Organizational Identity with Gail Song Bantum | Podcast Season 03, Episode 02
Welcome back to Episode 2 of Season 3 of Transforming Engagement, The Podcast. This season, we’re talking about organizational identity and the role of the leader.
In this episode, we spoke with Pastor Gail Song Bantum about her identity as a second-generation Korean woman and as a pastor and leader, and Quest’s identity as a congregation in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle. As a leader of a “multi church,” Gail Song Bantum describes how her identity impacts her congregation’s identity and, in turn, how it is understood both by congregation members and the community at large.
In each episode, we ask our guests to highlight an organization that is doing work. Gail Song Bantum brought our attention to Good Foot Arts Collective, an organization with a passionate focus on ending violence before it begins, providing domestic abuse awareness and youth violence prevention advocacy through Arts Education.
About our guest:
Pastor Gail Song Bantum is the primary visionary, spiritual developer, and culture curator as lead pastor of Quest Church. As a second generation Korean-American, formed in the Korean immigrant and Black Pentecostal traditions, Pastor Gail seeks to cultivate advocacy, liberation, and belonging for the marginalized within the life of the church. She and her husband, Dr. Brian Bantum, have three sons and reside in Seattle, WA.
About this season’s co-hosts:
Dr. J. Derek McNeil is the president of The Seattle School of Theology & Psychology. Dr. McNeil has a PhD in Counseling Psychology from Northwestern University and an MDiv from Fuller Theological Seminary. Prior to his tenure at The Seattle School, Dr. McNeil served as faculty in the PsyD program at Wheaton College Graduate School for over 15 years.
Dr. McNeil has worked as a clinician in private practice, a diversity advisor, an organizational consultant, and an administrator. His research, writing, and speaking have focused on issues of ethnic and racial socialization, the role of forgiveness in peacemaking, the identity development of African-American males, leadership in living systems, and resilience.
Kate Rae Davis is the Director of the Center for Transforming Engagement. She brings a collaborative approach to her current role working with Christian leaders to restore their inner resilience and live into their purpose. She and the Center for Transforming Engagement team gather with experts from a variety of fields and shape discussions around challenges facing leaders in a complex cultural moment and discern how each might uniquely join in God’s work in the world.
Passionate about the church in its many forms, Kate is the recipient of the 2018 Bishop’s Preaching Award and can often be found behind the pulpit of her home church, St. Luke’s Episcopal in Ballard.
- Learn more about Transforming Faith Communities, a free, one-year program that guides your congregational team to implement changes that address and fit your unique situation and context. By participating, your faith community becomes eligible to receive grant funds to support your growth. Together, you can transform your faith community, your neighborhood, and the future. Click here to find out more.
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Kate: Welcome to Transforming Engagement, the podcast. We are joined today with Pastor Gail Song Bantum, who is the lead pastor of Quest Church and welcome, Gail. We’re so glad to have you with us.
Gail: It’s good to be here. Thank you for having me.
Kate: Yeah, of course. So our topic this season is congregational identity and what it means to have a identity as part of a collective. And of course, with your context being in the church, why not just open with how would you describe Quest Church’s identity as a congregation?
Gail: Hmm. The first thing that I always share with folks is Quest is a multi church. And when I say multi, it’s just a space that holds a lot of different multi-ethnic, multicultural, multiracial, intergenerational, multi faith traditions present in our community. Multiple lingual. So the multi space is a big part of our identity. I would also say we’re a curious church, something that has really piqued my interest. I think in the last few years of being the lead pastor is the ways that people are are constantly leaning in for more, curious to learn, curious to dismantle what was or what they knew, curious to hold space and ask questions. And so with that, a pretty common thing we hear from folks that find Quest is we draw a lot of folks who’ve been wounded and disillusioned by the institution of church, by white supremacy, by patriarchy. So we have a lot of folks coming in looking for something different. And if we want to get really churchy, it’s there. They’re really wanting something. A new wine and loving Jesus in the midst of it. That’s why they’re there, right? Because we do have a contingency of this generation who are just leaving the church and the institution altogether. But folks are coming. The young people are coming because they still believe that there’s something good about the body of Christ and about community.
Derek: Well, first of all, I also want to chime in and say thank you, Pastor Gail, for being with us. It’s lovely to have you. And I love that notion. And maybe I should talk a little bit more about it. New wine. And it kind of begs this sort of metaphor of new wine skins. And so as you think of the church as being multi and a place of curiosity, what’s the new wine skins you’re knitting together with? Or as you think of it as coming together, what things are pulling together as compared to older wine skins, which I think are bursting? And I think that’s kind of the metaphor is appropriate.
