By Gail Russell Buffalo
Through research doing critical discourse analysis and narrative research in education, I have learned that narrators instinctively seek moral authority. We are driven by the goal of making ourselves “come out good” in the end. Gotham, though it concluded for me three months ago, is still teaching me how to resist this common narrator’s impulse.
I was failing spiritually when I moved to New York in 2010. Initially, I practiced counter-cultural Christianity. I spoke to my agnostic friend about “sin,” and of course he didn’t understand! At church, as a “country girl” from the U.S. south, I quickly gave up on building community. I didn’t believe that I could get a word in edgewise, even with Christian acquaintances. I met my amazing husband the first year, but we were not vigorously engaging our faith. Then, a lot of “stuff happened.” Life happened. And, I drifted further from God until one day early in 2016, I cried out “Lord, I want your glory back in my life. I just want your glory back.”
Glory is a kind of weightlessness that you can experience when you know that God is in charge of everything. Even when things are going badly, we can feel God’s glory when we are totally surrendered to His reality: He is the Creator and Sustainer of all things, and He will take care of all that belongs to Him.
My spiritual failings before Gotham can be explained in terms of my narrative focus. I was the protagonist, and “my story” was not going the way that I had wanted. Personally, I felt alienated. Professionally, things were moving too slowly. Learning to see myself inside what David Kim calls an “exilic context,” I learned from Gotham how to see myself within God’s creation and redemption narrative, where He was sovereign despite my loneliness and despair.
If you are considering Gotham, you probably “know” that the world does not depend on you. Even if you are a medical doctor, you probably “know” that you don’t save lives: God does. Gotham, an important part of God’s creation itself, is uniquely positioned with a robust and community-centered curriculum to help you live in and live out of the truth—the glory—that you are living inside God’s story. It’s not the other way around!
This experience is life changing in that it forms a new kind of accountability for living where the daily question becomes “Did you live out, in faith and knowledge, the reality of the redemption story?” rather than checking off a list of do’s and don’ts. This kind of accountability is what we all desperately need if we hope to live a spiritually abundant life in our beloved New York City.
Registration is now open for the 2018-19 Gotham Fellowship class. Visit faithandwork.com/gotham for more information.