The Distillery

How might pastors lead multicultural congregations so that the people and their ministries flourish?

Show Notes

The Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis, Senior Minister for Public Theology at Middle Collegiate Church in New York City, explores this question with host Sushama-Austin Connor while discussing her books, Fierce Love and The Pentecost Paradigm. In this episode, Dr. Lewis offers timeless lessons about what she calls a “multi-everything” ministry that offers love and inclusion to everyone. 




The Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis—Author, Activist, and Public Theologian—is the Senior Minister at Middle Collegiate Church, a multiracial, welcoming, and inclusive congregation in New York City. Middle Church and her activism have been featured in media such as The TODAY Show, MSNBC, The Washington Post, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal. Her new podcast, Love.Period., is produced by the Center for Action and Contemplation. She is the author of Fierce Love, The Power of Stories: A Guide for Leaders in Multi-racial, Multi-cultural Congregations, The Pentecost Paradigm: Ten Strategies for Becoming a Multiracial Congregation, and the children’s book, You Are So Wonderful!

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The Distillery podcast explores what motivates the work of Christian scholars and why it matters for theology and ministry.

distillerypodcast
How might a pastor lead a multicultural congregation so that the people and their ministry flourish?
The Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis is Senior Minister for Public Theology of Middle Collegiate Church in the East Village of New York City.  Middle is the church of her dreams and prayers, a multiethnic rainbow coalition of love, justice, and worship that rocks her soul.  Rev. Jacqui uses her gifts as author, activist, preacher and public theologian to build a more just and fully welcoming society in which everyone has enough.  Her work has been featured in numerous media outlets including The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, the front page of The New York Times website and The Associated Press.  In this episode, I speak with Rev. Jacqui about her work.  With me, she explores the arc of fierce love and multicultural practices in her ministry, marriage, and congregation. She offers timeless lessons about what she calls a “multi-everything” ministry that offers love and inclusion to everyone. 

01:10.68
distillerypodcast
Reverend Lewis, thank you so much for being with us today. We're so excited to have you, both as a PTS alum and a woman in leadership, and may I add a black woman in leadership. I have followed your work for a very long time and am grateful for the opportunity just to speak with you, and to share, and to just talk about your books and your ideas and your prolific and amazing career.

Jacqui Lewis
Oh thank you, Sushama. It's my great honor to be with you. PTS alum! Here we are ... doing the thing. Yay! Excellent.

distillerypodcast
Just for a moment, can you talk to us a little bit for just a second about your PTS experience, or anything that you have to say about the experience of seminary?

Jacqui Lewis
Yeah, I would love to. I have to say by the time I said yes to God and went to seminary, I was geeked out of my mind to get there. Um I had been feeling kind of called a ministry since I was about nine years old; almost 10 when Dr. King got killed was this sort of first phase of thinking I was supposed to be a drum major for peace and then it and then I just started being mentored by some people at my presbyterian church in Chicago taking me on mission. Getting introduced to Caesar Chavez's work. So by the time I was you know 10 I was like oh I think this is what I'm supposed to do but I had math and science aptitude Sushama. So let's instead go study engineering because whatever. So by the time I finally went to seminary at 30, I started in January and I finished my MDiv in 2 and a half years because I was in a hurry to get you know, get into the world of of work. It was a beautiful time at Princeton In fact, this year's alum invitation as to my class of 1992 gathering this May. We were working on hunger and how to use our lunch money and how not to waste food. And we were working on gay ordination and what what was the big deal about having all the folks you know who are loved by God be able to serve God so we with a yellow ribbon bunch. We were um, working on race. Um. I had a chance to do Ntozake Shange's play for colored girls in 1 of my preaching classes and so that was both beautiful and a little controversial because we did not take out the curse words, oh my goodness and um I started with the Gospel, yes honey, and I started the gospel choir with a really beautiful multiethnic multicultural bunch of folks. Folks from Germany learning how to clap in the choir that was designed to make you laugh so it was some of the best 2 and a half years of my life I felt so held in a space of joy.