Gail: Yeah, I would say at Quest, we have a marker of curiosity versus certainty. I always ask folks to think for themselves. The common phrase that I’ll say is, I don’t want you to think how I think or think what I think. I just want you to think. A place where we hold sacred. The the beauty of questions of holding space, sitting in tension. And even as I say that, I’m also reminded of the James Baldwin quote. Right. We can disagree and still love each other unless they’re. There is a boundary there. Unless your disagreement is rooted in my oppression or their oppression and their denial of our humanity and our right to exist. So that’s the only boundary. We can love each other in the midst of many disagreements, in the midst of each of us being on our own journey. So just dismantling this notion of the Church of Christianity, of faith being that of certainty. But one of genuine curiosity of transformation and of growth.
Kate: Hmm. I think of of of redemption.
Kate: Even for people to be coming wanting this dismantling. But still something to be still something good to be had there. Oh, yeah. And so much of what you listen to is thinking about the history of your building. And as the Mars Hill Church podcast has been coming out and all the deconstruction people are having around what it means to been a part of that and the patriarchy of that and to be in that place, but for it to mean something so radically different and for people to be encountering Jesus. But in such a different way, really, Quest is about redemption, congregationally, as well as for each of those individuals with their doubts and questions.
Gail: Yeah, absolutely. And I find myself actually, you know, one of the things as I get older is paying attention to what I find myself saying a lot, whether people point it out or I catch myself. And I think one of the things that I’ve been saying more recently about Quest, because of the conversations I have or what I’m witnessing and what I’m hearing is Quest is a place of wholeness, of healing and redemption. So that word redemption that you’re bringing up is in our vocabulary over and over here at Quest that God is redeeming harm. God is redeeming wounds, woundedness, God is redeeming our imagination for what can be and offering a healing and transformative space in the midst which I’m so grateful for.
Kate: Yeah. Yeah.
Derek: It’s an interesting piece, too, because I think that’s the necessary wine for now. I think we all feel a bit wounded and, you know, the fragmenting, not just simply of personal experiences, but social experiences, I think the society’s fragmenting. And so that need for a place that’s safe enough or holding or that can provide formation in a certain way. It’s interesting in kind of mentioning sort of the old space, the space that was there, that’s not it’s the same land, but it’s a different space, if you will.
Gail: Right. Right.
Derek: And I want to actually kind of forward this notion of patriarchy as the sort of new because that was a patriarchal sort of institution. And I don’t want to disconnected. There’s a historical issue of patriarchy, and then there’s a wounded father issue of patriarchy, a overcompensation, if you would, over masculinity, over masculine quality. It is not quite holding all things together. It is us men in some cases forcing things together and just this sort of wounding that has come from the sort of new patriarchy, if I can call it that, that we maybe identified with a longer stream, but it may have its own form of wounding that we’re talking about people who’ve come out of these spaces and to be a place of healing for that. Again, speaks of we talked about this a little earlier what it means to be a woman pastoring a church lead pastor of a church. In times when we have almost that unspoken split between men and women in terms of the way they’re approaching, it’s not about physical gender as much as style. And I’m wondering how you think feel about that as you pastor Church.
Gail: Yeah. You know, I, I’ve been thinking a lot about this since becoming a lead pastor in 2019, just based on conversations that have emerged over time, my own kind of self-reflection and I’m realizing that while I’m not making a blanket statement here, but a lot of times I feel like women in general are forced to be very aware of their body from a young age. When we leave the house. We’re mindful of what we’re wearing, what we look like, what other people are going to think of. US are safety. Our physical bodily safety, how we’re mindful of the people around us even. I’m just going to say this as a woman, and here’s another example of what women will say in these kinds of conversations is even a menstrual cycle forces us to be heightened aware of our body and the space and the work that our body does. And I think you put that on top of a role, a leadership role, a pastoral role. And I don’t think you can divorce that sensibility, that attentiveness to our bodies, to how we occupy space. And typically, I notice that women tend to be much more collaborative. Women tend to not need to hoard power and feel like they can still get things done. And we tend to be more invitational where we want people to belong to the bigger picture. There’s greater meaning when more people are involved and more people have buy in. Yeah. So I don’t know if that comes off gendered, but I feel like in my own experience, even as Brian and I, my husband Brian, we talk about this a lot, that in having three sons, it’s a very different reality now that they’re in their twenties and grown men. I feel just a really stark difference in how I see the world and the lens in which I walk through this world that they don’t necessarily have to think about. And I think that might translate into the way we lead into the way I lead if I want to just bring it more personal.
Kate: Yeah. That, that being so aware of our bodies when we leave the house, it’s like, oh yeah, like because our bodies are dangerous to men, which is talked about a lot and our bodies are dangers to us because of men’s responses to our bodies. That is a danger to our body. Mm. And I think there’s so much of, I think I’ve felt a lot of that in leadership as far as women make themselves small too. And so then you see so few women in leadership and maybe especially in church leadership, but I am so appreciate how you framed first that that that makes a conscientiousness and awareness of the room an awareness of where others are because of our concern for the embodied state of things. Of course, we have a concern for where other bodies are and how those bodies are or are not included. That’s right. You framed it positively. First, I’m like, oh, thank you. That’s there’s a gift to be had in the.
