Photo credit: Katherine Nagy
Dr. Jacqueline Bussie, award-winning author, professor, and theologian was the keynote speaker for Synod Gathering—finally able to journey to the NC Synod for this event which was postponed from 2020. Bussie delivered two addresses as well as offered several book-signing opportunities over the course of the three days. Her most recent book, Love Without Limits (2018), has won three major international awards and seemed to be the preferred repository for Dr. Bussie’s signature.
The first keynote was offered just following the stirring opening worship in St. Andrew’s and Bussie, though small in stature, had a presence and smile that were both lively and large. Titled “Grief, Love, and Loss: 3 ‘Rules’ Christians Should Break,” she outlined ways that we are bound by American societal norms which pathologize grief as a disorder, yet we’ve got it all wrong. Says Bussie, “Grief doesn’t need to be healed. Grief is the healing.” She suggests that when it comes to grief, we should break these three rules:
- Always apologize for your tears. “To not grieve is a violence to the Divine.” —Martin Prechtel
- Don’t air your dirty laundry. “Tell your real story. Share your scars with someone you can trust.”
- Use cliches to mask pain and suffering. “God will reward our authenticity with presence. God wants to hear our laments and can handle them.”
The following day, Bussie addressed the Gathering in P.E. Monroe Auditorium, with her second keynote, “Love without Limits,” echoing the title of her book. Bussie noted that the book’s first publisher had a problem with the stories about “the gays and Muslims” in her manuscript. She quickly explained that “the whole point of the book is that no one is an ‘other’ to Jesus.” Faced with her first publisher’s comment, Bussie recalled a favorite quote from Dr. Cornel West: You know what this world needs more of? This world needs more people who are not for sale. “I feel like God asked me, ‘Well how much do you believe it?’”
That experience with her publisher allowed Bussie to learn these ten things:
1. Your story matters. So tell it.
2. Cornel West’s quote matters. Be one of those people.
3. Never cave to the lie that you can’t make a difference. Solidarity saves. Even a like or a share can restart a heart.
4. Human love is tiny. God’s love is titanic.
5. Hope is a GPS. If you ever lose yours or your battery dies, you can always use mine. What matters is that we all find our way home.
6. Most people totally misunderstand power. True power pursues only one goal all the time. And that is the empowerment of other people.
7. Understanding and agreement are not the same things. They never were. Real love demands only the first, not the second.
8. When you cannot stand on your own, let your community hold you.
9. Never let any voice tell you that love should have any exceptions. Even your own.
10. Love wins. Always.
Dr. Bussie’s presence with us at the Gathering was a blessing in so many ways—we laughed, we cried, we shared. We learned to make space for public lament and to grieve openly; we learned to boldly love without limits.