Meet the staff: Laura K. James
Laura James joined Church and Society's organizing team earlier this summer. We asked her few questions to get to know her a little better.
What is your United Methodist story?
My United Methodist story is about connection and community.
I encountered The United Methodist Church in my childhood when my family was seeking community and support as my mother and father were going through a divorce.
The local United Methodist Church that my family and I were a part of in Elkhart, Indiana, took us in, prayed for my parents separately and together, and when things became difficult, the church walked with my family through our pain.
The church’s presence in my life during my parents’ divorce revealed to me God’s constant presence and power.
After my parents divorced, my father relocated to Collierville, Tennessee, and we joined another United Methodist Church, and it was at this church were my heart for ministry and justice ignited.
My church family in Collierville mentored my faith by providing me with opportunities to learn, teach, and serve in my community. These experiences helped me build an understanding that united my faith with the ministry of justice and compassion.
When I graduated from High School and transitioned into college, I was still active in my local United Methodist Church. Through my youth pastor, I had the opportunity to serve with the South Eastern Jurisdiction at an event called Young People In Mission in Lake Junaluska, North Carolina. At this event, I met with United Methodist missionaries, nonprofits, and pastors who were all participating and committed to bringing God’s justice all over the world. This event gave me an opportunity to cultivate a vision for ministry that united faith and justice.
After I graduated from college, I entered Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C., to refine and form my call to ministry. At the end of my time at Wesley, I was called to serve in the local church in downtown Baltimore, Maryland. As I served as pastor, my previous experiences with the church of connection, community and justice, came alive in the ministry of the local church. While I was serving in ministry in Baltimore, I realized that we are — as both the church and United Methodists — God’s people’s, deeply committed to being in community and connected for the work of the kin-dom.
As I begin my position as organizing program coordinator at Church and Society, I am excited about experiencing the many ways we as the church work together to strengthen our connection, global community and transform our world.
How is organizing an expression of your faith?
In the book “Faith-Rooted Organizing: Mobilizing the Church in Service to the World,” the Rev. Alexia Salvatierra defines organizing as “the practice of bringing people together to create systemic change in their community.“ When I reflect on the person of Jesus Christ and his ministry, this is what he did. Jesus Christ, brought people together to challenge systems and restore God’s world. As the church, we are an extension of the ministry of Jesus Christ, and we are called to continue Christ’s ministry by coming together to transform and restore God’s world.
What difference does organizing make in the life of a congregation?
Organized people are influential people, and when a congregation realizes their power by developing a collective vision and passion, communities will change, and lives will transform.
What is your greatest hope for The United Methodist Church?
My greatest hope for the United Methodist Church is for us to recognize the power we have as a united, connectional body. I also hope we grow to understand that being united does not mean that we are all the same, but we are united in the spirit of our lord, Jesus Christ.
What do you think are the three greatest systemic oppressions or injustices facing society where you live?
The three greatest systemic oppressions that are facing my community are racism/white supremacy, housing and homelessness.
Who are some of your role models and what have you learned from them?
I love my family with all of my heart, and my role models are the three closest men in my life: my husband, my father and my brother. I have gleaned great knowledge from each of them.
My beloved husband has taught me the importance of valuing and loving yourself. My father has shown me how to be centered in your faith, and my brother has taught me how always to pursue the things that make you come alive.
I am truly blessed.
Anything else we should know about you?
In my free time I am a podcaster, check it out at www.forcollardgirls.com.