Josh Medlock, Director of Student Ministries
How many times have you heard this phrase lately:
“We live in uncertain times?”
I hear many variations of that phrase right now.
I suppose some people use this phrase and its many variations as a way to express frustration and perhaps fear during a time when things are out of control and we are unsure what the next day will bring.
Others might use this phrase to simply state the obvious because they are unsure how to put into words how they feel about what is going on.
Then again, some simply might be using this phrase as others use the expression, “Same old, same old.”
I have come to realize that I fall into that second category of people.
I have been unsure how to express how I feel about current situations in our world.
Most of you who are reading this have known me long enough to know that expressing how I feel isn’t usually a problem for me.
And while that may be true, there is this thing called social media that has presented a problem for me.
Before I came on staff here at First United Methodist Church Garland, I never had a problem expressing how I felt about things on social media.
I often engaged in lengthy and wordy battles on Facebook with people who expressed their “concern” or “confusion” with one of my posts.
I did the same with emails and other forms of written communication.
I wasn’t really too concerned with the fallout or repercussions regarding the things I wrote.
However, since becoming the Director of Student Ministries, I began to analyze very closely the things I had been putting out on social media.
I started to wonder….”Is this the right way to do this?
Should I really be stating how I feel, especially if it may be counter to how some of our congregation feels about things?”
I struggled with this, a lot.
Then I watched a video of a black man named George Floyd being suffocated to death by a police officer.
Another senseless and needless death in a long string of senseless and needless deaths of black men and women.
I wanted to express how angry and upset I was. I wanted so desperately to respond on my social media accounts.
I again started to question my actions though.
I thought, “I am not a person of color. How is this going to be received?
What will happen if I use the hashtag #blacklivesmatter?
Do I really want to start another Facebook war with people who may not agree with me?”
So I put my computer up and chose to remain silent.
This was my response when our church started talking about human sexuality.
This was my response when we elected our current president.
It was the same response I adopted about most things that would be considered volatile subject matter.
I stayed silent.
Thank God for Maggie Proshek, Associate Pastor for Children, Youth and Families at Arapaho United Methodist Richardson, who as most of you know was raised and heard her call to ministry at First United Methodist Garland.
I read a post of hers at facebook.com/magathaa810, and immediately felt ashamed and guilty that I had been silent.
She clearly stated her stance in a way that was respectful, dignified and in keeping with who she is as a Christian.
Yet you know exactly where she stands.
I suddenly felt very inspired and realized I had been looking at this all wrong.
My call as a Christian is to speak out against social injustice in whatever form it takes.
My call as a leader in our church is to be transparent and lead by example.
What example am I setting for our youth and college students by being silent?
What example am I setting as a father for my children by being silent?
Silence in not the answer, nor is it a solution to a problem.
Don’t get me wrong, there is a time for silence and discernment.
But when it comes to social injustice, silence is NEVER the answer.
ACTION, that’s the answer.
Being silent is ignoring my call as a Christian. So I’ve decided to remain silent no more.
I fired up my computer and wrote one of the longest Facebook posts I think I have ever written.
I did the smart thing and asked my wife to review and edit it before posting.
If you want to read it, you can find it at facebook.com/joshua.medlock.5.
I want to give thanks to Maggie for being willing to take a stance, to throw caution to the wind and stand up for what is right.
I want to thank Senior Pastor Valarie Englert for always encouraging us on staff to challenge our congregation and talk about the hard stuff.
I want to thank Associate Pastor Caroline Noll for always being a voice of discernment and wisdom for me when I struggle.
I especially want to thank Yolanda Pendleton, Director of Missions, Community Outreach and Advocacy, Dr. Eldred Marshall, Artist-in-Residence and Associate Director of Music Ministries, and Cedric Kidd, Facility Superintendent, for being the voices of color I needed to hear, and for being willing to talk to me about racial injustice and my role in all of this.
All of these people have given me the courage and strength to take a stand, use my voice and be called to action.
I thank God for each of you.
I kept asking, “What am I going to do?” during these uncertain times.
Although these may indeed be uncertain times, I am quite certain about what I am going to do.
I am not going to be silent.
I am not going to stand idly by and watch as social injustice happens all around me.
I am going to continue to encourage our youth, our college students and you to talk about the hard stuff.
It isn’t going to be comfortable, but it isn’t supposed to be.
It isn’t going to be easy, but nothing worth doing is.
It isn’t going to go away unless we who are called to action do something about it.
I am not naïve and I am very aware of how privileged I am.
Part of that privilege is being able to ask questions, contemplate my role and be involved as much or as little as I feel is necessary without having to actually experience any of it personally.
This realization was a starting point for me.
My heart breaks for those who are experiencing these things. It is happening to them. They don’t have a choice.
So I challenge us, all of us, to use our privilege and make a difference.
I challenge all of us to heed the call to action and not to remain silent.
It is a difficult decision and one that will most definitely make most of us uncomfortable.
I am certain it is worth it.
Photo from The New Yorker