Gail: Oh, absolutely deep insecurity. And it’s never it were often never framed as a gift or a positive attribute. Right. It’s often named as a hypersensitivity or or emotional or whatever the case may be. But what would it look like for us to actually channel that reality into the way we lead, the way we occupy space? Mm hmm. Yeah.
Gail: Mm hmm.
Derek: I think. I think too implied in that is the the assumption that feminine is weak.
Gail: That’s right.
Derek: And masculine is strong. Or, in other words, communion and agency. You know, communion is thought to be weaker, agency thought to be more valued. And so I think that’s probably why even resist the sort of the sort of socialization of us is clearly in those those realms of gender and the sort of missing. We have a huge need for communion right now, gathering, holding. And this guiding, nurturing we have a huge need for that is a hunger in the society that in some ways is distorted, even masculinity, to some degree, because it’s absent of those things. And I think certainly women, both gendered and men who can actually have some flexibility in that. Yeah. Can reintroduce that, but is still perceived as weakness. Mm hmm. And still perceived as not strong or not as strong leader. And that, you know, I think forces particularly I see this by more so than in the academy forces some women or in corporate world to be masculine. Mm hmm. To in some ways, be in that culture. It’s like, that’s the only value that we’re flaunting. And so hence, we applaud that value. Right. But in terms of the church, as organization, as institution is formative, we need both that and distortion. Distortion of that, if it’s only masculine, is a huge distortion in terms of the both healing and restorative and renewing the cycle, if you will, the wholeness of the cycle that’s absent, you know, and it’s all progressive in a certain type of way. And absent of the cycle of restoration.
Gail: Absolutely. And, you know, it’s a interesting conversation here on our team of our pastoral staff. Four of the six of us are women. Hmm. And I have received some questions of we should just have an all women staff, which are all women pastoral team and you know, like, like what you’re saying, Derek, because I do think we can’t let the pendulum swing the other way, though. I have my finger on do it in this case, a lot of times in spaces of oppression, right? Equality, equity is not necessarily what we’re looking for in many ways. Sometimes equity, especially when patriarchy is. So it’s like the air we breathe, right? We have to be very careful because it can easily tip very quickly back. However, I’m I’m of the mindset where we do need both spaces. We need healed and whole men, right? We need a different imagination of what it looks like to partner together because we all bring good things to the table. And I’m really adamant about that. I don’t think it’s for me to be the lead pastor means that everyone now has to be women, though I often imagine. Wow, how wonderful would that be?
Derek: It might be easier.
Kate: Its a nice fantasy to escape into.
Gail: Right, right.
Kate: How good to take a question into the relationship between your identity and a congregational identity. How connected do you feel those to be? I hear you kind of working with wanting to attend to your work and not just make your team or your congregation a reflection of you, but how are you known in your congregation and how does that both reflect who you are but then also shape who you are?
Gail: Hmm. So I feel like I hear a couple of different things in that question. I think one thing that I’m finding really fascinating that I can’t really control is, you know, I heard this saying that as the leader goes, so goes the organization. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard that sentiment, but, you know, I always thought, oh, yeah, I can kind of see that the way the leader sometimes inhabits something or the way they are. A lot of times you’ll notice people will are drawn to that. Certain people are drawn to that, which is kind of the whole church planting reality. If a pastor, a church planter, is passionate about justice, it’s going to draw all these justice minded people. And I realize that in the last three years, even though two of those were a pandemic, as we reintegrated, I’m finding so many people who have identified themselves as being in between people who don’t feel like they belong in different spheres or different communities. And as I’m hearing this over and over, that’s actually the story of my life right? Right. As a second generation Korean-American woman married to a biracial black white man, that’s actually how we met was because we felt that we were occupying this in-between space, that we weren’t this we weren’t necessarily all this. And so even finding a church space for us, when we moved to Seattle, it was we have to find a multi church so that our kids, our family feel like at least on Sundays, we belong some we belong and we’re not stuck out. And so it’s interesting in my faith tradition, growing up Pentecostal or going to a methodist seminary, being ordained in the evangelical denomination is our pastoral team is from all kinds of faith traditions and so is our church. It’s a church that is trying to navigate its identity. And so when you’re asking me how who am I in my community, the best way I can describe myself is like a conductor. Hmm. Like an orchestra conductor. It’s the orchestra conductor’s role, really, in a sense, is not to be seen. And in fact, you actually see the back of them more often. But their job is to not just interpret the score, but to gather the best musicians, the best people in their respective roles, to play together, to come together in such a way that could bring this song, this piece to life. And the greatest conductors are the ones who can do all of that beautifully. And masterfully. And I feel like that’s that’s how I see myself. That’s how I see my gifting is. I’m not even though I’m the lead pastor, I’m not one who loves the spotlight. I’m not one who loves to take the mic all the time. In fact, I don’t preach all the time, and I share the pulpit sometimes more often than some people think I should. But my joy and my passion comes from bringing together seemingly disparate people from all walks of life, different backgrounds, identifying their gifts and seeing what beauty can come of that. And I see that as my identity in this community in this season. And it’s a hard it’s a hard role because the temptation is to want to control and create. And especially when you’re new to the role, it’s important sometimes that you are very visible, that you do have a stake in the ground, that you do have a pretty certain identity. But I just have to trust my gut. I have to trust how I’ve always been and to know that this style, this way of leading, this way of embodying my gifts can in fact create something beautiful in time. And I think in some ways it’s a culture that I’m building of shared space, of shared leadership, of shared voice. And in a multi community, I actually believe that that’s critical, that we have a multitude that’s represents the multi community that we’re leading as well.
