I too Have Some Things To Tell You but until I read Jenny Smith’s book I lacked the courage to say some of those things. These things are similar to Jenny’s: a struggle with anxiety, the paralyzing fear as I lead, the questions about how much to reveal, the struggles with God (and with the church). There are many other things also but like in Smith’s book those will unfold as life continues.
Jenny Smith’s collection of essays begin a conversation. It is a love letter to the church that she is departing filled with things said and unsaid, thoughts shared and kept hidden, and the poetic ways that revelation takes form in when you pastor God’s people. Each entry, like a journal, gives us insight into Jenny’s growth as a follower of Jesus, but more importantly, it begins to shape our imagination about what pastoral ministry might look in the future.
Reading I Have Some Things To Tell You reminded me why letters make up such a large portion of the New Testament. Pastoral letters are ways to expound on the preaching life, ways to explain, struggle with, and communicate to God’s people. Letters help all us slow down and take it in, reflect on it, and use it into the future. In the same way I Have Some Things To Tell You invites us into a conversation and like other pastoral letters it is both contextual and universal. The realities that Smith describes in her context are the realities to many (if not most) other congregation-pastor relationships. Her courage in expressing those struggles encourages other communities and other pastors.
At the cornerstone of Smith’s intimate correspondence is God’s grace. This grace is at work in the messiness of life, in the difficult intersection between personal relationship and our relationship to God, in the complicated nature of pastoral relationships, and in the acknowledgement that pastors, like all other followers of Jesus, are people in desperate need of divine grace.
In the midst of the poetic prose and the narrative poetry she challenges. She reminds us of the importance of being the body of Jesus in the world. In the midst of pandemic she does not shy away from the edgy Gospel that she has been called to proclaim to God’s people — among the people that she serves and among the people that are reading.
“Easter invites us to take a hard look in the mirror and see how we contribute to the very systems that got Jesus killed. Sometimes it’s easier to point out those who denied Jesus instead of owning the truth that if we were there, we might have faded into the crowd as well. God’s dream is for us all to move from death to life.”
Jenny Smith in I Have Some Things To Tell You
I am thankful that Jenny Smith has written such a pastoral letter. You have challenged, modeled transparency, and have inspired all of us who read to pay attention to grace in the mess. I am thankful that she has practiced confession in redeeming ways and has invited all of us to the joy of repentance and beginning again. For this pastor I am most thankful that you have called me to have the courage to open myself to the people that God has given me to serve alongside.
Who knows maybe as we open our hearts and minds to what God is doing among us we might experience a little bit of heaven right here on earth. We might become the body that the Spirit is calling us to be!