Dear Mr. Reed,
On October 19, I received your “2022 non-partisan voter guide” from the Faith & Freedom Coalition. In response, I wanted to share some details about the incredible congregation I have been entrusted to serve and how we understand our call as followers of Christ.
Our congregation’s mission statement is to be and to share the Good News of Jesus Christ, witnessing, loving, and serving from our doorsteps to the ends of the Earth. Part of our mission is sharing the radical, inclusive love of God with everyone who crosses our doorsteps. We do so by welcoming people of all backgrounds, races, sexual orientations, and gender identities to the one Table of God and into the full life and leadership of the Church.
We also believe in caring for Creation in ways that make us good stewards of our limited resources as well as better understanding the systemic challenges that are put in place for marginalized populations, and addressing where we need to think critically about our actions and practices so that we can better represent God’s hope for a just and kind world.
We take seriously the words of Matthew 25 when Jesus tells us to care for the least of these – to feed the hungry, to give drink to the thirsty, to clothe the naked, to welcome the stranger, and to visit the sick and imprisoned. In an effort to be more like Christ, we try to embody this same type of love to all – to refugees fleeing violence, individuals who are in need of healthcare, and families who are discriminated against because their Christmas cards may look different than yours. During Christmastide, we make space to read together Matthew 2, when Jesus was a child refugee, whose life was threatened by those in power, and remember the many who, like the Christ child, sought out a place of refuge. As we study scripture together, we see how God continues to speak for the outcast, the hurting, the poor, and the forgotten.
While I cannot speak, and will not speak, for the political ideologies of my congregation, I can say that the values of inclusion, radical love, and justice that echo through the Gospel are the values I hope to see by those elected to lead and what I hope is seen in my own leadership.
When I was ordained as a Christian Minister of Word and Sacrament 7 years ago, I took a vow that asked, “The Spirit of God led Jesus to preach good news to the poor, proclaiming release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, setting at liberty the oppressed, and proclaiming the time of God’s good favor. Will you endeavor to lead the people of God in their obedience to the global mission of the Church: guiding their concern for justice, peace, and freedom for all people; and taking a responsible place in the governance of the Church and in service to the world?” To which I responded, “I will, with the help of God.”
It is my duty, to God and to the Church, to uphold that vow, and to ask how can I follow Jesus and walk with others toward Jesus. In doing so, I draw back on those words that resound through the Gospel in Matthew 25:35-40: for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did it to me.’
As we lift up prayers for God’s Kingdom to come on Earth as it is in Heaven, may I suggest a new “non-partisan voter guide” where instead we ask the questions:
- Does this candidate address food insecurity and access to clean water?
- Does this candidate welcome the stranger and the refugee?
- Does this candidate address healthcare needs?
- Does this candidate seek to address unjust systems?
Our congregation is not perfect, nor do we strive to be, and I certainly am not a perfect pastor nor a perfect Christian, but when I vote with my faith, I do so by asking the above questions. THOSE are the issues that are important to me as a Christian.
Lastly, I wanted to thank you for your prayers that God will richly bless our congregation as we spread the Gospel. We truly are trying our best to do so, from our doorsteps to the ends of the Earth.
Rev. Penelope Erin Dickey
Rev. Erin Dickey is a graduate of TCU and Brite Divinity School, ordained by the Great River Region of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). Erin has served Riverside Avenue Christian Church in Jacksonville, FL as the Senior Pastor since November 2016. She is passionate about church camp ministries, advocating for infertility education and awareness, and animal therapy. In her spare time, she loves spending quality time with her husband, Justin, their three dogs and one cat, baking, making puns, and her Peloton.