This week, Mary Alice Birdwhistell has finally arrived. You will each have to decide for yourself if she is the one to serve as Highland’s next pastor. One beauty (and risk) of Baptist life and polity, for those who have neither previously familiar, nor yet taken the 20 minute Highlights class version of Baptist history taught by yours truly, is that only you can decide. Voting for pastor is like forest fires in this way.
As one voice among many, I will say that I could not more strongly recommend Mary Alice to Highland. I also say this as someone whose life and career will depend in some ways on whether I am right in this regard. She is pastoral in a way that we each need, strong, courageous, compassionate, and affirming as if God actually created the one with whom she is walking. For me, her identity, personality, and gifts make Mary Alice the pastor we need, in a congregation such as this, for a time such as this. We claim to be a progressive voice in Baptist life. To call Mary Alice would be to live into that claim in a new way we have not yet, not just because of who she is, but because of what possibilities begin to emerge if we trust that God is still at work in her and in us.
I believe that I could speak in sweeping affirmations that would be far more than platitudes. I do like writing and talking after all. But my imagination is exhausted today by what is happening in our city and our country. I must tell you quite simply that when I imagine the possibility of working with Mary Alice as leader and colleague, and perhaps more so when I imagine you walking alongside Mary Alice as pastor, I am given life and energy that feels a little rusty to exercise after such a long interim, in a good way. I am not allowed to endorse political candidates. I do endorse Mary Alice, because I’m allowing myself today to be surprised in good ways, and to have hope for Mary Alice and for you.