04:10
Jacqui Lewis
I lived in Brown. Um, we did a bunch of media stuff. We you know tossed footballs on the quad. It was gorgeous, really beautiful time and I learned so much from Peter Paris, bless his heart and, um, you know Cleo Larue and Jim Kay. I was a real preacher kind of person and um from Frida Gardner and I just so many beautiful professors shaped my worldview and. y classmates were just joyful and I just had such a good time. So thank you PTS. We had stuff, you know, we had stuff we were working out-- stuff around privilege and um, racial dynamics but I wouldn't trade any day. Ah, that 2 and a half years what the black students did together what the the work we did on womanism together the making a room for feminists to read. It was just activism and theological study, that was a blessing right? You know to give up your life and take a timeout and sit at the feet of wise people and you get reading just for, just like because you want to and learning just because you feel called to was awesome, was amazing.

05:34
distillerypodcast
That's all that's wonderful and you're just saying names that will resonate with so many people. Can you elaborate a little bit, what was it like to be a student at that time because I know I've been there for about 10 years so there's I feel like there's been ah, kind of moments and like maybe 3-year shifts as MDiv students come and go that match what's going on in the culture. Can you talk about some of the moments in your life while you were at PTS at that time in that 2 and a half years

6:06
Jacqui Lewis
Yeah I mean I started school and in January of 1992 so we are in the kind of Reagan, Clinton years. We are-- Womanism is new if you will, and so when Katie Cannon comes to school to teach preaching, we're just all like what is this brilliant angelic badass woman talking about?! woo! right? We've got um, you know, we lose a couple of women who don't really get tenured at school at that time and we we are trying to think about what is a white woman's christ in a black woman's Jesus right? We are trying to figure out. What's the difference between feminism and womanism and what's that critique being offered by, by Dolores Williams and others. We, you know we're just trying to figure it out and we are we are cast against an America that is absorbed with the "I" and less with the we. What is a civil rights movement then? What do black students feel like? Black non-Presbyterian students, I'm a Black Presbyterian student. What are these black, you know Obery Hendricks is there when I'm there, you know, and what, you know, what are we? What are we? What are we? the black men. What are the black men crafting? In a context of a white institution with a lot of money that has given them scholarships but can't honestly capture their imagination for a fully equal and just society What are black women and black men trying to cultivate. And curate together in the black students theological space it was foment. It was rough some days. It was um, a cafeteria that was alive with you know, chatter and frustration. It was a chapel alive with music from the black tradition inside this Presbyterian white container. It was all the things it was just all the things. It was Princeton as a petri dish of wealth and privilege and a petri dish for you know out of the box thinking. Or trying to figure out what the box is and what it shouldn't be. I felt like I was in class all the time. What does this mean, I remember being in a classroom with some Presbyterian students and some of them were evangelical, very evangelical. I didn't know I was evangelical just to be honest with you, Sushama, like I didn't know what that word was.

9:12
Jacqui Lewis
I remember being in a classroom talking about gay ordination and I said what is the big deal. What is this about? You know, and what does the bible say? Which is a question I would have asked as a 30-year-old woman coming growing up in the church and you know while the bible says you know. Gay is an abomination like where like had I ever read the word abomination in my life where was that you know where did we read Leviticus and did around me except for the 10 commandments and the Exo. The story as children I don't know but it was so shocking I was like what where is that and. And also by the way women shouldn't talk in church. What? Where's that? So this is just the most interesting time of personal investigation and insight. And I write in my book, Fierce Love "finding the heretic in myself" and being so delighted in her. Like, like to be honest: "Oh, a hell no!" Right? "That can't be what we're trying to believe?! I mean why? why? why? Ah, why are we stuck on those texts?" I found myself asking as opposed to another set. Like, oh everyone's making their own canon whether they want to admit it or not and what's mine? And how do I do love in this place? And um, you know Michael Livingston was the, uh, Campus Chaplain when I came to school and now is a really, really dear friend of mine, but I remember being in his office sometimes thinking, "What? What the heck is this about and am I worthy to be here?" "Am I am I okay to do this?" And Michael saying, "It's exactly because you're who you are that you're okay to do this". And how that lit my theological imagination on fire! To let go of the, I won't say the bad word here, but let go of the stuff. Um, but the but like ah let go of that. Let it go if it isn't about liberation and love and justice and peace and freedom and God's incredible are inspiring delight in each of us like, let it go. And I was just in this journey of letting go and picking up and letting go and picking up and I was just like, ah, Helen Keller when she learned how to read with her hands, you know? How she was running around everywhere touching. I just was running around everywhere saying can I read that book? What's that Book? What's in the bibliography of that book. So I can read what's in the bibliography of that Book. You know how can I just ingest new thought to guide my feet. It was amazing.

