Welcome to the BCOC Blog

We intend for this blog to be a space for sharing our wonderings, thoughts, and inspirations with you. Who is the “you”? Well, I guess any of you who are reading this post. We write because we wish to share. Because there is something deep within us that groans for expression, and we just can’t keep it in any longer. Yet sharing is more than my writing, and you reading. As a child, the joy of sharing is having others to share with. Sharing is a dialogue, not a monologue. For us, we hope that some morsel of our sharing may spark something in you, something you desire to share. So thank you for your time in reading what we have to share. And please, feel free to share with us. You make this work more than our ruminations. Because of you, we can share.

Side note: we are working on the format. So please excuse some of the redundancy below.

  • The Gifts of Kids (8/9/2018) - Summer camps characterized a large part of my summer. I assisted with Arts Camp at Southtown, Seed Camp in Marion, AL, and Passport in Greenville, SC. I experienced summer camp in a variety of settings and with a diversity of people. And as the August back-to-school rhythm begins, I cannot help but reflect on what […]
  • BCOC Co-Op By: Tim Mann (7/24/2018) - Hey there BCOC. This blog post comes from our very own Tim Mann. Tim, Val, and I (Taylor) have been working together in creating a new opportunity for folks at Covenant. It’s called a Co-Op. If you find yourself interested, feel free to reach out to Tim, Val, or myself! Throughout the four Gospels are […]
  • Why Remember Lynching in America? (5/22/2018) - By Taylor Bell But, why do I (Taylor, a white person) need to remember America’s history of lynching? I was haunted by this question while at the opening ceremony for the Equal Justice Initiative’s (EJI) Legacy Museum and Memorial in Montgomery, AL. The event was to commission EJI’s tenuous work in remembering and memorializing the […]
  • Welcome to the BCOC Blog (5/22/2018) - We intend for this blog to be a space for sharing our wonderings, thoughts, and inspirations with you. Who is the “you”? Well, I guess any of you who are reading this post. We write because we wish to share. Because there is something deep within us that groans for expression, and we just can’t keep […]
  • Fostering with BCOC (5/17/2018) - By Ann Elizabeth McInvale The possibility of fostering didn’t become real to me until I started coming to BCOC in 2012. I met Linda Martin and knew I wanted to know more about her journey and how she was doing it. I was aware of my gifts and slowly began to realize that fostering was […]
  • BCOC blog Re-Mix (4/30/2018) - I forgot that I might see So many beautiful things I forgot that I might need To find out what life could bring -Andain, “Beautiful Things” A new-ish platform for BCOC, this blog, is coming back to life. Resuscitated. We’ve shared Lenten devotions here in the past, sermons, other articles. Yet, things have been quiet […]

The Gifts of Kids

Summer Camp Blog Post ImageSummer camps characterized a large part of my summer. I assisted with Arts Camp at Southtown, Seed Camp in Marion, AL, and Passport in Greenville, SC. I experienced summer camp in a variety of settings and with a diversity of people. And as the August back-to-school rhythm begins, I cannot help but reflect on what this summer meant to me and what the many children and youth taught me.

Most importantly, I was reminded of this simple, profound, and yet forgotten truth: we are all gifted. By gifted I mean you were created by God with unique and important skills, abilities, and insights. Our gifts are innate, authentic, and part of who we are. Our giftedness is a divine truth. Recall Genesis 1:26-28 where humankind was made in God’s image (termed imago Dei), or 1 Corinthians 12:4-31 where Paul elaborates that the Spirit distributes gifts for God’s Kingdom and the common good. Paul’s proclamation here is exclamatory: we were created with gifts to share and make the world a better place! God’s grace is evidenced in our giftedness. That despite the world’s darkness and suffering, God created us with gifts to help heal the world’s pain and suffering. Perhaps God’s grace is witnessed when we share our gifts with the world.

Yet, how often do we look outside ourselves for the things we need? How often do we believe the lie that we are not enough for the world, for our communities, or even for ourselves? How often do we deny the truth of our giftedness because our world says otherwise? How often do we deny God’s grace because we believe the lie we are not gifted?

