Why Are We Doing This?

written on 12 September 2020 by Indy Hollway & Erin Iwata

Erin: Why am I doing this? Who am I to think that I could budge the massive stone walls of the church? Who am I to think I know anything at all? These are the questions that pop up when I lay in bed at night.

Indy: For me it’s the same, it’s almost like my mind is at war with itself. Part of me knows that this is probably the most important thing I’ll ever do, and part of me thinks I should just shut up and sit down. But it’s in those moments, where I’m silencing myself, that I remember how important this project is.

Erin: Right? I love how you and I keep coming back to the word “amplify.” Amplify that which has not always been heard. Amplify stories to foster empathy. Amplify other perspectives to grow in understanding.

Indy: Amplify what we don’t know so we can learn. Amplify an image of what we think Jesus was talking about when he spoke about the ‘Kingdom of God’ on earth.

Erin: And I feel like that starts with us; we need to lead by example. Because I have a lot too learn, and because I have felt silenced too. I don’t want to come across as “critical” of this thing we call church. So I stay quiet. I wonder how to move. I doubt myself. I doubt my faith. Before this project, I thought these issues were “just me” problems; or maybe just problems for outspoken women. Talking about it felt like complaining- something that is discouraged in Christian circles. Besides, from the outside I am an abled, cisgendered, white, heterosexual female. What do I have to whine about?

Indy: I mean, even as a non-white, non-heterosexual woman, I still have these same thoughts; like ‘what do you have to complain about? Everything could be much worse’.

Erin: Even when things get much worse, we are still silencing people. When George Floyd happened, I was faced with a level of injustice that had always been there, but I hadn’t seen it before. It hurt. I was filled with sorrow at my lack of awareness. My prayers turned to lament. I was utterly aware of my lack of solutions or ability to provide any sort of solution. Why couldn’t we do better? I needed to listen. I needed to be open to learning.

Indy: I hated how unsurprising George Floyd was to me, and how shocking it was to other people. Not that I’m some super clued in, but because that is far from the truth. It was just amazing to me that, somehow, people had lived their lives somehow distant from the truths of systemic racism, and were only now waking up to it. I think that was where a lot of the heartbreak and rage came from for me, partly at my own mistakes and my own lack of action on something I already knew about, and partly at the general shock and surprise.

Erin: It was pretty full on; that same week, a young man from my church committed suicide. He was gay. Like all of us, his story was complex. The church we had both been a part of loved him, and failed him. I couldn’t even tell the difference between where we loved and where we failed. We need to do better. I needed to listen and learn, and allow that to change me, change the way I behaved as a human who believes in Jesus’s justice filled redemption in my life, and in the world. Up until this point I’d been treating the church like a Holiness Club. In all functionality, church was something I did, a place Christians go to every week. I didn’t always fit into that mold, but church was an important part of my weekly ritual. But when the pandemic happened and we all stopped gathering, I had time to think a lot about what the church should really look like, and it led me to believe more than ever that what Jesus did on earth is transformative, and the Spirit of Jesus invites us to partner with God here and now. I felt like I was listening, or waiting, or anticipating what would come next. Did you feel the same?

Indy: Yeah, it was this moment of transformation. It was like we had all been heads down, living our lives, and then suddenly that wasn’t an option anymore. It wasn’t an option to remain blind to the injustices around us, especially in the church, a place where people are supposed to feel safe, be vulnerable, loved, and free. It was like God suddenly opened my eyes in this whole new way; like the moment of rest was preparation for a moment of courage.

Erin: Courage to listen? Courage to speak up?

Indy: Yes, and courage to be unapologetically me. Because that’s what this project is all about, it’s about allowing people the space to be themselves, to express themselves, and to glorify God through that. I have a story to tell. Everyone has a story to tell.

Erin: Right, everyone has a story to tell and that is a beautiful thing, not a scary thing. It can feel personal when people tell stories of their experiences. There’s hurt and pain in there, but we can sit with each other. I have yet to personally meet someone who intentionally tried to act unjustly towards another. Injustice is reinforced by worn habits or thoughts that ignore the needs and values of other people. To get better, to learn a better way of being in and outside the church we need to speak up and we need to listen.

Indy: Right. Gone are the days of ignoring issues and remaining silent. Even though we don’t have any answers.

Erin: Oh for sure! Who are we to think we can fix any of this - the church, the world, institutional injustice? We are no one. We don’t know how to fix anything. Instead, we want to create a space where we can listen, and others can too. We want to hear from people who have had a growth experience that changed their mind. We want to hear from those that did not see, but now have had their eyes opened. We want to hear why you left the church, what keeps you in a broken church, and how the church could be a better family to you.

Indy: And we want to hear redemption stories, reconciliation stories, ‘what isn’t working and what could be better’ stories. We want to see you, we want to hear you, we want to be changed by you. The goal isn’t to completely tear down the walls of the church. The goal is to be sanctified together, and become a people that listen, value people to their core, and love unconditionally. It’s about telling our stories. Everyone is invited. Because it’s our church too.