Rev. Erik Parker is my Twitter friend, a Lutheran pastor, and blogger at The Millennial Pastor. On his blog, Erik writes about such important topics like generational differences and their impact on the church, racism and privilege, and the intersection of faith and pop culture. The way that Erik engages topics has stretched me personally, and has helped me see my faith in ways that have profoundly affected me. In his occasional snarky posts, Erik’s wit and insight connects deeply to my sarcasm “mother tongue.”
I am so thankful to have Erik write the first guest post for At the Table. And, the post he has shared with me is so vulnerable, honest, and in-tune with my heart as a parent that I am humbled and honored he chose to share it here. Erik and his wife Rev. Courtenay Reedman Parker are expecting their first child any day now. In this time of Advent waiting (during Eastertide!), Erik shares his fears and hopes for what life in the church and world will be like for his child.
Check out Erik’s blog here at The Millennial Pastor. He’s got some great stuff there for you to check out. I especially enjoy his “12 Reasons Why Being a Male Pastor is Better.” Erik can also be found on Twitter and on Facebook. I’m so eager to share with you this fantastic post: “My Fears, Dreams, and Faith for an Easter Baby.”
I am about to become a father.
Not the spiritual kind like a priest, but the biological kind like a dad.
As I write this, the due date for our first child has come and gone, and we are still waiting for all that chaos that comes with regular contractions, breaking waters and the big trip to the hospital. This all makes for a general sense of excitement mixed with sheer panic.
It has been a long 9 months waiting for this baby to come. I remember looking at the home pregnancy test Courtenay showed me way back in August last year. Since then there have been doctor’s visits, shopping in maternity clothing stores, wandering aimlessly in ‘Babies R Us’. There is a stroller, car seat, crib, change table, glider, dresser and other baby related items that now reside in our house. It has been exhausting at times… and yet, I am told I don’t know what exhaustion looks like yet.
There were pre-natal classes where I learned more about a woman’s body than I thought it was possible for me to know and I watched more videos with naked women than the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Leadership Commission’s Summit.
I don’t think I have ever spent this long preparing for one day. I don’t think I have ever been this focused on one upcoming event, over which I will really have little control and during which I will be a supporting actor.
But now that the ‘date’ has come and gone (again, still no baby), my brain has flipped a switch.
What comes next?
This week, my wife and started thinking about trips and holidays this summer, and even dreaming of vacations next year – with a baby in tow! We haven’t talked about much past the due date in months.
With this new forward focus, I have also been pondering not just this summer or next year, but about the future. The future of this little person waiting to enter our world, the life that she will have. I have started to wonder what the world will be like for my child in 30 years, perhaps when he is contemplating the birth of the next generation.
I have hopes and fears for this little child. I have knowledge I want to pass on to her. Faith I want to plant in him. Experiences I want to provide her. Dangers I want to protect him from. Dreams for her I want to realize. Even as I strive to prepare the world for this child-on-the-way, everything is mostly open ended, yet to be written, yet to come to pass. At the same time there are things in this world that I want so badly to be different for my child. There are fears that I carry for this new person coming into my care, and worry that this world will not be easy for him or her.
- I fear that as a Millennial, and the first modern generation to be worse off than our parents, we will not do better for our children.
- I fear that the boomer generation might hardly be able to communicate with my child, as the world changes so quickly.
- I fear that consumerism will continue to hold us hostage in North America while the rest of the world continues to suffer, and that I am implicating my child in this egregious sin.
- I fear that my child will know nothing but a world run by rich individuals and corporations who will own everything, maybe even him.
- I fear that the mainline church will become increasingly irrelevant, a museum with play actors devoted to the 1950s version of itself.
- I fear that the evangelical church will become so offensively out of touch with the gospel because of gender, white privilege and sex, that future historians and theologians will label our time as one of great heresy.
- I fear that my generation, as the millennials who collaborate, will work together to bring new vitality to many social institutions… except the church.
Despite my fears, I also carry hopes and dreams for this child soon-to-be-born. Dreams that his or her world will be better than mine:
- I dream that my child will find it surprising that white men like me held such a privileged place in the church and in the world.
- I dream that my child will never know the struggles, insults and injustices my wife has endured in her vocation, as an ordained Lutheran pastor.
- I dream that my child will find it laughable that I received preferential treatment in my vocation, as an ordained Lutheran pastor, simply because I am a white man.
- I dream my child’s church will not be one that yearns to be what it was 50 years ago, nor be the ever declining and sad incarnation of golden age church that mostly depresses its members today.
- I dream that my child will find hope among people of faith and her faith community.
- I dream that his faith community won’t have to struggle to be open to diversity, but instead that all people regardless of ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, economic status, different ability, mental or physical illness are welcomed naturally and obviously.
- I dream that the church will be the place of justice that declares a hope amidst the results of our current economic, political and environmental failures of today.
- I dream that my child’s world and faith will show her God’s love in the same way I have known grace, that he will always know how deeply God cares for each and for all.
From now on, these fears and dreams are going to shape my world in ways that I have yet to learn. The expectations and hopes that children really are for parents is something I am just glimpsing dimly. These fears and dreams will be a burden I carry and a privilege I get to carry into the future. And there will be countless more fears and dreams added to my lists.
But today, as Courtenay and I do a little Advent in Easter, I am grateful for this future wondering. And relieved that fears and dreams won’t be realized for a long while… even after this child comes into our world.
For those of you who are parents, what fears do you have for your children as it pertains to the church? What hopes do you have? And…many prayers and blessings to Rev. Erik Parker and Rev. Courtenay Reedman Parker as they wait with anticipation and wonder!