If you ever doubt how gifted you are, spend time with a child. Though he was only 5, his gifts brightened the room like New York City lights. Though seemingly small tasks, his intuitive painting, quick grasp of engineering, and endless facts and statistics about the Pittsburgh Steelers revealed his giftedness. As I leaned in closer I witnessed creativity, ingenuity, and passion. Without knowing it, this boy was sharing himself with me, and asking me to do the same. As though the light of his gifts were shining into my own soul to reveal my gifts. And what a blessing, because I have spent much of my life hiding my gifts believing my gifts are inadequate, shameful, and irrelevant. But to this child my gifts were the beginning of a relationship. Sharing my gifts was my response to his invitation to truly be with each other. Here, sharing our gifts was the beginning of a real relationship, of true community. And aren’t real relationships and true community what we are so desperately after?

Though she was only 17, her gifts danced like light from a priceless diamond. I saw incredible compassion for her friends, patience and leadership for her community, and joy as she had fun. As the week progressed, I began to recognize her gifts of evident here. Akin to the boy two weeks prior, this young woman without knowing it was sharing her true self. And she fostered a community where it became safe for others to share their true selves. Again, the creation of a community expressed in authenticity, truth, and realness. To foster such a community also requires the gift of courage—to be oneself despite the world. Just imagine if we shared these gifts with the world. Imagine all the pain and suffering that would begin to find healing if there was more compassion, joy, creativity, ingenuity, passion, and courage. And there are many other gifts I failed to mention!

And it hit me like a ton of bricks. Here with our youth are the gifts necessary for a good and beautiful world. Throughout these camps I witnessed grace! Grace that there is enough in the world. Grace that I am gifted, grace the you are gifted, and grace that we are all gifted. We already have all that we need, gifted to us by God in our creation. But we must share our gifts! It is God’s call for us to share our gifts that these children and youth reminded me of. That miracles happen when we share our gifts. One miracle is the birth of community from relationships that are real, authentic, and healing. Isn’t this the type of community our souls thirst for today? And isn’t this the type of community we describe when we talk about the Church? Perhaps the Church is the Church, and shares God’s grace, when each person is called to share their gifts?

Imagine how beautiful our world would be if we lived each day by sharing our gifts? Imagine how beautiful our own lives would be if we lived each day by sharing our gifts? Yet, such grace and beauty don’t just happen. Because of love, God exists in relationship with humankind. A loving relationship requires that we share. Here love demands we share our divine giftedness with the world. I end with this reflection: it is never selfish to claim your divine gifts, only selfish to ignore them; It is never selfish to share your gifts, only selfish to hide them. What are your gifts? What is God calling you to share with the world?

BCOC Co-Op By: Tim Mann

Hey there BCOC. This blog post comes from our very own Tim Mann. Tim, Val, and I (Taylor) have been working together in creating a new opportunity for folks at Covenant. It’s called a Co-Op. If you find yourself interested, feel free to reach out to Tim, Val, or myself!

Throughout the four Gospels are stories of Jesus’ encounters with people. Jesus called, he healed, he listened to, he spent time with, he fed, he prayed for, he questioned, he shared, he taught, he wept, he gave, he welcomed, he loved.  He did these with people of all walks of life–the poor, the powerful, the disabled, the despised, the learned, the young, the old, the outcasts, the successful, the unwelcomed, the religious, the wealthy, the sinful. We read about these interactions, and we’re stirred by their realness, complexity, and mystery.

What is easy to not pay attention to is the fact that in addition to all of these personal encounters, there were many people with whom Jesus had no personal dealings with whatsoever, or at least, there are no detailed accounts of such in scripture.  In fact, it seems that the vast majority of people in the gospel stories were observers, onlookers, or just individuals among the masses. We don’t know their names or any specific details. We just read that they were part of the “crowds” that often gathered around Jesus.

What might this perspective teach us?  Is it possible that it is these people who are part of the “crowds” that we are called to encounter?

A year ago, during some college-tour visits for our rising high school senior, our family met with many university faculty members.  During these enlightening conversations, the professors often described a particular opportunity that each of their schools offered. It is called a Co-Op. It is generally explained as an on-campus/off-campus schedule of learning in the classroom and then implementing in the field with a business or organization in the student’s particular field of study.