Derek: Mm hmm. And that feels also to that sort of new wine skin, the sense of, you know, I have the same ideal ideals for the school. And I also know at times it feels like a cacophony, is not it?
Derek: It’s like, oh, okay. You okay? You’ve got your own solo over here and you want to sing and you want to sing loudly. Oh, right. And you don’t want to blend right or it’s frightening is terrifying to blend because to blend is to lose a sense of agency. And I think, again, this balancing communion and agency piece, how do you deal with the conflict that comes up? And I’ll get back to the question of identity, because I think I want to also hear too about identity outside that building. What’s about what’s it mean to be involved? Mm hmm. But I also want to, you know, before that and want to hear a little bit about because I think I tussle with that. I don’t struggle with it, but I know it’s part of my common weekly management.
Gail: Mm hmm.
Derek: Holding the voices that are frightening. They won’t be heard.
Derek: Or holding the voices that don’t know how to speak up. Need to be heard. Or holding the curiosity about. What are we doing now? Who’s agenda will it be? And so I wondered how those things impact you.
Gail: Yeah, I don’t know how much you all bank on personality profiles, but I am an eight. I’ll confess I am an eight on the Enneagram, which you know how you want to take that. But I think something that I’ve held true and that most people who are around me, my church, my team are pretty are pretty aware of about me. Is that in everything that I do and in who I am, the margin will always be centered. The edges will always become the norm. Because in a world where most of us who find ourselves on the margins Monday through Saturday don’t feel like we’re heard, don’t feel like we’re seen or empowered. If there is a space that that I can create as much as I can to the best of my ability, is that in this space, in this faith community, in the way of Jesus, we’re going to hear from the folks. We’re going to empower the folks that may not necessarily feel empowered in other spaces. So my eyes, my ears, my heart always goes there first. So when there’s a conflict, the question that I’m always asking myself is, who’s being centered here? Whose feelings, whose thoughts? Whose ideas? And if it’s if it’s if everyone in the room occupies that space, then it really is. Then who are we for? At the end of the day, in the midst of this conflict, what are we contending for? Who are we contending for? And that’s where repressed into and if it’s an issue of, you know, trying to hold on to something or I don’t I don’t feel her because I’m trying to maintain a sense of certainty. We dig that out. And one of the values that I have on our staff and our team and just within our church is that we meet tension with open arms, that we and we meet it right away. We don’t let anything fester. We don’t let anything through. We don’t like assumptions. And so I think this is probably the East Coast in me that’s bringing that cultural reality into this space, as is you know, let’s let’s speak with truth, transparency, humility and integrity. And most often in time and with a lot of prayer, we come to a space of, you know, unity, cohesiveness. Yeah. And transformation. Mm hmm.
Derek: And I hear in that the sort of values, again, repeated curiosity is one of those you don’t get to, you know, listen to each other play.
Gail: That’s right.
Derek: Not just play your play your tune. You got to listen to each other play. And the sort of can we find each other’s voice, not just my own voice. And can I trust that there’ll be a moment for my voice?
Derek: And so how to, you know, so if I find myself out at the edge, I’ll be brought back in. And there’s a kind of almost a dynamic quality of kind of moving out, moving in and not losing people’s voices in. Yeah.
Gail: Yeah. Because every every moment of tension and discord is dynamic, is different depending on who’s in the room and who’s involved.
Kate: It’s also a fair, echoing piece of fractal quality that what’s true for an individual is true for your leadership team, is true for the ripples out from that that it’s it’s really all the same themes just asked at or presented at different levels of individual and group dynamics.
Gail: That’s right.
Derek: So I’m still curious about again, can we talk about community in the sense of church body, but also Ballard because I think the things we’ve. Well, one of the things we’ve learned is that churches tend to thrive as they engage their communities. There is a sort of not just move people around from church to church. Yeah, but actually gain more people by their community presence and how they perceive how you think about quest community presence. It’s your identity as a church in the larger community.
