By Another Road …

December 17, 2020 by Rev. Dr. Perzavia Praylow

The start of a New Year and a new season brings with it wonder about what lies ahead. It’s in our human nature to respond to this wonder by setting new goals, new plans and new behaviors to live into a new rhythm. We enter the New Year as an invitation to begin again. This call to start anew is propelled by the journey of yesterday. In the wonder of the now and not yet of our pastoral call, we find ourselves seeking God for what can be, based on what has been. As we begin again, we look back to move forward, letting the experiences of last year shape our hopes and expectations about life and ministry in 2021, the year ahead.

In looking forward to the start of the New Year, from my location pastoring a historic church birthed within the African American Presbyterian faith experience in Washington, D.C., whose history is intertwined with a commitment to racial justice, there is much from this past year that has shaped my outlook and hope for my life and ministry. I have learned much about creatively pastoring a church in the midst of a public health pandemic as we have transitioned from in person worship to virtual worship via ZOOM. I learned how to better navigate boundaries between professional and personal life while caring for family members in their health journey. I have committed anew to the call for racial justice reverberating across our nation. Through it all, I have been reminded that the way forward has been assured by the promise of Christ's presence to go with me and to show me the way.

In reflecting on Epiphany, even as we wonder about the road ahead in 2021, we can find encouragement that God will assure us along the way as God did in the journey of the wise men. “And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road,” (Matthew 2:12 NRSV).

The faithful response of the wise men was to trust and go another way to their own country. Whether we have a clear or vague sense of our goals and plans needed to help us to live into God’s call for our personal lives and congregational ministry, let’s not forget that Christ Immanuel, God with us, shows us the way.

The New Year brings new possibilities, new patterns, new perspectives and the openness to engage ministry and life “by another road.” Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, our leadership in our faith communities and ministry contexts have required imagined leadership that required leading by another way. The start of this New Year finds me looking ahead to journeying with Fifteenth Street Presbyterian Church into the next chapter of our virtual worship experiences, preparing to engage my history students at Bowie State University through new online teaching pedagogies, and adopting new practices of care for family all while discerning and living into imaginative ways to continue to shepherd the people of God in an evolving reality of social distancing. And with anticipation, we welcome one day starting a new norm and pattern for our return to in person worship.

Even while we are at the start of a New Year, the uncertainty of last year and the uncertainty of the year ahead of us lingers with us. As we continue to lead and live traveling by another road, let us be guided by the hope that the presence of Christ and the will of God, will be revealed to us and that the gifts and graces for ministry and given by God, will fortify us as we travel “by another road” along our pastoral journey, nurturing and “making disciples of all nations.” (Matthew 28:19-20).

The Rev. Dr. Perzavia Praylow is pastor of Fifteenth Street Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C., an adjunct Professor of History at Bowie State University, social historian and a practical theologian. In addition to her pastoral leadership, in her scholarship she specializes in the history and theology of mission, congregational studies, church history, missional leadership and the history of racial and ecumenical movements for justice.