As I listened and reflected, the model and strategy of the Co-Op had me thinking about the local church. It got me wondering a sort of “what if”.  As in “what if” the Co-Op model was an idea that could be incorporated into the church in some way?  My thinking was that the Co-Op could be an additional opportunity for persons to live out their faith.

My initial thoughts were something like this.  We figure out a plan where we put folks in sort of discipleship classes for a year or two. The focus would be on spiritual practices, fresh approaches to scripture, listening to the Spirit, strategic thinking, gift/talents inventory, community/fellowship, practicing forgiveness, and other items.  After a period of time, each person then goes on a Co-Op. The person then comes back for more discipleship classes following their Co-Op stint. The cycle repeats itself. Another option would be for the Co-Oper to simultaneously be a part of the discipleship class and his/her Co-Op.

Who defines what the Co-Op looks like?  The person doing it. It would be entrepreneurial . . . organic.  Their original idea originates from their relationship with God through Christ. The church doesn’t define their Co-Op unless they would like help in doing so.  For some, their Co-Op might be hanging out at a local coffee shop, getting a part-time job as a barista, beginning a spiritual seekers discussion group, coaching a ball team, mentoring a young person, volunteering at a non-profit . . . or, just seeing their job in a different light–from job to more of being the light and love of Jesus.

For others, it might be teaching children in Sunday School on Sunday mornings or singing in the choir.  For others, they mow their neighbor’s yard or buy groceries for a shut-in. Or, lead a grass-roots feed the hungry movement. Or, join a running group.  Or, teach a bible study. Or, join a community theater. Or, write encouragement notes. Or, befriend the friendless. Or, start a supper club. Or, join an ultimate frisbee league.  Or, author a book. Whatever one feels led to do; however one feels led to serve, do it all in the name of Jesus and with a more deliberate approach out of a place of faithful living, faithful following.

The Co-Opers still gather weekly at their local church for worship,.  During the SS hour, they may participate in their Co-Op, or gather in a discipleship class of other Co-opers for encouragement, prayer, training, scripture reflection, sharing, etc.

A foundational perspective of this Co-Op is that because it comes from within the individual’s own spirit, he or she is most likely to have a deep sense of calling.  The belief is that the Co-Op model would be another expression of the church’s mission to bring about transformational outcomes through the leadership of the Holy Spirit. The Co-Op must find its source in Love. God’s love. The love of Christ. The love of Jesus.  

A Co-oper is in the discipleship class for as long as he/she needs to be. Each class would be led by teachers/mentors/advisors. It’s a time to shore up spiritual practices and disciplines. It’s also time to work on one’s Co-Op calling and plan—to find where one’s passions meets the world’s needs as revealed to them (in the words of Frederick Buechner).  It is key that one’s Co-Op is connected to one’s own faith. It’s sort of taking BCOC’s statement “Where Faith Comes to Life” and giving it legs in a different way.

On August 12, 19, and 26, a Co-op 101 (information class to learn more) will be offered. Pray about joining a small group of us who feel a stirring to explore where our faith is coming to life – or may need to.

Why Remember Lynching in America?

By Taylor Bell

But, why do I (Taylor, a white person) need to remember America’s history of lynching? I was haunted by this question while at the opening ceremony for the Equal Justice Initiative’s (EJI) Legacy Museum and Memorial in Montgomery, AL. The event was to commission EJI’s tenuous work in remembering and memorializing the victims of lynching. Though I was inspired by incredible speeches, dialogues, and testimonials, the question hounded my soul: Why do I need to remember America’s history of lynching? Why can’t we just worry about the present? Yes, I recognize that our country’s history of lynching is a dark sin on the American soul, deeply connected to our other sins of slavery and genocide. And because of its painfulness and shame we have mostly forgotten our collective history. Just think about it. The history of lynching is barely taught in schools, given little to no public space (unlike Confederate Monuments), and it certainly does not come up over Thanksgiving dinner when reminiscing about the family. This museum and memorial then is an effort to remember against America’s dominant currents to forget. EJI’s hope is that our collective remembering may provide healing from this traumatic past and guide our racial justice efforts in the present. I understood and agreed with all of this, yet why couldn’t I shake off this haunting question?