12:08
distillerypodcast
It's amazing. Yeah, and you know what since you brought up fierce. Love Wow Just start there. Let's start there because I think that that's the perfect way to begin the conversation because we, I mean, we as a team and me personally kind of dug into Fierce Love. You start the book off talking about Ubuntu. I am who I am because we are who. Can you describe what it is and why you chose that as the starting point of the book?

12:42
Jacqui Lewis
yeah yeah I mean what I'm what I'm wanting to claim is that I got to Ubuntu 2 ways. One was literally when I was writing my Phd dissertation, I did a lot of stuff on leadership studies and no kidding a book called the fifth discipline had ubutu in there. I'm like, what is this? and the greeting salbona, you know, I see you and the response of econa and what like they were saying in the book. This would be a way to really rewire the way we lead in corporate life. You know what makes a successful business? What makes a successful team? I was so curious about it and I really dove deep into leadership theory. Howard Gardner and lots of writers on leadership thinking. Why? Why are Sunday mornings still segregated? That was my research question for my PhD. And I bring up the Pentecost Paradigm to say part of my dissertation is in that book. And I bring up, and I want to say I got to ubuntu both through the leadership lens but also then John and I went to South Africa and to go to Robin Island and to imagine the incarceration of Nelson Mandela and how he found the humanity of his captors through Ubuntu. Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu. I just tried to learn how to say that so I could feel Zulu when I say it. A human is a human through other humans. So he, Mandela was-- these people didn't come to the world hating they learned how to hate me and if they learned how to hate me they can learn how to love me and I can learn how to love them. And their survival and they're thriving are tied up with his. White Africana racist captors humanity tied up with his. You expect that from Bishop Tutu because okay, he's a bishop, you know, but Mandela was a warrior right? You a warrior, like what? So I kind of imagine that Ubuntu predates even the world's religions that talk about love neighbor as self which is all of them.

15:00
Jacqui Lewis
That it is I imagine we get up out of, you know, we walk out of the cave into the light thinking who's kind of hunt and who's gonna gather and who's gonna cook and who's gonna make the fire and who's gonna watch the kids. That there was a kind of interconnected human relating that as we became human. We knew we needed to each other and we have forgotten. That we have we who are all from Africa, all of the humans have forgotten that we cannot do this by ourselves. And so I wanted to start with what is essentially human which isn't code and creed and class and confession. It isn't who's in who's out. It isn't denominations. It isn't even Christian, which I am. It is actually humans. Loving each other seeing each other being concerned about each other having a shared self-interest you live I live you're hungry my stomach grows your kids ain't got no health care. I need to go to the policy table. Your elders are making a choice between you know, food and medicine. I need to think about how our economy works. That we are inextricably connected 1 to the other injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere is what King would say. All of this is what it is. But is my religion now I believe assiduously in love and love as a public ethic as a calling in as ferocious courage and rule-breaking kindness. That is I believe the only thing that can heal the world and ubuntu sets that up for me as a frame that everyone can find their way into.

17:06
distillerypodcast
I want to start with something about the stories that kind of give life and voice to what you're talking about because I feel like you're very honest and vulnerable in Fierce Love and sharing kind of the challenging moments in your life. I'd be curious Rev., what was your process in deciding to share stories publicly. And how would you recommend to leaders to share similar stories because I think what happens when you share stories like that and you share vulnerabilities in your life and in the life of your family and your marriage and your people in your congregation is you open it up to make people feel less vulnerable. Like they can share their stories like

Jacqui Lewis
They can share it too exactly. That's right.

distillerypodcast
Yeah, they share too and so what? what would you say? How? What made you share it and what's the process of sharing as other pastors and faith leaders listen to you and think about this.

