This week is my final week at Unity of Birmingham before I mobilize to deploy to the Middle East; these are the last Notes I will write as your minister for over a year. Yes, if the opportunity arises, there may be "Notes from the Desert", but I will make no promises that I may not keep. What I will say now, I will say from my heart.
I love you, and it has been my honor and my privilege to serve as your minister, and I look forward to the day I come home to love you and serve you again. I know that some of you may wonder what this is about, this deployment, and the reasons for it are much simpler than many may think.
I am a soldier. Or, if you like, I am ALSO a soldier. Yes, I have become the minister of a church, and accepted the responsibility of being the spiritual and administrative leader of Unity of Birmingham, AND I remain a soldier in service to our nation, as I have been since I raised my right hand and took the oath in April of 1986. At some point in the afternoon of September 11, 2001, I called my armory, and told our Readiness NCO (who also happened to be an old friend), "I volunteer. For anything, anywhere; now and for the duration of whatever the hell this is." And so now, one last time, when I have every reason on earth not to, I am answering the call.
When people ask me why, the best answer I can give is, "I'm good at it." I don't mean to sound cocky or conceited; my point is that those of us who can do this difficult thing; who are good at doing this difficult thing, must be the ones who do this difficult thing. That same sense of duty is exactly what called me to ministry, and it is what will keep me in ministry long after I hang up my uniform and boots for the last time, and finally accept the title "veteran". And when I do, I will come home to Birmingham and be your minister, and spend my Wednesday mornings writing love notes to you again.
This long "War on Terror" (perhaps more accurately, "War based on Fear") has been largely fought by a very few. The burden of it has been borne by a tiny fraction of our population. There has been no draft. There has been no rationing or shortages. Most families and businesses are unaffected by the passage of this seemingly never-ending task that has been laid at the feet of our Armed Services. Well, now it's personal. Now you know someone. On recent Fridays, if you were at our "Metaphysical Musings with the Minister", or if you stopped by to say hello, you might have seen me wearing a t-shirt that had "RED Friday" on the front; within the letters RED, their acronym revealed: Remember Everyone Deployed. Now, at least you will have SOMEONE deployed to remember. So perhaps you will wear red on Fridays, too, and think of me from time to time.
I just have one last favor to ask of you before I go. One thing more important than wearing red on Friday, or sending cards and letters or care packages to a soldier overseas. One thing even more important to me than prayers for my safe return. I want you to keep Unity of Birmingham alive. Not just surviving on life support, but vibrantly alive, filled with the sound of children laughing and playing, and a joyful congregation singing on Sundays with our rockin' band, and the dialogue of Spirit and recovery, and the timeless words of Shakespeare spoken with the energy of teen-aged youth. Be the loving, healing, inclusive, joy-filled family this city so desperately needs. Pray together, serve together, give together, and unashamedly invite all your friends to join you. Keep the home fires burning; the light will bring me home.
With all my love and blessings,