For me, the question why do I need to remember? is not born out of philosophical, theological, or ideological disagreement. On an intellectual level I completely understand why we white folks need to remember America’s history of lynching. Primarily, this history helps to explain present day racial inequalities by revealing their past roots. Lynching was extrajudicial, meaning that it wasn’t exactly legal, yet because it supported a legally racist society it always went unpunished. When we realize this truth, and recognize that nothing has been done to correct such historical injustice, we begin to take seriously the claims that America’s justice system is still racist today.

Cognitively, I know this truth. Yet the question still haunts me: Why do we have to dwell in the past? And then I realized it! This question has never been about intellectual agreement. It is about something more deeply existential: the soul, my soul, my white soul. I am a Southern white male pastor. Though born and raised in Louisville, KY (more like the South-lite), my family roots trace themselves to Wetumpka, AL and I have spent the past 9 years in the South. The South is in my blood. And so too is Elmore County’s history of lynching. I don’t know if any of my family members from Elmore County ever participated in a lynching. But I do know that Alabama’s dark past of racial terrorism defines my present. To say otherwise is to deny the truth that violence bears consequences. As I reflect on lynchings, it becomes apparent they did more than terrorize black communities. They also violently reminded white communities that white supremacy was the law of the land. To see a dead human hanging from a tree is traumatizing, no matter who you are. And to kill another human inflicts trauma on the self. We whites couldn’t commit such horrific violence unscathed. We had to believe something to justify our actions and hide from our sins.

So, we invented the fiction of racism. A fiction that told us white people were better than black people, that black people deserved their enslavement and lynching, and that black people weren’t even people. Racism has always been a fiction we whites told and retold to ease our moral conscience from the truth that we were enslaving and slaughtering fellow human beings. With this fiction, it becomes a lot easier to unquestionably mutilate, murder, and terrorize black people. Because to see black people as humans means that lynching was terrorism and murder, which means our white ancestors were terrorist and murderers. This realization does more than spoil the turkey on Thanksgiving dinner (not to mention spoil the entire holiday of Thanksgiving). It raises shameful questions about my history, my ancestry, my family, about me. The question why must I remember is about my soul because it is about where I come from, who I am. I don’t want to remember because I don’t want to find out truths I’d rather not know about my family. It’s rather much easier to “forget” America’s legacy of lynching; to abide by white America’s collective silence on the issue. Because to actually remember means we have to acknowledge and talk about what our ancestors did or didn’t do. And oh Lord, that is just too dark, scary, and sinful. For the sake of my soul I’d rather not remember.

Yes, the Civil Rights Movement taught us whites that racism is bad. But, by leaning on the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts, we whites could ease our collective moral conscience by proclaiming racism was gone without ever having to collectively face our history of racial terrorism, enslavement, and genocide. And we still avoid collective responsibility today. Yes, we say racism is bad. But who is responsible for it? That is a question we whites like to keep a question. You think I’m wrong? There is no national holiday or date where whites have ever truly apologized for the horrific sins of slavery, Jim Crow, and lynching. Not in the Emancipation Proclamation, not during Reconstruction, not with the passage of the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts, and not today. In 2008, Rep. Steve Cohen of Tennessee issued an apology from the House of Representatives for slavery and Jim Crow. However, I’m hard pressed to believe its shared conviction when my own state of Alabama creates laws protecting Confederate Monuments (the Alabama Memorial Preservation Act), yet has no legal proceeding to remember those lynched by Confederate veterans—in 2017! Today, we Southern whites prefer our romantic stories of an Antebellum South like Gone with the Wind, to have our weddings on old Southern plantations, and tell ourselves the Confederacy was never about slavery, all the while denying the damning truths hidden by these stories, places, and beliefs. (The Confederacy was about states’ rights: a state’s right to keep their slaves. Check out the Mississippi Declaration of Secession) Racism is a fiction that continues to thrive today. And like all good fiction, the narrative must evolve and develop as time goes on. Thus, the fiction continues today, and so too does its violence and trauma.

