This week we’re hearing from The Rev. Andrew Tucker of Christ Lutheran Church in Radford on a new initiative, SolSup, infusing activism and education into the typical congregational potluck suppers.
What do we do when the shadows of injustice seem to threaten the Light of the World? We’re Lutheran. We have a potluck. We look for the Holy Spirit at work in the world, and we get to work alongside God. Now, it’s not quite that simple, but those are the underpinnings of SolSup, a new initiative within Christ Lutheran Church in Radford.
Pronounced “Soul-Sup,” SolSup is an initiative that meets around potluck suppers for solidarity around issues of justice that provide education, conversation, and opportunities for activism. Our most recent event featured the work of the Blacksburg Refugee Partnership. Our goal for each SolSup is to provide information to help people learn about the needs of God’s creation, a safe place for conversation about our own fears as well as ideas for addressing those needs, and then presenting action items so this information may lead to transformation.
We have a vested interest in the work of refugee resettlement. Last summer CLC helped to lead the charge for refugee resettlement in Radford. However, the xenophobia against Muslims and Syrians was so powerful in Radford that leadership didn’t feel refugees would be safe here. While you’ll hear people say God works in mysterious ways, sometimes God’s work isn’t so mysterious. While our group received threatening calls, emails, and even social media activity threatening the response of an unnamed local militia, the Blacksburg Refugee Partnership quietly formed and did what we were unable to do: resettled three families in the New River Valley (NRV). It seems that God used us to provide a publicity flak jacket so the work could begin in nearby Blacksburg without incident.
Molly McClintock, a resident of Christiansburg and a member of the Blacksburg Refugee Partnership, told us of the three families recently resettled to the NRV, of the employment they’ve already begun, and of the needs that still exist. We made space both for lament that our efforts in Radford fizzled out and for joy that joy that this was happening in Blacksburg, which is about fifteen miles from Radford. From within this group of twenty-five community members, we found volunteers for tutoring, transportation, and even someone to provide mental health first aid so we can best care for the needs of these new friends. Through an impromptu offering, we raised $600 to help benefit the continued work of resettlement and have already gathered furniture items to help furnish the apartments of new arrivals.
That’s the heart of SolSup. We learn something about God’s work toward justice. We make space for conversation around that knowledge. We present opportunities to put that knowledge into practice.
We’ve learned a lot from our experience with SolSup. Perhaps foremost is that we needn’t be discouraged when injustice seems to thwart God’s work to relieve suffering. It’s frustrating to see friends and neighbors work against God’s clear call for support of refugees, but we know that God is at work reconciling all things through Christ Jesus. If that’s not clear at first, we need to take a different approach. SolSup’s birth came out of the ashes of Radford refugee resettlement, and now we’re at work resettling refugees. That’s good news of God’s faithfulness.
We’ve found that the issue-based approach within a faith community has brought people from across the political spectrum into more frequent interaction. We all benefit from education, conversation, and opportunities to work for God’s justice, and SolSup provides for that type of interaction for all who find the particular topic worth our attention.
One of my teacher’s used to talk about “traditioned innovation.” That’s at the heart of SolSup. It’s simultaneously new and yet familiar. What’s more culturally Lutheran than a potluck? What’s more theologically Lutheran than grasping to God’s grace-filled love in the face of opposition? Yet, many of the people connected to CLC through SolSup don’t have church homes and aren’t worshipping with us regularly on Sunday mornings (at least, not yet). Does this mean it isn’t God’s work, or that this isn’t the church at work? Of course not. Traditioned innovation remembers our traditions but doesn’t let them prevent us from trying new things to grow God’s church. Instead, it gives thanks for the tradition from which we come and follows the spirit, rather than the letter, of that tradition to find new ways of partnering with the Holy Spirit’s activity in the world. In that way, SolSup is paradigmatic of ministry in the 21st century. We appreciate the good from our past and embrace creativity to develop new ministries that proclaim God not just in our churches, but throughout our communities.
The soul of SolSup is the chance to gather and grow in solidarity not just with issues, but with people, God’s people, who radiate God’s image. We learn. We talk. We act. All because we care, and all seeking after God’s presence and work in the world. At SolSup, we’re rediscovering what it means not to just go to church, but to be the church, the Body of Christ, in the world.
And we’re discovering that potlucks never go out of style.