Gail: Yeah. Our, our just banner that’s written all over our church on the outside, on the inside is the Micah 6:8 text of Act Justly, Love, Kindness and walk humbly. And I think at every turn that’s that’s what roots us. That’s what tethers us and everything we do. I would say when I ask the question, how would the community perceive us or how does the community perceive us? What we’ve often heard is, first, y’all are really different than the church that existed in there. And then I would ask, how so? And the common sentiment and the common refrain is you tend to be more outward that you don’t necessarily exist for yourself. We see the ways that you are highly partnered in our city. Not that we do all the work, but we love to partner with organized actions that are already doing the work that resonates with our values, with our mission and vision. All aspirations and hopes of being a multi church, being a racially racial justice minded church, being a compassionate in our neighbor, being local, being a good neighbor of having our bridge care center. That is an advocacy space and ministry for our unhoused neighbors right here in our neighborhood of Ballard, being a place that empowers women. So we look for organizations that actually are led by women. I mean, even in the little things we do when we’re hosting events, the coffee that we order, the treats that we order are ordered from BIPOC owned small businesses or our neighboring local coffee shop of Java Jams just right across the street, or when we give out thank you gift cards. They’re from the local business. Yeah. And so I think that’s that’s what we just do out of our embodiment of our convictions. Right. And I think it, it it gets noticed that we’re not here to just build up our, quote unquote kingdom of quest, to plant more quest campuses and to project me on a screen. Right. I mean, that’s just not that’s not the vision of Quest. The the vision of Quest is to be a good neighbor, to act justly, to be on the streets when we need to be on the streets during a pandemic are many of our church members were on the streets all summer during the George Floyd protests and just being very present in our communities. And I think the beauty that we have that sometimes can be considered a burden is that we are not a neighborhood church, we’re a regional commuter church. So we have folks that live on the South side. We have folks that live on the North End on islands that come from the east side. So they’re actually very active in their own communities. Yeah. So when I think about what Quest does and when I think about what our sisters do, it’s expansive. And I can’t even tell you all the things that our people do. I just hear about it and it just blesses my heart and my soul to know that people actually live these things out. Monday through Saturday. Yeah. And I think that’s the vision. That’s the hope that we are small bodies of Christ everywhere.
Derek: Mm hmm. It reminds me a little bit. There’s a book called Finding the Mother Tree.
Gail: Mm hmm.
Derek: And the sense of a tree that has extended the forest is really growing up with the linkage of trees. Not just simply one big tree and one big tree, another big tree, but it actually, through its root system, sprouts other first other trees. If you will. So I think in cellular groups, in that same sort of way, we’re sort of another model for churches. There’s a mother tree, and then there’s these other trees that grow up and create a sort of sense of forest, but they’re all linked underground. We don’t think of them as connected, but they’re quite linked. And when one begins to struggle and suffer, the mother tree, they extend life to other plants and other trees. And so you describe the sort of the question all over. Yeah. Gave me that picture, that image of the mother tree extending itself and giving life to different places beyond its own individual root system.
Gail: That’s a beautiful image. Yeah. You know, it’s a beautiful image. Hmm.
Kate: You mentioned Quest congregants activism and involvement in the protests following George Floyd’s murder, and I’m sure other moments during the last two years. Yeah. And, you know, for as long as I’ve known, of course, I’ve known you as a multi church. And in some ways, the the probably what language is the racial reckoning that we’ve been in the rise of maybe white white people’s awareness in the racial realities that we’ve always lived in. There’s been a lot of conversation about Christianity’s complicity in pieces of that, as well as the role in protesting some pieces of that. And I think for a lot of congregations, that’s been a whole new aspect of congregational life. But now I see Quest doing that. It feels like a very natural outpouring of how I’ve always known you. I’m curious how that feels from inside the congregation is how is that forming, forming you as a congregation in your identity and service into the city, the region?
Gail: You know, it’s interesting because I think we often think of these things and the behaviors that come out of this, these moments in a very stereotypical monocultural setting. And this is the unique thing about a multiple church, which I believe that’s the reason why there’s not a lot of multi space. It’s hard. This is hard work. And I think when these moments even that anti-Asian hate Quest hosted the virtual in the middle of a pandemic the virtual national lives stream to speak against Asian hate and violence last year and many of the things that we do and that we embody is not because we think it’s a good idea and it’s not even like a discipleship thing for us. I think at the heart of it, it’s because it affects people in our body. Mm hmm. So when we say Black Lives Matter, it’s not a white church saying, oh, yeah, we should say, and we should do a prayer for Black Lives Matter. Or it’s you know, when we say anti-Asian hate, like we should actually incorporate that into our pastoral prayers. It’s this is who we are. And it emerges from the ground. It emerges from its own people. Now, do we have to be really intentional about because it’s a multi space intentional about lifting out certain voices and certain presence and bodies? Yes. Do we have to keep stoking and fanning the flame of particular demographic acts? Yes. We intentional in leadership, invisibility and voice? Yes. But a lot of these moments of discipleship, of presence, of of following Jesus really at the heart of it is because it emerges from our people. And so even now, tonight at 7:00, Quest is hosting that emerged from our family ministry team, hosting an online virtual prayer gathering for our teachers and students and administrators. Given what happened yesterday and it’s so it’s coming from people who are passionate, who are living it, whose bodies are impacted. Today was spent texting, calling a lot of our teachers and administrators. I’m thinking about you. I can’t imagine. I hope you see a glimmer of love in the faces of your students. You know, just it’s a lived reality that is both hard, it’s both burdensome and it’s beautiful. And sometimes, you know, I actually just told our team we need to be prepared because it seems as if every summer over the last however many years, whether it’s political upheaval, whether it’s racial violence, if something happens in the summertime and I want us to be prepared. Yeah. And it just it’s become a pattern that we rise up, we do what we need to do to care well for our community and our wider community. So yeah, that, I think that’s that’s what I want to kind of input and put on the table when it comes to this and we don’t have an option. Maybe that’s another way to put it. It’s not an option for us. It is. It is our children, it’s our people. And we do what we can to make sure they feel loved and cared for.