18:06
Jacqui Lewis
Yeah that's an excellent question and, you know, I would say I have trafficked in vulnerability and truth for all of my ministry. I think it's just so important. Um, you know I just think it is so important to be authentic and transparent and real with our congregations who often want to idealize us or put us on a pedestal or make us a little less than God. Well, the psalmist says we're all a little less than God so why me? But I also think honestly, right? uh preaching a lot in different contexts, you know there's an appropriate vulnerability from the pulpit right? So there is just right? It's how authentic can we be and how appropriate can we be in our preaching that helps people come along with us. There's um, an appropriate sharing of story that points to the liberative text but that doesn't make people like lose their minds inside your story. But in this book, I'm not preaching in a pulpit. In this book I'm saying here is my truth. And if and I'm saying it because I want to preach outside of the box I want outside of that box I wanted jews and Muslims and Buddhists and Humanists and Unitarians and Atheists and Agnostics and Zoroastrians, right? And Sikhs to pick up this book and go oh my god I see what she means. She's talking about love. How could I do I Sushama if I wasn't real about it. I just couldn't. I lost my mom 4 years ago somewhere in the world when I was cooking this book inside my body. I felt like she was giving me blessing and indictment to tell the truth on myself about myself. To invite others to do the same. To say really actually loving ourselves as an act of truth. Loving each other is an act of truth. Like it's, you can't love a fake thing. You can't love a lie. You can't love through a lie. So I was bold. I read the audio book. Right? When you buy the audio book you buy my voice and I was reading it going really girl? Did you need to do that? Why did you do that? What were you thinking that day? but I don't really have any regrets I think it was bold and brave so that other people were bold and bold and brave and say here's who I really am. And I if I can be honest about who I am I maybe can love this person. And if I can be honest about who I am and love this person, I can love my neighbor honestly for who they are. I can love the strangest part of myself. I can love the parts of myself that are foreign. I can love the parts of myself that I don't really like. I can love them, have an unconditional regard for them. And then I can have that same kind of reaction relationship to my neighbor and to the world. I think it's the only way to get there, Sushama. That's that's why I did it. I think it's really important exercise for clergy to strip down the facades that we think we're supposed to have as clergy and get real.

21.33
[drip transition]

21:38.
distillerypodcast
I want to go back to, one, this kind of rule-breaking kindness. I'm a United Church of Christ so in you see we talk about kind of extravagant or a radical hospitality or something. We, we have like these things new phrases that we live by. And they're not just phrases, I don't mean it that way, like they're things that we-- they're mantras to be lived by. And I wonder if you could just discuss with us, what is rule-breaking kindness? And then that leads me to ask about ferocious courage and fierce love, but let's start with some of the-- what are the terms we're using for this book? What is rule-breaking kindness?

22:22
Jacqui Lewis
Yeah. Yeah, um I tell the story in the book of having a car accident when I'm 22 years old and I'm just having a beautiful day in September and my car flips over.
And the sunroof and the tires and sunroof of the tires and finally lands in a hail of glass and blood and yuck. And I'm in the hospital worried about my fella. And my folks are not around and his folks are not around. And I'm like a 22-year-old kid, really. How old are you when you're 22? With no money you know pretty, like, you're just, you know, you got no money and no car. You know, you just like vulnerable. You are absolutely a baby right out of college and I am crying at a phone bank calling our sets of parents and this white petite Canadian lady walks up to me and wants to know what's wrong. And I started calling her the "good Canadian" in this book because she did all the things that you and I know that Samaritan did in our Gospel. She just listened. She was ridiculous. She was radical hospitality. She was extravagant love. She took me to get food and took me to a hotel and checked me in and waited for me to close the door. And left me and then got me the next day and took me to get a car and took me to the hospital and, you know, like drove me and my man like out to the highway. Now, here you go you know have a nice trip home. Why did she do that?! There was no reason for her to do it. She broke all the rules. She broke all the taboos. She crossed boundaries. She broke cultic borders just like the Samaritan, just like Jesus. And that's what I mean by rule-breaking kindness. And people do it all the time they just don't know how to celebrate it and how to like affirm it, have appreciative inquiry for it and then do it again, right? Like when Linda Sarsour invites Sharon Brous;when Palestinian Muslim Linda invites you know, Zionist Rabbi Sharon to any conversation they are breaking the rules. Nobody wants that

24:49.38
Jacqui Lewis
On December 5th, this year we celebrated that we are alive. That we're here 1 year more, right.

distillerypodcast
That you're here, amen.

