We Can't be our best as people when we stand alone
Can’t take my joy away | Diversity Column
I was recently taken aback by the cover of an Esquire magazine where it had a picture of singer, producer and song-writer Pharrell Williams, who wrote the very popular Grammy award-winning song “Happy” (hope you have heard it). On the cover it shows Pharrell with a sad face while holding up a sign with a sad face on it. The title said “Make America Happy Again.”
I have to admit that after the election and inauguration, I wonder if “great again” actually means anything I can depend on, especially in areas where it counts: bringing us closer together, or making us safer or healthier or encouraging us to work for a greater good, not only here at home but in the world for all people. Admittedly, I never liked President Trump’s slogan “make America great again,” and yes, I really was proud to be part of an America driven by President Obama’s administration. But, my concern runs deeper than that. We are a nation that has been built by standing alongside visionary giants, many of whom have been trailblazers in the name of liberation, justice and reconciliation. We are a nation of immigrants that has grown both in stature and in influence by learning to struggle past our differences to build even greater and more inclusive communities. Yes, sometimes growing has been filled with struggle, but it has never been overcome by embracing fear, pondering to our worst thoughts about one another or fleeing to a perfect “before” that never really existed. I struggle with the reality that so many fellow Americans seemed to support or at least give a “pass” to — offensive and taunting rhetoric that seems to devalue women, minorities, the disabled, the LGBT community, immigrants and more. I do believe that there is a huge difference between using the “bully pulpit” of the office of the president to encourage a political agenda (an agenda that I would hope would help us create a better community and a better nation) and simply using the language of a bully. It does seem that fear, anger and frustration could easily drive us to a place of gloom, sadness or what even our newscasters have called a place of “darkness.” Is this why Pharrell held up the sad face?
Where did our “happy place” go?
What do I really mean by happy? Webster says happy is “feeling or showing pleasure or contentment.” Synonyms might be “light-hearted” or “care free,” particularly in the circumstances of one’s life. Happy can also mean “fortunate or convenient,” as if life were a “happy accident.” Happiness, then, is conditional and based on too many variables, only some of which are in our control.
The word “happy” also seems centered in the odd idea that we ought to be going about life both “light-hearted” and “content,” as if some of the most wonderful moments of our lives were not born out of challenge or struggle. Do those who are pursuing justice, liberation and reconciliation begin by being happy? Do we need to be happy in the progress of pursuing good? Do we expect every day of marriage or child rearing or even pursuing our dream job to make us light-hearted? Do we see it all as nothing more than a happy accident?
We must embrace and enjoy the moments of happiness and know that seasons of happiness will come and go. But one’s goal should be the constant possession of joy. Joy “is stronger and a less common feeling than happiness.” Joy is a deep feeling that is rooted in something more of substance. For me, joy is greater than happiness because its center is rooted in my faith in God.
To quote Rick Warren, “Joy is the settled assurance that God is in control of all the details of my life, the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be alright, and the determined choice to praise God in every situation.” In that understanding, I find hope and a real-time vision that I am called to partner change, struggle and the longing for goodness. I don’t have to be successful each day or even content along the way, but I can be filled with joy, that what little I can offer actually does have purpose and meaning. Darkness is never overcome by darkness.
Darkness dissipates in the presence of the light. I can be light and encourage people around me to live as light. Joy and happiness can co-exist, but when happiness grows thin, I must tenaciously hold on to joy!
In the midst of a condition that may challenge happiness, I can choose to trust; I can choose to not be overrun by circumstance; and I can remember that I am never in any of these circumstances alone. First, God is the author of my joy. God empowers people to do the right things; enables them to make right changes; and God has chosen me — and you — to be joy for others. Second, I trust that prayer will foster compassion, truth, justice and reconciliation. I will pray for our president and for our nation. I will pray that wherever hearts must change that there will be change. Wherever justice has been denied, justice will overcome. I pray that each change of heart will be followed by actions that could lead toward forgiveness, healing unity and peace. Each day offers us, and the president of the United States, an opportunity to decide to be there for others, to do good, to be light and to fill the world with happiness. If that day comes, I will be thankful. Should I face disappointment, I still wake up each morning to a new hope, and I will choose to live in joy. Humans may fail. Jesus will not, and in that hope we will overcome.
David Johnson is the pastor at TriWorship Covenant Church – Multi Ethnic Faith Community. He can be contacted at 206-861-3844, firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter at @Daaron1980.