Kate: And hearing it. It’s not an abstraction that can be for education, for it’s, you know, good to love our neighbors.
Kate: Your neighbor like you. It’s an actual face. Actual body, actual story that you’re already in relationship with and care deeply for.
Gail: At some very.
Kate: Different starting place, a very way down the ladder of abstraction into an actual who you love.
Gail: Yeah. And I think another this can be for another conversation. But I think another thing for pastors that I’m trying to navigate is in the midst of all of this, of caring for a community that’s diverse when it affects me and my family. When is the space for us as pastors and leaders to grieve, to not feel like we have to then quickly lead a people in the midst of our own pain and grief and figuring things out ourselves and for our children and gosh, like the last a year between Asian violence and Black Lives Matter, I mean, that’s our family. Yeah. And all the LGBTQ realities in our nation and restrictions and anti-trans laws. I mean, that’s our people. Those are our friends. And I think that’s another question that I’m trying to navigate just personally as a leader. When do we do that? When do we have space to do that? Besides, in our shower in the morning before we have to put on a face and lead our people.
Kate: The relentlessness of Sundays where you have to you have to offer glimmers of good news and hope, and you’re scraping the bottom of the barrel because you’re grieving in the shower for 5 minutes before you’re trying to get to hope to offer other even before you offer a space for others grief that then you’re the one holding. It’s a it’s an unreal, demanding time for our community leaders.
Gail: I believe so.
Derek: I think it’s important to kind of say to our listeners that we’re recording this in May after a series of of shooting violence know and can still feel that in terms of our conversation. I think strangely, I found it was tough with two questions for for us and even just for Pastor Bill and I’ll take the first one is about anger. How do we do hold young male anger in some cases young male white anger, in some cases just young male anger, different multi ethnic groups because that often can be the most threatening thing to society. Men who have not had young men who’ve not been formed, held. Yeah, cared for, yeah. Whose in turn their rage either racially or gender wise or right. Even children. And it says something about our society, not just simply them.
Derek: And oddly, the second question, because we’re talking about bodies is I’d love for us to to not end before we talk about play that a very serious heavy conversation and the sometimes how do we play because that’s part of gathering to know but I think that question the first one of anger it is easier for me at times to know what to do with the people who’s hurting from that anger than to know what to do with that anger, how to engage that angry white male, brown male, yellow male, whatever. Because I think there is is something about that. When we’ve talked about women in cycles, there’s something that tells you, hey, I’m I am come of age and whatever that means. And I have to tend to my body in a certain ways. I think males and socialized in a different sort of way. And some of that has been historically around aggression and control and their place in the society. And I think we have a lot of young men who don’t know their place in society or feel replaceable, if you will, or displaced and how we deal with that in terms of our church is a question, you know, maybe for all of us to struggle with in that. But I’ll put that in front of us maybe, and then maybe you can lighten up and talk about play before we go.
Gail: Yeah. I mean, I, I can only go based on my experience working with men, being married to man, having three, having three boys. But I think as a pastor of a church of right, of many, I think this is one of one of those group, one of the greatest accomplishments in my short three year so far, I think is our partnership with Unity Collective, which is a counseling collective of counselors and therapists. And they actually just hosted a training or a listening session for men and emotions. And I think in some ways, from my perspective, to offer resources and to normalize wholeness and healing is something that I can offer as a leader. I think the other really important thing that I don’t want us to dismiss is how people in the way that they hold space actually give others in imagination. And what I mean by that is I’m I’m very grateful for my husband, Brian. While he is not on staff, he is my partner. And the way that he embodies his maleness, some people might even say he’s a feminist or he’s weak or he’s intellectual and not masculine enough. And he’s gotten that over the years, right. And I’ve even had church folks in years. We need a men’s ministry and leave Brian out of the equation as a possible person to lead it, which is fascinating to me. But one thing I love about Quest is his presence. I have him preach often, his presence just the way he occupies space, the way he treats me, the way he speaks of others is creating an imagination of what it can mean on the spectrum of maleness and what healthy manhood can look like. And I think that in the same way a Korean-American woman is baptizing somebody, there’s preaching in a pulpit, is giving young women imagination for more. I believe his body is doing the same kind of work as well. Yeah, which I am. I’m really grateful for.