Jacqui Lewis
Commemorating a fire is not a celebration but we're here and we marched from our temporary location down from 21st and Park to Seventh and Second and we sang songs. And there was a man who is one of our community leaders who was just not of feeling like he looked beautiful, physically. He just was kind of a little drippy and a little you know, not well. And I just watched my colleague Amanda just, love him. You know, and bring him to meet me and like then I'm in the love with him and, what I'm saying is, we break the rules all the time of what we think is in and out. And that's what we're supposed to do. That's rule-breaking kindness love. My god you know, my deacon who came out to us as trans and modeled for us ,like how to get it straight. And like I don't even see that anymore like, I don't. There's no so whatness or so or no like big dealness. Rule-breaking kindness makes new rules. Crashes the old ones and makes new ones. That's our job as people of faith until there are no more rules about who's in and who's out and everybody's in.

26:17.
distillerypodcast
And when you think about those that rule-breaking kindness and then we sort of match it with the fierce love that you talk you're talking about it. Does fierce love embody that rule-breaking and that ferocious courage? Is it next steps in that process? What does that mean when you go from rule-breaking kindness? What's next or is it under the umbrella of Fierce Love?

26:43.
Jacqui Lewis
Yeah I think it's under the umbrella if someone says to me, you know it's a long title, but if someone says to me what is Fierce Love? Fierce Love is ferocious courage. Fierce Love is bold truth-telling. It is ferocious moral courage. It is um, ridiculously letting go of the baggage that we carry. It is being on a moral, morally courageous hunt for self-acceptance, for love of the other, right. This ferocious courage absolutely. And Fierce Love is rule-breaking kindness. And I mean, rule-breaking kindness directed toward the world. To try to understand why the anti-vaxers, Oh My goodness, are so committed to not getting vaccinated, right. To like, like the rule-breaking kindness is though I totally think perhaps that's just a little crazy, I want to hear you out. You like, let me hear you out! Like it is kind to hear you out. And in that conversation that, when hopes is not a transaction, they're trying to figure out why it matters. And so I can say because the toddlers are going to die right? Like do you want the three-year-olds sick? Ok, you know, but if but if we can be kind in uh in the context of that womb of mercy and kindness. Can we have conversations that rewire each other? Yes, yes, we can, but it requires rule-breaking kindness to stay in the conversation

28:20
Jacqui Lewis
I mean I loved my 5 years ago person to be honest. I thought she was badass. You know, I will just snip. What. No, hell no, that's not what we're doing, like I'm just hand in the air and like hey, no! And the lots of tweets and woo! followers! And whatever all to say this is the truth and it is the truth right? It is the truth that we have to take better care of the earth and we need to put the guns down. Those are all the truths. It is the truth that white supremacy is a god that too many of us worship that is the truth. I am not going to stop being honest about that. But I don't want to weaponize truth so Sushama. I don't want to kill people with truth. Do you feel me? Why then they don't change right? They're just ashamed and they're just embarrassed. And they're just dead because you killed them with your truth instead. I Want to convert people to love. This is different. It's just different.

distillerypodcast
Oh my gosh, amen. Amen.

[drip transition]

29:30
distillerypodcast
I'm listening to you and I'm thinking of a million questions as I think about, Fierce Love, but as I think about Middle Church. My 13-year-old is applying for Independent high schools independent and last week he had to fill out something that we didn't see immediately after he filled out but when we spoke with the admissions officer she shared this with us. And she said that, um, Lekh, my son's name is Lekh, L-E-K-H. She shared with me that Lekh said he wants to come to a school where he can be seen and heard. And I thought, well I want to come to a workplace where I can see and be heard. I want to come to a church where I can so be seen and be heard. I thought it was so authentically who he is as a person and as a young boy but I actually was thinking about it in terms of isn't that what we all want? Is to be able to come to a place if it's your place of work if it's your place of, you know learning if it's your place of worship and be seen and heard. And I think what I hear in people that I know you and I know who know Middle Church and as I understand the ways in which you're talking about multicultural congregations and welcoming people, you create a place where people can be seen and be heard. And so it with resonated me and I wonder what you would say about that? and just talk to
what is the Pentecost Paradigm? What is Middle Church? What is happening that we know about Middle Church as a place of safety and of sacred listening and active listening?

