A Central “Cloud of Witnesses”
A Reflection from Central Alum. Rev. Tyler Tankersley, Pastor of Ardmore Baptist Church, Winston-Salem, NC
Not long ago I was driving to visit a member of my congregation who lives about an hour away in rural North Carolina. I plugged their address into my phone’s GPS app and turned on some music. The robotic voice of Siri was telling me when to turn and my needed lane for all the requisite turns. About five minutes before I was supposed to arrive at my destination, to my surprise, there was a newly constructed roundabout. The new landscaping clothing in the circle’s interior and the bright colors of the newly painted lines told me that this roundabout had recently been constructed. Not even my GPS knew the right way for me to proceed. I began to, embarrassingly, circle through the roundabout while Siri took her sweet time figuring out my next move all while repeating the phrase, “Proceed to the route.”
I eventually made it to my destination, but that roundabout was a completely unexpected part of my journey. This recent pandemic and the myriad of ways it has utterly transformed ministry is something that none of us saw coming.
In the first days of canceling services and trying to cobble together a plan for ministry, I did what many of my ministry colleagues did: I reached out to others. Many of those I contacted were some of the wonderful women and men with whom I attended seminary.
The community of fellow ministers who I had the opportunity to learn alongside during my days in seminary has been one of the greatest blessings of my life. The ability to message my friend Gary in Minnesota, to text Elizabeth in Missouri, and to email Mana in Myanmar has helped to know what direction to go in the midst of such a confusing time. The writer of Hebrews mentions that we are surrounded by a “cloud of witnesses.” Most pastors take this as a reference to saints who have preceded us in death. However, during this time in which I deeply value the wisdom of my peers in ministry, my cloud of witnesses have been the sisters and brothers who are also circling the roundabout with me and trying to figure out our way forward.
I will forever be grateful to Central for the community of faculty, students, and alum who continue to add wisdom to my life. They have helped me to feel more equipped to be ready to lead in days such as these and to feel prepared for whatever may be coming down the road.