By: Christa Meland
Just before the Grammy nominations were announced last fall, singer Jon Batiste’s partner Suleika Jaouad learned that her leukemia had returned with a vengeance. So as the two were hearing news about Batiste’s 11 Grammy nominations, they were also processing the news of her cancer. “It’s holding the gutting, heartbreaking, painful things and the beautiful, soulful things in the same palm of one hand,” Jaouad said in an interview.
In his Episcopal Address to the Minnesota Conference, which took during closing worship at the 2022 Annual Conference, Bishop David Bard told that story—and also reminded us of the biblical story of Jesus healing a boy possessed by a demon (Mark 9:14-29).
In this story, the pain and suffering are real, and so is the healing, Bard pointed out. Somehow if we are really to let these stories speak to us, we have to hold all this together; we also need to grapple with the challenges of such stories in the context of lives where healing doesn’t happen or doesn’t happen the way we may want it to.
“We have to read these stories in a world where the church is dividing, where social divisions run deep, where violence is too prevalent...in a world where racism is persistent, tenacious, and pernicious...where we are passing laws that may make it more difficult to speak honestly about our history, and more difficult for LGBTQ youth and their families to be safe in their schools and communities,” Bard said.
Psychotherapist and essayist Adam Phillips suggests that sometimes we need to be cured of the need for a cure, that something will be easily or neatly resolved. “Cure” is the journey, the process, he posits. Meanwhile, the late pediatrician and psychoanalyst, D.W. Winnicott, believes that “cure at its root means care.” Bishop Bard said he has been thinking about another sense in which we use the word “cure.” To cure meat is to preserve it by soaking it or smoking it; something penetrates deep within.
“In ministry…there are cures as remedy,” Bard said. “We want to connect people with God so that they are freed of patterns of behavior that are destructive to themselves or their relationships. That is part of spiritual growth. but another part of spiritual growth is deepening capacities for compassion, care, kindness, generosity, concern for justice, creativity, and love, letting God’s Spirit grow us and work in us.” In the Minnesota Conference, we have a map of a Journey Toward Vitality: We have a vision for every congregation to be a vital expression of the ministry of Jesus Christ in creating new places for new people, helping people grow in love of God and neighbor, and working to heal a broken world. We do this work seeking to embody four values: rooted in Jesus Christ, grounded in Wesleyan theology, inclusive of all persons, and engaged in the work of justice and reconciliation.
Bard has also spoken about the Minnesota Conference being “spacious” and having room for all who can see themselves on the Journey Toward Vitality.
What if the healing journey for this conference, of cure as care, is one in which we hold all this together in large souls, capacious hearts, and expansive minds? Bard asked. Perhaps for us as a conference, he said, our way into the future is to follow Jesus on a healing journey where our souls are made large, our hearts capacious, our minds expansive, where we can hold together creatively spaciousness and direction, clarity and complexity, and where cure is care and being steeped in the love of God as we know it in Jesus, the grace of God, God’s dream and desire for the world.
Jesus said that he came that we might have life and have it abundantly (John 10:10).
“Holding the gutting, heartbreaking, painful things and the beautiful, soulful things in large souls, capacious hearts, expansive minds; journeying together toward beloved community: May this be the Minnesota Conference,” said Bard.
Christa Meland is director of communications for the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.
Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church