Why deny and resist learning the whole truth of our history if there is not something to be afraid of? Deny, resist, and give into fear is exactly what I’ve done. It’s why my question haunted me at the EJI’s opening ceremony. I’ve buried my nose, mind, and heart in historical texts about America’s darkest sins yet have never garnered the courage to ask my relatives about our family’s history in Wetumpka. I’ve treated the movement for racial justice as an intellectual debate and political quandary, but never as a struggle for the soul. And I realized this as I sat there, watching a video of a black family visiting the site in Louisiana where their forefather was lynched. And I wondered, what if my forefathers enacted the lynching? Or watched, celebrated, and shared with family about the good time they had? Not in Louisiana, but maybe Alabama? This question haunts me because I want so desperately to leave this past in the past. And yet, how can I fully love my black brothers and sisters and fully aid the struggle for racial justice as a white male if I cannot face my own history of racism? How can I love and join in justice if I habitual deny my own direct relation to racism’s past? The question why must I remember? held up a mirror that reflected my own denial, revealing I was unconsciously maintaining racism just as I was attempting to dismantle it.

The question remains: why do I need to remember America’s legacy of lynching? Whether I acknowledge it or not, American lynching has defined part of who I am today. I cannot deny this part of me if I wish to strengthen the struggle for racial justice. Because if I’m honest, I strain against this part of me, this racist inheritance, through my own indifference, condemnation, and hopelessness. For I am the great-grandchild of white ancestors who moved along after witnessing the lynched black man swinging in the tree. An oppressive history I was taught to deny. An unconscious lesson learned by my white family’s collective silence on this horrific sin. But despite our attempts to “forget,” lynching occurred, and no one escaped unscathed, pure, saved. Thus, I must remember our history of lynching if desire to be different; if I am to help dismantle white supremacy; if I am to discover how I may be white and non-supremacist.

Learning to be white and non-supremacist is about more than just furthering racial justice. It is also about redemption. Redemption is discovering a new way of life; a life that is life-giving rather than death-dealing. Though being white and non-supremacist is perhaps an unattainable ideal, it is a hopeful ideal nonetheless—and hope has always birthed and strengthened the struggle for love and justice. I must be clear: my thoughts on redemption are not to decenter the essential importance of non-white people’s lives in the work for racial justice. It is to say however that we whites carry our own traumatic history related to lynching. Not a history as victims and survivors. Rather a history as oppressors and murderers. When we whites begin to face the truths of our history, the shame of such realization threatens with hopelessness. But hopelessness is a choice. So too is hope. We can courageously choose hope only when we embrace our history with love. Love always seeks the truth so that it may love better. Love remembers the whole truth of history, and from these truths teaches us how to love better. Love is a verb, and thus redemption is found only through our active loving—both our non-white brothers and sisters and our own white selves. Therefore, it is not enough to just know our history. Hope and love are found when we allow history’s truths to change our present.

The importance of love means racism cannot be healed through politics and institutions. Fixed, maybe. But healed from the soul? Never. Racism is a matter of the heart and soul, not institutions, because racism’s roots are fear and hatred expressed through violence. True, racism is manifested in the institutions and structures that make our country run. But racism is only there because we white folks put it there. And it doesn’t matter how “progressive,” “woke,” or “non-racist” you are as a white person. As long as we whites focus strictly on policy yet ignore the racism of our own communities, schools, places of worship, families, and especially our own souls, the fear and hatred that nurture racism’s violence will forever be present. This is not to deny the importance of political efforts. It is to say however that we whites, especially we progressive whites, escape the hard truthful examination of remembering through politics and blaming other whites for racism. Our blaming other whites is our own form of racism. We maintain racism by choosing to see the splinter in our brothers’ and sisters’ eyes while denying the log in our own.