31:15
Jacqui Lewis
Yeah, yeah. Yes, yeah, that's so beautiful. It, yeah, a place of Fierce Love right? It's a place of fierce love. So if we're, if we're thinking about the umbrella of Fierce Love as what I believe Middle is, it is a place where more than one language is spoken and that's Pentecost Paradigm. More than one, yes, more than one actual human language but also more than one theological language you know. And really understanding that God speaks more than 1 language. So that god is speaking, you know Christian light and god is speaking Christian heavy and god is speaking Islam. God is speaking Judaism. God is speaking I'm a giant doubter but I love the music. God is speaking Justice. And so when John and I wrote the Pentecost Paradigm we were saying you got to be multivocal to create safe space for people. They've got to be able to understand what God is saying by any means necessary like at Pentecost. That you are standing there as a disciple as a student of God of Jesus and you are going to speak and the holy spirit is going to translate that speech. That's the miracle of Pentecost! It's a miracle of hearing, a miracle of understanding. And we want people to be heard and seen and known and loved. That's what it means to welcome people. So what does worship look like? What kind of music? What kind of poetry? What kind of puppets? What kind of dance? What kind of ways can we use art to make worship sing differently to all who are there? So this, is this, is what. This is what it is to love fiercely. Is you know my that book says ah the ethical life is learning how to see. A moral life is learning how to see. I would say a morning a moral life is learning how to make sure people feel seen also and heard and loved. And that their space for their particularity, that you love their particularity. That you have a Non-possessive delight in their particularity is what it means to love.

33:31
[drip transition]

distillerypodcast
You referred to the fire at Middle church. In the years since, what have you learned? What has middle church learned as it still um, is you know focused on its role and its um, you know, um, dedication to being a multicultural congregation. What have you learned in this year that is different than previous years?

34.00.
Jacqui Lewis
We learned I mean you, you, you know we-- you and I grew up in the church and you know this is the church and this is the steeple and open the door and there's all the people and like, you know, right? That's like your little like, "the church is the people!" Yes, yeah, well really it is. When you're building burns down and all of us who learned how to do ministry during covid. And we learned how to make things happen without the building. We really did learn the lesson of the Israelites that God was not in the temple, that we are the temple. And God is in the temple that is us. And that when we're wandering in the wilderness we, like those, um, Israelite wanderers, have god tabernacled with us.

35:00
distillerypodcast
Amen. And what, what advice would you give for church leaders who, who want to know that they can exist as a small church, as a large church in a multicultural multiracial way? In what, in whatever, authentic way that they can, what would you say to church leaders about being a multiracial church that is authentic?

35:21
Jacqui Lewis
Yeah, I think I would just say, as honestly as I can, it is really hard work. People actually do like to be with people that are like them. They do. It doesn't require as much work. But it is also joyful incredible work because it is right. Like there is something right and righteous about the mixing up, the rehearsing the reign of God on Earth. I would say, um, the maybe the most faithful thing to say is, do we actually believe that we can be segregated now and somehow there's going to be like a reign of God where we parachute out of the world and get to heaven and that will be segregated too? Or does building the reign of God on earth require, um, the acknowledgment of God's incredible diversity as a gift to us. How do? How do we as the church think we're not supposed to lead that charge to rehearse god's reign by making intergenerational multiethnic multicultural spaces that acknowledge the unique gender and sexuality of God's people, as well. I think that's our calling and I think it's biblical, like all the people praising God in one voice.

distillerypodcast
Okay so I want to know about how you define ethical spectacle and just to hear you, hear you share it and then how you ensure that our church and our churches are engaging in Justice in a meaningful way rather than in a performative way, when it's based on that a little bit.

Jacqui Lewis
Oh that's good. That's really good. You know that's a great those are great questions. So I don't know who said ethical spectacle first. I don't know who said it, but I but I will attribute it to my friend May Alston. Amazing human being, um, and also Isaac Luria. So my friends at Auburn Theological Seminary helped me to think about what you're doing when you're doing a protest. Or what you're doing when you do performative art outside because there is performance to it. I didn't really understand that at first, that protests were not-- the outcome of a protest isn't just you won the issue right? Or you got the demand. It's actually people watching you protest and see what that looks like for a mob of people to be doing something loving together. Oh right, I see, that's why march because you could just write postcards that could be cool but you're out there in the world in Ferguson, in DC, you know, in Charlottesville in, um, Florida and Texas. You're out there showing the world. What it looks like when good people of moral courage stand up together and gather. That's the spectacle. You're gonna lay down on the floor because when people see you do a die-in in that cafeteria in the capitol of your nation they are stopping and watching and they are actually, it is a visual painting. It is a picture of a preferred reality. When we were down there in the senate building, in the cafeteria, white and Latinx and Asian and indigenous and black bodies intertwined on a floor together with "I can't breathe" signs on our chests and you couldn't tell what would limb belong to what limb, that's an ethical spectacle. When you are walking 5 abreast, um, toward the Women's March or ah, standing up against Kavanaugh and it's just all these women in hijabs and you know you know long pants and short skirts and being all womanist and just fabulous together. That's an ethical spectacle when we made an um, we made an arc for climate change when you're in New York. And we're standing on the arc together. Oh I see that, it casts, it causes me to pause it catches my attention it stimulates my imagination ethical spectacle. And it is performative. It is. Church is performative people. Who wants to be bored? If they, if you don't to perform a bit they're gonna stay home or watch the soccer game. Like David is dancing! Like stop, stop. It is. It is, is it unholy? No. but is it performative. Yes, a little bit. That's why you like the choir. That's why you're clapping. That's why you're mesmerized by that preacher because there's a performative element to it and it's okay.

