the other two. I delicately try to maintain that tri-vocational balance (sometimes missing the point of balance!)

The purpose of this post is not to garner your vacation sympathy. I make intentional choices about how to spend my time; I knew what I was getting myself in to when I began this bi-vocational call; and I have already taken an actual vacation this year and will do so again for my birthday in October. I will also spend time with my family at Thanksgiving and Christmas. There are plenty of people in this country who work multiple jobs and who can only dream of taking a vacation, let alone two vacations in the same year. I am abundantly blessed.

The purpose of this post is to continue to bring awareness to what it means to be a bi-vocational, part-time pastor. As financial dynamics of churches continue to change, the conversation of more pastors being bi-vocational continues to increase. I think it’s important for pastors and congregations to understand the realities of the bi-vocational experience and that being bi-vocational often means saying “no” more times than desired.

I consider it an honor every time I am invited to engage in ministry in any way. I never take for granted that people do not have to invite me anywhere to do anything. I say “yes” as often as I can and as is appropriate, so if I tell you “no,” please know it is not without sincere consideration. It means I have considered the delicate balance of all I’m called to do, honoring my calls to Gathered by Grace and Baptist Health, and consulted my color-coded, hyperlinked vacation spreadsheet. And, it means, I’m going to try my very best to say “yes” next time, if asked again.

If you missed the LSTC blog in the Spring sharing my experience as a bi-vocational, part-time pastor and the values I find important to this type of ministry, you are welcome to read it here: https://wetalkwelisten.wordpress.com/2019/05/13/living-bi-vocationally-rev-tiffany-c-chaney/

As I say in the blog on being bi-vocational, “It’s hard every day. But, for me, it is also rewarding every day (well, maybe not every day, but certainly most days.)”


On Coming in Second…

Today, I came in second in the bishop’s election in the ELCA’s Southeastern Synod, losing by 6% of the vote. And, the response from people has been beyond what I anticipated and really fascinating in several ways.

First, I’m having a hard time convincing people that I really am okay. When I decided to leave my name on the ballot, I did so genuinely open to the move of the Holy Spirit, a move that could have resulted in me serving as bishop or a move that could not. Of course, it’s disappointing to have had vision for serving the church in a synod I love, in a particular way that I was passionate and excited about, that will now not happen in this season. But, because I was genuinely open to the Spirit, I really am sincerely okay. We elected a great bishop and I am proud of this synod.

Now, I have, surely, cried a river of tears since this morning; but, none of them are tears of sadness. I am not sad about this outcome – disappointed, but not sad. The tears were a result of two things – first, sheer exhaustion! According to my Fitbit, I slept 5 1/2 hours over the course of the last two days combined! My body had nothing left! But, mostly the tears were a result of overwhelming gratitude for the next thing I did not anticipate – the incredible support from the whole church.

I really cannot count the number of messages I have received across multiple platforms over the last couple of days – messages of prayer, support, and affirmation from people across the whole church – from seminary classmates I haven’t seen since graduation, colleagues and lay people from my current and previous synods,  my brothers and sisters in the African descent Lutheran community, people I have served on Churchwide committees with, people I have met in passing, and some people I’ve never met. It’s really odd to come in second for something, yet receive such strong support and affirmation of gifts from such a wide range of people.

The next thing that has been fascinating about coming in second is the kinds of responses I have received. There have been a ton of, “Well, it’s okay, God has something great for you coming” and “Your time to rise in this church is coming.” I found these comments fascinating for different reasons.

Regarding God having something great for me coming, that may be so; but, God also has something great for me now. I am already blessed to serve the church and community in amazing ways and those ways continue tomorrow – actually, not tomorrow, I am not doing ANYTHING tomorrow…it can continue on Tuesday! I digress…

Coming back home to serve in the wonderful bivocational  ministry I am blessed to do with Gathered by Grace and Baptist Health is not a consolation prize or a holding pattern – it is the wonderful way God has called me to serve the church and community in this season and I do so joyfully! At some point, sooner or later, God will call me to serve differently. We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it. But, today, the great thing God has in store for me is in Montgomery, AL with a wonderful community of young adults and a leading health system committed to its patients and I’m glad about it! 

Regarding my time to rise in the church, these comments caught me most off guard. They caught me off guard because, in leaving my name in to be considered to serve as bishop, my reason for doing so was never to “rise in the church.” I left my name in because I discerned that I had gifts, interest, and vision to be able to serve the synod in a way that moves us in the direction I believe God would have us go and to have a voice at a leadership table in the church where I felt I could be impactful and add more diversity of voice. But, I never thought about it as “rising” because there’s not a particular ladder I feel I need to climb.

Someday, I would love to talk to some other #2s, especially those who had the joy (read “joy”  very sarcastically) of going the full 5 rounds like I did and coming in second. I’d love to hear what the experience was like for them. It’s an unexpected, fascinating club to be in!


Living Bi-vocationally – Rev. Tiffany C. Chaney

I appreciate the opportunity to share my experience serving as a bi-vocational pastor. It is an experience that continues to form me as a leader.

We Talk. We Listen.

As the church in the United States has undergone significant changes in its finances, so too have the ways that pastors pay their bills. The Rev. Tiffany Chaney – of Gathered byGrace in Montgomery, Alabama – speaks candidly of what it means to juggle the needs of ordained ministry with work for the Montgomery hospital cooperative, Baptist Health. She doesn’t mince words – it isn’t easy. But in this piece she both speaks honestly of the blessings and the challenges she faces, as well as presents sound advice for anyone thinking to follow a similar path in word and sacrament ministry. Read, comment, and share!

Francisco Herrera, PhD student and Interim Editor

dinner.jpg Pastor Chaney – center, in purple – with “Dinner and Dialogue” participants.

“You sure do make it look easy!”

About six months after beginning a call as mission developer of Gathered by Grace in Montgomery, AL…

View original post 1,766 more words