Derek: And appreciate that formative. This is this is when institutions either church is working well when it offers formative models.
Derek: As opposed to folk we have a hard time following and it can we can see it and we can see it modeled for us and we have some hope that it’s possible for us. Yeah.
Derek: I do. I do think, you know, in the sense of males needing cycles in their lives and needing ways to think about themselves as growing and renewing and not just only angry and thrusting, if you will, and how we find those spaces that are safe enough. Because I think men will struggle with issues of safety alittle bit you know.
Derek: Be more aggressive at a lack of safety, right? Those models become very important to live to. That last heavy question for me and I want to ask a play question.
Derek: Because I don’t play well. Everybody knows I don’t I can tell.
Kate: Keep adding more heavy questions.
Derek: I want you to everybody knows. Everybody knows I don’t play well. Okay. I confess. So that hints the person doesn’t play well. Ask questions about play and the necessity of that. So I love to hear from both of you and maybe from you, particularly, Gail, kind of how to play, because in some ways it’s hard. It’s been hard for me to know how to bring an organization to play in a in a serious moment, in a cozy moment, in a pandemic moment, in a financial stress moment. How do we bring organizations to play, which is so essential for curiosity and learning so essential for us to getting to know each other? And so I love to hear that as we play.
Gail: Kate, do you want to go first?
Kate: I mean, I, I work for the Curry’s and I think part of it is this cultural fit of also being a very serious person. The first thing that come to mind is how often Rachel, as a manager on our project, and she’ll bring these ideas to me of the next phase. What if we had a stuffed animal that participants threw to each other when it was their turn to talk and it was like a unicorn? And I’m like, We can’t, we can’t. We find a unicorn around this room, like, no, no. And and she has his cameras all the time. And I’m always like, why no lights? I feel my own resistance to play fast and I feel my play. I probably do. I try to think of it more as like social spaces or lack spaces where we’ll pretty. I regularly really do times with our team that are on purpose without an agenda, whether it’s virtual or, you know, preferably together, but just to sit and dream and hear what’s going on with each other. And after meeting up, talking about work and getting this imagination for things that would never have made it onto an agenda so that that space to dream does in turn influence us. But it’s a very you know, it’s a very graduate school intellectual kind of play. But I’m I’m hoping that.
Derek: We’re not helpful. Obviously, we’re not we’re not helpful to that.
Gail: I love that. You know, what my problem is, is I play too much.
Kate: What I want that problem.
Gail: You know, in the high school, I used to get detention all the time for clowning around. And so I’m actually in my adult life. I’ve actually kind of honed it in, but I’m actually a seven wing to my eight. So all these.
Kate: Confessions, I can see that.
Gail: I mean that the ongoing joke here is like I’m joking around, but I think it leaves room for others to then play. I mean, we have some more serious people here, but then we have some jokesters here, which I love. Right. And I’m the one that’s always saying, hey, let’s go play putt, putt, let’s take that. And we’re actually now making plans. I was like, I want to take the whole staff to Portland. Let’s just eat, play, do good food. We used to always take the pastas to Vancouver just for the day and sneak out Vancouver, B.C. and just eat going to eating tour and then head back at night. And then I know it’s wild.
Kate: So the best thing to do in Vancouver is eat.
Gail: Yeah, right. And then you walk in order to eat more. Yeah.
Kate: You got to burn off and make some space.
Gail: But, but I will say when I’m in work mode, I mean, that’s the other thing is they know that when I’m in work mode, I’m in work mode and some people will say, I don’t like work. Gail, you know, we want we want fondue. And but, you know, it’s like work hard, play hard, and. Yeah, i’m a HR Nightmare, that’s all i’ll say. You know, my HR nightmare. But, you know, whatever.
Kate: Some clever.
Gail: Play is actually just a really it’s just part of who i am. I think just the way I was raised, too, is just a really hard life that I that those were my outlets was it was too I’m sure you all can psychologist this and therapies me but I just made that word up but I’m sure there’s something connected to there where I’m always looking for fun and life and laughter. Yeah.
Kate: And this beautiful deck. What are you doing to work on your play mode? Oh.
Derek: I’m not good at play. I think I find most of my enjoyment a little bit too much in ideas and work. I make problem solving and bit of play. It becomes which is kind of sick in some ways saying it that way. But that’s true. And you know, so for me, in the small ways, hitting golf balls is.
Derek: Or actually the socializing the, you know, tonneau.
Gail: Yes. Of the.
Derek: Church. And Tonneau has gotten me back to playing golf. And I clearly enjoy the social aspects of that just talking.
