MONDAY MORNING REFLECTIONS – VOLUNTEERS, ABANDONED VESSELS, SJIRLEY SHERROD AND VIRAL POLITICS

YOU WERE SUPPOSED TO GET THIS LAST MONDAY BUT I FORGOT TO SCHEDULE THE POSTING


As you read this, I am on vacation. I am one of the fortunate who still get vacation as part of their compensation. Five weeks vacation to be exact. In the busy life of a lead pastor in a busy congregation, sometimes it is a challenge to get all of the vacation actually scheduled. Then, of course, there’s the need to pay for it. Still, I’d be a fool to not take vacation. The opposite is a formula for burnout. And as a pastor, it is nice to know that I am not essential; that people can carry out the mission of the church out of their own passion and vision, and the work goes on through their gifts and love of Christ. In fact, when a pastor takes a vacation; a church learns a whole lot about their capabilities and responsibilities.

Volunteers are essential to the success of most not-for-profit organizations. Not-for-profit implies not a lot of money. I know there are exceptions, but most donors want as much of the money as possible spent on the purpose of the organization or the object of their concern, the latter almost always being people in need. In this context, volunteers are every bit as important a resource as an endowment fund. Not only do they help stretch the money of the organization thereby enabling it to do more; but they also insure a human face and caring humanity to be part of what that not-for-profit offers to its consituency.

Did you ever have a photo that fascinated you? This one is first saw on Walt Mueller’s blog learning my lines … (bottom photo). This listing, rotting vessel occupying space along the coast line was once the source of someone’s livelihood. It was part of a fishing industry that brought purpose and jobs and food on the table to some family as it shaped and grew the people within it. I see these things and wonder what they were like when they had life. I sometimes think the same when I pass by dilapidated or empty churches dotting our landscape. Now some are not even good museums of the past because their caretaking has been neglected. But what was it like then there was life in those churches? What kind of impact did they have on the people under their care and influence. Why is this boat abandoned? Why are these churches empty and unused? How might they have stayed alive and useful? What story could they continue to tell if they had not lost their usefulness?
Shirley Sherrod was a long-term employee for the U.S. Department of Agriculture and a “good woman put through hell” because of viral bloggers, quick news cycles, and government leaders who rushed to do damage control without bothering to check the facts. A conservative blogger used an edited video clip and quoted her totally out of context regarding her dealings years ago with a white Mississippi farmer (Shirley is black). Whether that blogger knew they were playing fast and loose with the truth to advance their political agenda remains to be seen; but Fox News picked it up and reported it too quickly, and then Shirley’s boss, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack fired Herrod based on this information and possibly pressure from of all places the NAACP, whose leadership also seemed to accept these “altered facts” quickly without adequate investigation. Now the Obama administration has egg on its face, the NAACP has its much-needed integrity tarnished, and Shirley Sherrod has now had an experience (as well as losing her job) that will no doubtedly unlock another round of viral blogging that will further cause people to think that America is a nation incapable of doing anything right. And the viral bloggers both on the left and the right will be unchastened, continue their polemics, and more of us with thoughtless abandon will email their half-truths around the world. Shirley has received an apology from her boss and a new job offer, but her reputation has probably been tarnished because there will still be people who choose to believe and repeat the half-truth that they preferred in the first place.

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