Sacred Soil


Could we?
November 20, 2012, 5:39 pm
Filed under: Weeds

A few weeks ago, I hosted an event at the local seminary to train students to teach about finances. And quite to their surprise, and somewhat to mine, it was a joyful event, filled with surprise and insight.

At first thought, the idea of coming together to train about financial matters sounds fairly dreadful. I’d rather eat soggy Cheerios. But quite quickly, the students came to understand how having financial literacy can usurp and overturn the ways in which so many are oppressed and used by our financial systems. Indeed, this literacy has the power to change their own lives, and release themselves from oppressive systems. It’s a simple fact that it costs a lot more money to be poor, what with check cashing fees, higher interest rates, and so on. But, with some education these systems can be drained of their power, and that is thrilling.

Indeed, I find that work particularly thrilling, the work of teaching in this way. For, I am utterly convinced that we are capable of changing our world for the good. Our capacity is astounding. Rather, God’s capacity is astounding. This is part of what I feel called to do as a pastor.

Back in college I learned about the work of Myles Horton at the Highlander Folk School in Tennessee. It’s an amazing story. The work of this school is part of the back drop of the civil rights movement. Through empowering education, disenfranchised folks realized their capacity to change deeply entrenched systems of oppression.

There is so much that I love about the work of Highlander: their deep respect for the dignity of all people; their understanding of true wisdom; their commitment to equality. These are such integral concepts to good and effective education. But, what warms my own heart is how Myles and Highlander have been so delighted to step away from the center of attention, and instead point to the work of the people. Myles Horton firmly believed that his job was to create the environment for learning, and allow people to flourish in ways no one could ever imagine. His work was always about them, about their capacity. Never about him. Which, I think, is another way to say that the work is about God, not us. What a joy to step back and see God at work.

I’ve long been wondering how the church could/should play a role in this work. The biblical and theological foundations of such education are strong, though thoughts for another post. And then I remembered where Myles got his idea in the first place. It came from a Danish Lutheran Pastor. Through his inspiration, the Danes began a system of Folk Schools that inspired civic engagement and human creativity. Myles was so taken with this that he created his own school, which has in turn, created so much hope.

Which then got me thinking about how quiet our church building is during the day. How the fellowship hall echoes, empty of people. How the building seems to long for creative use.

Which then got me to thinking… perhaps this is something we could do? Our own Lutheran Folk School. A place where we teach using popular education models. A place to engage, to claim our power, to use our creativity and hope to overturn systems that oppress and limit our lives.

We could start small. Experiment with just one class. See what happens. See where it goes.


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