39:50
distillerypodcast
I admire you as ah as a woman and as a black woman to black woman I'll say it I admire you as a black woman clergywoman because you embody the best of the best of the best of us. I am very clear though, about the close connection that you and John have. It's clear in how you talk about him and it's clear in who you both are. So I wondered just about you all as as a clergy couple and how you, how you do things like write a book together? How you do things like Middle Church together? Can you talk to a little bit about your relationship as a clergy couple, without getting too much in your business?

Jacqui Lewis
You know, it is It is just such a happy relationship. It is. He's a non-competitive incredibly supportive, uh, coach who has spent his life in denominational work and systems work. So we're friends. We love each other. We're goofy together. We're silly together. We have a shared set of values we do and we do anti-racist work every day. So John is white I am black. He's United Methodist I'm Presbyterian. He's a man I'm a woman. We're in a mixed relationship on all those levels but we have such a giant shared, um, value system. We talk politics, we talk art, we talk race, we have racial-ethnic dynamics when who's gonna wash the dishes and who's gonna cook. I'm kidding. Ah, but we you know we are always working on always working on our gender stuff and our power stuff and our race stuff which is just, makes me, I just adore him how intentional he is. You know I fell in love with him working together. Quite frankly, I think I fell in love with him before he fell in love with me, but he was always standing up for me in this context. Um, what does Jackie think? What does Jackie think, what do you think? What does this womanist scholar think in this white world? Oh my god! I was like, plus you smelled good. So uh, we, we are really honored to have found each other. And yeah I think people love us together. Lots of people love us together and that's lovely to think that people can see that we're different but also really see something juicy and joyful.

42:12
distillerypodcast
So Rev., the last question I'll ask you is a question that we do try to ask most of our Distillery guests. What would you leave clergy and faith leaders and just leaders with faith in their hearts, what would you leave them in terms of advice in a multiracial and or post-pandemic and where I don't actually believe we're post-pandemic but, yeah post-pandemic, post- George Floyd, and again we're not post-George Floyd, but like what would leave clergy and faith leaders-- the advice, the best advice that you can give in this moment for them to take with them once they have listened to this podcast and heard your amazing beautiful voice?

42:53
Jacqui Lewis
Well, first of all, I just want to thank you, let me just say that for this great work you do. It is, The Distillery is beautiful work. I would, in the context of like Priesthood of all believers that each and every single one of you has ministry to do. And I say this in fierce love, you are the only person standing where you are in the world. You are the only one standing where you are, working where you work, seeing what you see, knowing what you know, being you. You're the only one right there, placed by the holy to transform the world. That's your job. So get in the river. You don't have to do it all. And you don't have to do it by yourself. But the river that is moving for love and justice demands all of the gifts that all of us have so we can heal the world. I would say you are a fierce lover, each and every one of you and your job is to love the world and the healing it starts with you. So don't think your job is like I'm going to go out here and be Miss Justicey Justicey and Mr. Justicey Justicey if you're not gonna love you. You got to love you. You got to love you to do the work. I'm talking about a deep appreciation for your good stuff and your bad stuff. Love it. Love your flesh so you can love your neighbor as you love yourself. So you can love the world.

distillerypodcast
Reverend Lewis, thank you so much for this interview. Thank you for this time. I admire your work so much and I think you're just a true gift to the church.