Derek: And then there is that sort of challenge of hitting a golf ball and direction you hope it will go in. But I, I think I don’t get enough, you know, recreation. And you know, part of the thing we’re learning that I learned in terms of resilience is that the practices of both spirit and body for me does include play has to by definition, include play. And in some ways, you know, all of this I think I was raised to take care of things very responsible for things, to look over things and make sure they don’t go awry too far. And so when you’re vigilant, it becomes hard to play. Yeah, yeah, I’m too much, too serious. And for me, that sort of vigilance is into the future. What’s going to happen? You know, you know, three months from now, what do we need to be preparing to prepare for that now? Well, that doesn’t lend itself to kind of, hey, let’s go out and have a meal. Yeah. And so that’s a this is a learning edge for me as a leader. And I think we’re going to encourage all leaders. This is a learning edge for many. And because I think you’re also raised to be very responsible, and I think you’ve learned to play as an outlet as what you describe. Risky does actually play much better. You actually do a fair amount of work to play. Yeah you know see you do you travel? Do you sing is travel.
Kate: Oh yeah. Like I don’t do that with the team. I just do.
Gail: Travel. Seriously.
Derek: Yeah, it wasn’t a question. It wasn’t. Yeah, yeah, it wasn’t a question I was saying. But as you travel that’s your, your form of trying to get in the way.
Kate: That’s true. That’s true. Yeah. I, I go away and I hike a whole bunch and then I come back and I feel a lot better. Yeah.
Gail: Yeah. That’s great.
Kate: Yeah, that is play. Yeah, yeah. And I think you do a daily thing. It’s Yeah. Well that’s true, that’s true.
Derek: You do it much better than I do mine. So that’s how I probably think of it. So you’re usually going, I’m like, Well, she’s going someplace else. So I’m clearly not not doing it well. But I think the thing I want to say is we kind of begin to wrap up is the whole body ness of our conversation from beginning about cycles and ending. Talking about play is really about how we bring our bodies to this. And we have been a bit, you know, for me as an academic, as the life of the mind, life of the mind, life of the mind. And that’s the false notion. There is no life of only the mind. It is in my life of the mind, body and spirit and community. And I think I’ve appreciated the conversations. We’ve talked on all those things, kind of our connections to things, our sense of ourselves and places embedded and our sense of what it means to be home with and home away home with people that we work with and sometimes needing to be away from people to work with and the sort of work away home in terms of the populations we serve. And so deeply grateful for this conversation and what we still have to explore together. I’ll say this I think the partnership piece will become louder as we face more of a challenging, distressing environment for that. The day of simply, Hey, I built mine, we got ours. I hope you guys survive over there.
Gail: Good luck. That’s right.
Derek: Is quite over. And we need to kind of network again, much like that mother tree metaphor of how we hold each other. And so thank you for giving us worth your presence, your physical presence, your spiritual presence, your mind and your service to the church.
Gail: Thank you for having me. Yeah.
Kate: And as a something we’re starting to do is out of our gratitude and mind to honor your time with us. I want to give you space to give a shout out to an organization that you see as doing good work. And we’ll make a donation to that organization, encourage our listeners to as well.
Gail: But first of all, I just want to say to all the listeners, Kate, prepped me on this before we actually record it. And when I read that, can I just tell ya, I love that you’re doing this and it honors me to be able to honor another organization. It’s that multiplying, connecting work that we were just talking about. And so with that, first of all, thank you in advance. But I to read this but the the organization that I am super proud of to offer to your listeners as well is the Good Foot Arts Collective. It’s a local organization. You can find them at the Good Foot Arts dot org. But we are also recording this in May and it’s AAPI Heritage Month, Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month. It’s a local Seattle organization whose mission is to prevent youth violence through arts education, mentoring, leadership development, expressions in the arts through transformative movement and artistic mediums like music, dance, spoken word, visual. So dealing with our bodies, an organization that just uses their body to bring about change, they do this through community outreach events in South Seattle specifically, and they’ve even created a youth violence prevention curriculum for high schools. I also know that this org was started back in 2005 by two Asian-Americans who were passionate about mentoring youth, especially BIPOC youth in this particular South End community, while using their gift of being hip hop dancers, which has now expanded to domestic violence awareness, leadership development and increased art mediums. So I’m just really proud to be able to offer the Good Foot Arts Collective as an organization that I feel like is doing incredible work, especially for this emerging generation.
Kate: Yeah, and super timely in multiple ways, from addressing violence to youth and and the AAPI. Thank you so much for taking the assignment to ask seriously and good for our stories. So I’m going to check it out.
Kate: South Seattle’s my part of Seattle, so.
Gail: Yeah, some friends too.
Kate: Awesome. Well, we’ll make a donation to them and listeners go check them out, find ways to connect or support. And thank you so much, Pastor Gayle. Glad to learn with you and think with you and play with you a little bit.
Gail: Oh, thank you so much for having me. I love any time I get to talk about the church and what I do and who we are, I’m there.
Kate: Awesome. Thank you.
Derek: Thank you.