The following article is reprinted with permission as a slightly edited version from Rev. Steven Meriwether, pastor at Immanuel Baptist Church, from the church’s May newsletter.
Three years ago I devoted my space in the June issue of the newsletter to welcoming Phil Rogers as youth resident. He began his work among us in July. The time has galloped by. Now we prepare to say goodbye as he anticipates his acceptance of a call to serve the Longs Peak United Methodist Church of Longmont, Colorado.
In the article, I shared with the church that Phil was in a wheelchair all his working hours. I said that he has spina bifida and cannot walk and mentioned that he had a service dog named Romeo. I stated that Phil knew about our brokenness as a church and surmised that as his body would draw sudden tenderness from us, our brokenness might do the same for him.
In our introduction, Phil made it clear that tenderness was not expected. He drove a car and lived an active life. All he required was egress into and out of the building, space to work, and the opportunity to serve. Phil’s indefatigable strength gave new meaning to the expression “I am still on my feet.”
This realization became crystal clear to me one Sunday morning before worship. Taking my place at one of the doors leading into the choir loft I noticed Phil; he was robed with the choir. Without a word he made his way to the front of the queue, exited his wheelchair, and proceeded up the steps. His overexercised arms provided the force needed to lift his body one step at a time. Once on the landing, Phil slid across the floor to his place in the choir. Words cannot describe the sudden tenderness that flashed up within me as I watched him.
I am reminded of the tender words Isaiah spoke to a people who had fallen on hard times. His message was to hang in there. The bottom had dropped out of their lives and many were wondering what good was served by faith in God. Isaiah prods their memory asking, “Have you not known? The Lord is the everlasting God.” Then in rapid-fire sequence he says that those who wait on the Lord shall “mount up like eagles, run and not grow tired, walk and not faint.” Isaiah inverts the assumed progression of walk, run and fly. He was writing to those at the bottom, and one has to be on the bottom before the prospect of “walking and not fainting” is good news.
On Wednesday, May 20, the church expressed appreciation for Phil’s ministry in our midst before he headed west at the end of the month. His coach from CYMT, Lesleigh Carmichael, joined us in a time of recognition and blessing. The congregation participated in the laying on of hands and expressed gratitude in their own words.
I am grateful to Phil for his prophetic ministry in our midst. Phil beheld our brokenness and never asked bizarre detailed questions about the disability. Instead, like Isaiah, Phil in his own words, and often without words, has asked, “Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God. Take it from me. To walk and not faint, that is the good news!” That has been the best of news coming from one who patiently bears what he cannot change, changes what he can, and possesses the wisdom to discern the difference.
– Steven Meriwether, Immanuel Baptist Church
CYMT is proud to announce the expansion of our original initiative into Theology Together 2.0. CYMT aims to develop a curriculum to be used in local congregations and ministries. Taking what we have learned about engaging youth in deep theological reflection during missional experiences and embedding those processes into congregational youth ministries.
"I hope students come away from my courses with the ability to think more deeply, richly and theologically about their youth ministry practice. I think a lot of what happens in youth ministry happens unreflectively and can be deforming to young people, and my courses are intended to give students a theological framework for evaluating and reforming their youth ministry practice."
Of course, I want students to drink deeply from the academic readings, lectures and discussions, and I want them to be informed by the academics. But more than that, I want them to see that youth ministry is a calling of God, an important part of God’s mission in the world, one that should give them pride and evoke humility at the same time.