Love demands that we whites remember by learning the stories of our families. Yes, reading historical texts, watching documentaries, and visiting the EJI’s Legacy Museum and Memorial are all incredibly important. But they cannot connect us as closely to our own individual pasts like our families do. We remember by learning where our ancestors came from and what they did. We remember by asking the avoided questions, giving space for the whole truth, and allowing this truth to guide us. Therefore, from these reflections I am embarking on my own journey of remembering: to learn the stories of my family from the South. And if you haven’t, I invite you to embark on your own journey of remembering. Because we carry our ancestors with us. We are their children, and we are impacted by both their beauty and their sins. As long as we deny racism’s reality as a long gone past event, we allow racism’s hatred and fear to live on and be inherited by the next generation. Yet, we can remember and discover the hopeful reality that a new way of life is possible. Not just for us whites or blacks, but for all of us as America.

Fostering with BCOC

By Ann Elizabeth McInvale

The possibility of fostering didn’t become real to me until I started coming to BCOC in 2012. I met Linda Martin and knew I wanted to know more about her journey and how she was doing it. I was aware of my gifts and slowly began to realize that fostering was something I truly felt called to. Contrary to what many people think, the purpose of foster care is not adoption. The primary goal of foster care is to reunite children with their birth families. However, adoption can be a beautiful outcome in the pursuit to give a child permanency. Being a foster parent means advocating for children and what is in their best interest. I learned quickly that this is a difficult and holy calling.

Silhouette of Young Mother Hugging Toddler Son at SunsetBeing a foster parent has taught me to love in ways I didn’t know that I could. This journey has forced me to be vulnerable, and let those closest to me walk alongside me and hold my hand when I can’t do it alone. I have willingly let down walls and let my village, this village at BCOC, carry me through heartbreak and tears. I have pulled up my big girl panties and loved again, even after that first unexpected goodbye left me empty and broken. You helped me put back the pieces and find my strength to keep going. I have learned to hope in a system that is so broken and have felt empowered to work for change.

There are currently about 6,279 children in foster care in the state of Alabama. There are roughly 2,200 licensed foster homes. The majority of children in foster care are in Jefferson County. Some of these children come into care for just a few days and other for years. Some are reunited with family while others age out of the system or find permanency through adoption. Their reasons for being in care are different, but they all come to us wanting and needing to feel safe and loved. I am convinced that the growing number of foster families at BCOC is a result of how well this church loves. Keep loving.

Ways you can pray for us:

  • Pray that we will be the advocate that each child needs.
  • Pray for patience when things don’t go the way we think they should.
  • Pray for emotional healing when our hearts break after a final goodbye.
  • Pray that we will have the courage and self-awareness to say yes or no when we get a placement call.
  • If the situation allows, pray for healthy relationships with birth families.
  • Pray for thoughtful and productive communication between foster parents, social workers, GAL’s, and others directly involved in each case.

BCOC blog Re-Mix

I forgot that I might see
So many beautiful things

I forgot that I might need
To find out what life could bring

-Andain, “Beautiful Things”

A new-ish platform for BCOC, this blog, is coming back to life. Resuscitated.
We’ve shared Lenten devotions here in the past, sermons, other articles. Yet, things have been quiet here for a while, but there’s too much to say, and so we’re gonna start saying it. Too much to share. Too much good out there to let it go unrecognized. Too many negatives that deserve a positive counter-move. And too many wonderings to leave them un-wondered. So starting now, Taylor Bell and I want to share our ideas and reflections from living and faith-ing here on this corner alongside you.

Sometimes what is offered in worship inspires us and we want to say more about it.  This will give us a place to do that. When one of us prepares something to say or pray, often there is much more behind the scenes than what was appropriate to share in that moment of worship, so it goes unsaid and un-explored. We wonder if it would mean more to you – like it does to us – if you knew more about the scenic view– the interview, article or chapter that fed our thinking that week; the inner argument over why or how a particular thing was chosen to be shared out loud. We want to add the narration to the Sunday/Wednesday dialogue if it holds meaning worth sharing.

In addition to wonderings and theologizing, we promise to share reviews of books and resources we find relevant to our life with you, to justice and peace, to faith and living in community.  What we offer up is for the sake of our faith community. It is our hope that what we write will lift your heart, light up your passions, and enrich our fellowship somehow.

Stay tuned.