The Pastor's Buzz

Pastor Buzz Trexler's blog for God's people in The Meadow.

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Name: Buzz Trexler
Location: Knoxville, Tennessee, United States

Journalist for 29 years; married to Donna for 28 years; parent of David, 27, and Elizabeth, 24; pastor of Green Meadow United Methodist Church in Alcoa since 2002.

Friday, September 30, 2005

We aliens must seize 'tipping point'

A sociological definition of a "tipping point" is that of a critical, dramatic moment when something unique becomes common. The problem is this: Most "tipping points," whether sociological or personal, generally are only recognized through 20-20 hindsight.

For instance, my professional journey brought me to Blount County in December 1989 when Tutt Bradford sold The Daily Times to Persis Corp. At the time, I was wire editor at The Knoxville Journal, also owned by Persis, and was sent here to help out in the transition process. As you can see, I’ve never left.

Myriad reasons come to mind:

  • My family needed stability. Moving professionally through a newspaper "chain" normally necessitates moving from city to city, sometimes state to state, and Donna and I decided that settling in one area was best for our family.
  • Working at The Daily Times was like being part of an extended family. The Daily Times had a sense of community that was lacking at the three newspapers where I was previously employed. I needed that sense of teamwork and togetherness in the work-a-day world; it’s part of my psychology.
  • Blount County is home to a large faith community. While working at The Knoxville Journal, I had what we Methodists sometimes call "a conversion experience." For my Baptist friends, that was when I surrendered to Jesus Christ. To say it another way, it was a spiritual tipping point, but it was also a professional tipping point in that I began to pen reflections about that journey. Writing openly and honestly in such a manner at The Daily Times was a good fit, while that was not necessarily the case at other newspapers in the late 1980s or early 1990s.
Not long after becoming managing editor in 1990, I was invited to a Maryville home where a small, multiracial group was meeting to discuss racial issues in Blount County. It was an uncomfortable subject, particularly since I was new to the community, but the group discussed it in such a nonconfrontational way that I was intrigued. Some time later, the group gathered for a "potluck" of sorts and invited my family. We attended, but that was my last recollection of such a gathering.

I now believe that the tipping point for Blount County had not come and would not for 15 years. The evidence it may have arrived: This past spring groups of people from different races, from different walks of life, began meeting in different venues — town meetings, as well as a small group that became Strength in Diversity. In both venues, people expressed and acted upon a desire to encourage other community members to embrace one another's differences and focus on common ground.

Among those in attendance at what became Strength in Diversity were representatives from the Tennessee Air National Guard who spoke of a Dr. Samuel Betances, whose work had done much to improve on diversity issues in the military. They suggested that their relationship with "Dr. B," as he is called, might be leveraged into a community effort through a series of workshops and perhaps bring an awareness of the need to capitalize on our changing demographics, rather than fight the change.

As the workshops drew near, the Air Guard worked diligently with Maryville College and others to get the word out, making what seemed like endless preparations and mailing countless invitations, and yet I wondered: Who will come?
Dr. B. came this week, and at the various workshops so did more than 200 community leaders, 200 members of the general public, 120 educators, 60 youth, 50 law officers and others in the legal profession, and about 50 leaders from the faith community, both laity and clergy. However, as Dr. B. would say, an external event is not a transformation; true transformation comes from within.

Our community will only be transformed if we allow ourselves to be internally transformed. It will take a giving over of our mind, spirit and body to ensure that we, and our community, are transformed.

No one can make us do this thing. It has to be an act of free will to the movement of the Holy Spirit. "Change is inevitable," Dr. B. would say. "Growth is optional."

Do we dare allow ourselves to grow in the Spirit? The greater question is this: Do we dare not?

In his words to the faith community that gathered on Tuesday, as well as to the young adults, Dr. B. told us something we already knew in our hearts:

"God does not know how to make a single color rainbow in the sky, a single color flower in the garden, or a single color person in the human family."

We need to live our lives in respect of that knowledge.

In the closing session that took place with educators, Dr. B. pointed to one educator and noted that the leader was "living by example," and that his presence displayed a "spirit that says it’s important" to embrace strangers in a strange land.
It’s a wonderful thing that our educators and other community leaders recognize that we are at a tipping point in Blount County; in fact, with changing demographics nationwide, all of America is tipping. Still, the faith community should be at the forefront of this effort to embrace the aliens among us, for there is much in holy writings that encourage and even mandate such a spirit.

For those who look to the law for instruction, you can turn to various Old Testament writings including Leviticus 19:34, which reads, "The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt. I am the Lord your God."

For those who look to grace, turn to 1 Peter 2:11 in the New Testament. There you will be reminded that all Christians are "aliens and strangers in the world …"

Beloved of Christ, consider that our presence as aliens in Blount County may be for "such a time as this" — the tipping point.

Grace … and peace.