Bible Verses on Racial Reconciliation
Shared from 'Journey to Mosaic' Trip - November 2016
2 Corinthians 5:17-18
2 Peter 3:18
Mark 12: 30-31
A call to Community - By David Aaron Johnson
by RAECHEL DAWSON, Federal Way Mirror Reporter Apr 1, 2016 at 8:30AM
Pastor David Johnson planted TriWorship Covenant Church in Federal Way. The church’s mission is to create a multiethnic space for reconciliation. Contributed photo- Pastor David Johnson planted TriWorship Covenant Church in Federal Way. The church’s mission is to create a multiethnic space for reconciliation. Contributed photo — image credit: Sunday morning is the most segregated time of the week, according to Pastor David Aaron Johnson. "That's a horrible reality, still," he said. But Johnson is on a mission to change that with the planting of TriWorship Covenant Church in Federal Way. About one year old, TriWorship is a multiethnic church with a focus on reconciling diverse ethnicities as one of its central values, among many others. So far, the church has between 35-40 diverse members and meets every Sunday morning at Saghalie Middle School. "I heard the Lord affirm the need for a multiethnic church in the midst of the race tensions in the nation," Johnson said. "I heard God tell me that it wasn't an accident that the cracks opened up in exposing some of the ugliness of racism at this moment." Johnson said the opportunity and need for a multiethnic church is emerging out of that, "because until the church is unified, it's going to be difficult for the world and the community to be unified." Johnson planted TriWorship, which identifies as the Evangelical Covenant Church denomination, after shifting from the African Methodist Episcopal Church denomination. The Evangelical Convenant Church is a multiethnic denomination that promotes inclusion, and the African Methodist Episcopal Church is a predominantly African-American Methodist denomination that is the oldest independent Protestant denomination founded by African-Americans. After being assigned to Washington state from Kansas City, Missouri, where he grew up, Johnson spent six years at Walker Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church in the Central District of Seattle. He said he was excited to be put into a community that was so diverse, compared to the "all-black neighborhood, all-black schools" he grew up in, because it aligned with his heart of reconciliation. "My first encounter with people of the other race would be in high school, and that was the result of an integration project that the school district had going on," Johnson recalled, adding that the district bused students to a school that was more racially diverse but was still "lower class." "So even though we were different ethnicities, we had a common identity as we dealt with some of the same things, and that was my first encounter with this ideal of reconciliation." In Seattle, Johnson thought he would be able to work toward that ideal but encountered several barriers. While the church was welcoming to all people, as many were intrigued with the black church and would come to "hear the good black church music, good black preaching; the spirit and emotionalism that we bring and the intellectualism and theology," there was some pushback to being more accommodating. "The church was a place where we'll be who we are; we'll welcome you, we love you, but we're not going to change," Johnson said, referring to the Walker Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church, whose cause is liberation. Another barrier was the name of the church. Johnson said he would invite people to the church and they would reply that they didn't think it was the church for them because of the word "African" in the church's name. Eventually, Johnson determined he couldn't go forward in the church even though he was on a pathway to promotion, had many opportunities within the church, and considered them his family. Johnson and his wife, whom he met in Washington, left the church and decided to start TriWorship in Federal Way, which is the second Covenant church in the city. Planting the church in Federal Way was special not only because they live here but because Federal Way is one of the most diverse communities in Washington state, he said. With the theme "Out of many, One church," TriWorship's goals are to reconcile people to God, equip people for their purpose and send compassion into the world. They're also involved in social justice ministry. Last year, the church partnered with the Black Alliance Movement in Tacoma for a community forum on the Ferguson, Missouri, unrest. And although the church has a good amount of members, Johnson said the demographic is mainly white, black and biracial. "We've had a Hispanic community but we desperately want more. We want to pursue more of the Hispanic community and Asian community," he said, adding that the church wants to see more of all in the community. "We believe it's possible and doable." Johnson believes the idea of a multiethnic focus in churches is a contagious vision because people want to see unification, and he pointed to the Black Lives Matter movement as an example. While Johnson believes the way to get there is through a multiethnic church, he also feels very passionate about people of color in leadership roles within the ministry. "I think that this is a paradigm, a paradigm shift, that needs to be intentional and embraced fully for us to get to a true, reconciled community," he said. "It's just part of the journey, and I believe that we are where we can see that happen and we should want to make that happen. We shouldn't rest until that happens because that is a goal of reconciliation. "We can walk hand in hand as brother and sister in a community, no matter what flavor or color the leader is." For more information on TriWorship Covenant Church, visit www.triworship.com or call David Aaron Johnson, lead pastor, at 253-256-5389. RAECHEL DAWSON, Federal Way Mirror Reporter email@example.com or 253-336-5352 0