Eastminster Presbyterian Church burned Sunday night. As the initial numbing effect of the images and devastation wore off, I thought of people: the pastor, leaders, staff, congregation, organizations that partnered with the church through the years. But one person who has influenced my life and this city continues coming to mind. Her name is Angela Cowser.
I first met Angela through POGO (People of God Organized), a community group of churches organized around justice and reconciliation in East Nashville. I remember thinking in our first meeting, “So this is what an angry community organizer looks like!?!?” I couldn’t have been more wrong in my prejudice. Yet another opportunity for joyful repentance.
Angela is one of the kindest, most humble, bold and confrontive people I know. A lot like Jesus, really. We grew in friendship while pursuing tangible steps in seeking the shalom of Nashville. She has been instrumental in graciously forcing me to think out the public and policy implications of people whose lives are marked by thankful appreciation for new life in Jesus. She continually asked questions like:
- Should churches have a role in public education when systems are found to be inequitable?
- Could we be more pro-active in helping potential homeowners understand the mortgage market, thereby avoiding toxic mortgage products?
- Is there more we can say and do over time—to help members in both congregations and communities improve their health?
- What is the prophetic role of the church in our culture today?
As I grieve the loss of the building of Eastminster Presbyterian Church, I am thankful for people like Angela who bring God’s flourishing into cities.
Angela now lives in the Chicago area where she teaches at Garrett Theological Seminary of Northwestern University (https://www.garrett.edu/academics/faculty/angela-r-cowser).
If you're interested in giving to the church or serving them in anyway, you can email pastor Varela at GVarelas2000@gmail.com.