Three decades ago, I was gifted with a dream that would change the course of my life.
Let me be clear. What I dreamed had few details or specific images. Instead, it was an elusive, yet compelling foreshadowing of a particular possibility, a possibility poised and ready to be gifted to the world.
In 1983, Howard and I and our 9-month-old son Paul moved to California. My plan was to get my master’s degree and become a professor of physical therapy. Unbeknownst to me, this was not the plan. Our first Sunday in Palo Alto the three of us went to a small Methodist church near campus and, over the next 9 months, I was exposed to what would become my life’s work. The seed of my dream was planted deep within me.
There was Christian wisdom practice: Starting in January 1984, I was part of a weekly group that met before dawn every Wednesday for 20 minutes of silence, lectio divina (an ancient prayer form of reading a short passage of scripture and deeply pondering the message), and shared reflections. Through those mornings, and occasional retreats together at nearby Mercy Center, the wisdom stream of Christianity took root in the heart of my faith.
There were money and faith practices: A month later, I attended a weekend workshop with church friends put on by Ministry of Money, part of Washington, DC’s Church of the Savior. In those four days, I discovered a Christian path neither conservative nor liberal; one that held the radical wisdom of Jesus’ clarity about the connection between faith, money, and the world as our neighborhood. That weekend, the prophetic stream of Christianity also took root in me as I realized that all of my life, including my money, was part of my walk of faith. A walk alongside my diverse and global human family.
There was the movement that would become Be Present, Inc.: I wouldn’t be officially introduced to Be Present, Inc. for 26 years, but in the world of mystery my path crossed with Be Present’s at Mercy Center. While Be Present incorporated almost decade later, this work had been birthed the previous year before when a thousand Black women and girls gathered for a Black & Female: What is the Reality? conference led by Lillie Allen. One of the first official gatherings of Black women and girls after that conference happened in California, at Mercy Center, around the time I first began retreating there.
I would learn later that this organization-to-be, and the Be Present Empowerment Model at its core, was the practice and the community I needed to live into my dream.
Fast forward to 2002. My few grey hairs of the 29-year-old me became a solidly salt-and-pepper grey at 50. Paul was in college, Laura in High School. I was a mess in the middle of a mess.
I struggled mightily with an organization I’d loved and was intimately part of for almost a decade. I could physically feel the widening chasm between the powerful programs and people I loved and a growing disconnect between their vision and organizational behavior. Not knowing how to hold a paradox that wide, I thrashed around trying to do something, anything, to turn the tide.
At the same time, my father died and I inherited money. The walk of wealth and faith thus became mine. I needed help to navigate the process, and within a few months I’d found the perfect two places of support.
I stepped into Be Present, Inc.: I knew I needed more skills and mentoring to walk this transformation of spirit in a world filled with injustice (some of which was also caught, seen and unseen, within me). The Black women and girls I’d mystically met so long ago had expanded to include a wide diversity of people working collaboratively together. Within Be Present, I experienced an organization consistently operating within their vision and mission and skillfully using and offering training in the Be Present Empowerment Model to open up hot topics in a way that could nurture the blooming of personal and societal transformation.
I stepped into Wisdom & Money (then called Harvest Time, granddaughter of Ministry of Money): The Spirit had ignited this fledgling ministry just as Howard and I stepped into it, together. We danced our way into a community of folks engaging with money as a doorway of spiritual transformation at the personal, communal and systemic levels. Again, it was, indeed, a hot door!
The dream buried deep within me in 1984 was manifesting in 2002. The intersection I’d seen in my dream – faith, rooted deeply in the wisdom and prophetic strands of Christianity, the movement of money, and equitable partnerships across diversity – had taken root and formed a bud. The collaboration between Be Present, Inc. and Wisdom & Money deepened in 2007 when it became clear that Wisdom & Money needed the model to navigate the hot door of money and faith in the midst of our diverse and unjust world.
Next week, the ongoing partnership between Be Present, Inc. and Wisdom & Money – with me in the middle of both organizations – will bloom even brighter.
Now completely grey and 64, I will be flying with my daughter Laura to Atlanta for an event called Trailblazing Boards of Director’s Meeting and a training on Sustaining a Practice of Community-Engaged, Transformative Philanthropy. There, both Be Present, Inc. and Wisdom & Money will take the next creative steps of deepening our partnership by coming together for a board meeting and training, working collaboratively together every step of the way.
Here I am. Living a dream that has grown far beyond anything I could ask or imagine. Partnership across difference, a Black-led diverse organization of leaders and a primarily white, wealthy, Christian organization, working together to support transformation from the personal to the global.
It is not just possible, it is happening. It is happening right now.
Drawings by Khara Scott-Bey
This is the first in a blog series Blazing New Trails. Since this trail is one that has unfolded so slowly, it has taken time to process and find words to describe that this has been and what I see. I’m slowly learning, such is the pace required for transformation trails.