The Rev. Ben Campbell has a big idea: the mobility of clergy contributes to the inability of communities to solve problems of justice.
Campbell, 69, has been praying at the top of this hill three times a day — at 7 a.m., noon and 6 p.m. — for the last 22 years. He’s been praying in Richmond for 40 years altogether. Ordained as an Episcopal priest in 1966, he came to Richmond in 1970 as editor of the Virginia Churchman, a job that allowed him explore his theology, in which he discovered a disturbing trend: “I had this kind of underlying feeling that the mobility of clergy in a mobile time was destructive. Clergy, they were just bouncing around like they were members of a franchise.” ... There are large sections of the city where unemployment of 20 percent to 50 percent rages. There are more poor people living on top of poor people with no discernable way out of poverty — no transportation or educational training to entry-level jobs, most of which are in the suburbs — and the region continues to sprawl outward. Meanwhile, clergy keep moving, increasingly disconnected from the city’s social and cultural problems. ... Forty years ago, most of the ministers in Virginia were from Virginia, Campbell says. Nowadays a pastor goes to seminary and gets called to work for a church in a community where he’s never lived. “He’s not attuned to anything but church,” Campbell explains. And when Amos says, ‘Look at these people, they are just adding house to house and getting more land and taking away where those live,’ do you know that there actually isn’t enough housing for lower-income people in Richmond?”Read it all in Richmond Style Weekly. (Campbell also has an essay on evil and religious freedom in the same issue of Style.)
Campbell has a way of striking at the heart, his words heavy with purpose. “Jesus was basically a community person,” Campbell says. “He wasn’t that interested in church.”
Have you experienced a steep learning curve when it comes to understanding the needs of the community? Do you find you're moving on before you have something concrete to offer the community?
Whatever the merits of stability, it has its downsides. Are those who stay likely to be agents of change? Those interested in preserving the status quo tend to be those who grew up benefiting from the status quo. Or they may simply become numb to the injustices that lies before them.