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Worshiping When the World is Falling Apart

Jacqui Mignault is one of the writers behind weekly Do Justice prayers. As a pastor, she talks about what it’s like to practice bringing current events before God. If you’ve ever wondered how to acknowledge current events in worship, this is the episode for you.

The following is a transcript of Season 5 Episode 4 of the Do Justice podcast.  It has been lightly edited for clarity.  Listen and subscribe on your favourite listening app.  

Chris: Well, hey, everybody. Welcome back again to another episode of Do Justice. It's me Chris Orme. I'm really happy to be with you again. And we're continuing our journey together. We're talking about the nexus of our worship and justice. And you know our worship is shaped around the person of Jesus but Jesus calls us into those spaces. And so we've been talking about what it looks like when our worship aligns with the things that we are called to do in the justice world. And today, how lucky are we! Jacqui Mignault our new friend, my new friend. We were just talking before we started recording the episode. We realized that we have some circles in common, and so that's always fun to do.

But Jacqui's joining us today. Who's Jacqui? You might ask. Well born and raised in Calgary Alberta, Jacqui has degrees in music and theology. Her journey into full-time ministry started while working as a spiritual director and a retreat facilitator, and also volunteering as a women's group leader in what is now The Road Church in Calgary. Pursuing her call to ministry in 2017, she was ordained as a commissioned pastor, and simultaneously accepted two part-time positions as co-pastor at The Road Church, and a campus minister for Mount Royal University.

When she's not working—which I'm going to ask her about that, how the heck are you not working with all of that stuff that's going on—Jacqui enjoys time exploring Alberta with her husband.Brad, two daughters, Evangelene and Emmanuelle, and the way too many—and that was in the bio—too many pets that they love. Hey, Jacqui, Thanks so much for being with us today.

Jacqui: Hey, Chris, Thank you so much for having me.

Chris: Did I miss anything in that list?

Jacqui: No. So when I wrote that about the too many pets, we had two little rabbits, and a little dog. One of those dogs—that dog passed away, and then we got two more dogs.Since that one. So we still have way too many pets and that's us. And it's fun and I love it.

Chris: Thanks for joining us today. For those who don't know, Jacqui has been a contributor to the Do Justice Blog. You can catch some of her writing over there. We’ll link that in the description of the show.

And I had a chance to do a bit of the deep dive into some of the offerings that you've given to the blog. And particularly there's a series of Christmas prayers, and I just love the way you talk to God. There's one line where it says—you write these words where it says “you never forget to be merciful. Oh, God, you will never forget.” 

And that just—I don't know what was going on that day for me—but it really hit me. So I love the way you talk to God. It's cool to meet you over this conversation, and I’m like “I feel like I got a pretty good sense of who she is” but we're gonna deep dive into that.

So let's start. We're about to dive into an episode here where oftentimes when we talk about justice stuff, we're pushing back against something that is wrong, or things have gone wrong, you know. But like we said in the bio, we know you're an adventurer. You like to hike in Alberta, Do you have a story? Tell us about a time where things went sideways 

Jacqui: Oh, it's a funny question, the thing about when things go wrong, cause they go wrong all the time. And I don't know if you know anything about Alberta. Alberta's weather is insane, and it's crazy. It changes on a dime. We can go between like minus 30 and plus 30 in a couple of weeks. You just never know but you'll get. 

So even last week I was walking with our dogs—one is a Chihuahua and one is a German shepherd. It's really fun. 

Chris: Okay, that's just hilarious off the top. 

Jacqui: it is! It’s hysterical. The chihuahua's definitely in charge. And I'm walking with them and I decide “you know, I have a few minutes. I'm gonna go off trail and let them go down this path we've never been on before.” So we're just doing our thing and all of a sudden, I get to this place and the river has swollen, run its banks and it's crashing down. And I have to cross, or I have to backtrack all the way through from where I've come from. And so there's me and about maybe a foot of water. It's not a lot of water, but when you think about it you're like “Oh, there's got to be a way I can get around this thing.” And I couldn't get around it. And then I'm carrying the Chihuahua and I’'m holding the leash to the German shepherd. The German chamber is like “what are we doing? We can just walk through this. Let's go.” And the chihuahua was freaking out. And so I'm trying to jump while holding him. It didn't work. I eventually ended up having to throw him. He was fine. He landed across the big thing of water. 

And then I was just like, “what am I doing? Just walk through.” And I just got soaking wet. Just walked through and continued on my walk with no dignity and really wet pants.

Chris: okay. We need to unpack that a little bit. I mean there's so much going on there. I'm thinking of equity. I'm thinking of the German shepherd being “I'm fine.” A little chihuahua being “I'm not fine.” And then how many times do I just need to be thrown? 

Jacqui: yeah. And just like—just get wet. You can't protect yourself all the time. Sometimes you just gotta go through. Actually, yeah, anyways.

Chris: That's great. Yeah, I think, you know, if we could, maybe we could get a picture of the dogs, too. That would be fantastic. I think that would be hilarious.  So, Jacqui, thanks again for taking the time. And like I said—maybe I was gushing a little bit—but I really do appreciate the way you write. I appreciate your voice. And you're part of the team that writes justice prayers, weekly. What has it been like to practice that spiritual discipline? When the news or the subject of the prayer might be so heavy—you know, often it's bad news—what's that like for you? 

Jacqui: Hmm! It's hard. In a word, it's hard. I sometimes come to this space knowing that stuff has happened. Sometimes you know. The big stories are out there. And then sometimes those stories kind of fade in our consciousness, as we just do our daily life. And I'm going online and I'm looking at updates, and I'm trying to pay attention to are there policies that are happening? What's going on in the world that is either hindering God’s shalom or helping? And is there a way I can pray and bring that into our imagination, to help our imaginations get a little bit bigger about that.

But it is hard. And I mean, Victoria, who I work with on this, often gets emails from me saying “this was hard this week.” And “I don't know what to do about this.” 

There's something about—I walk into this really carefully. Because I do live in Calgary, Alberta.

The things I go through are not what lots of people are going through. And so I have to walk really slowly and empathetically through that process, as I try to read as much as I can about something, try to hear the voices of the people on the ground about whatever this is happening.

So last year there were many stories about camps at borders, and all over the world right?

But even some at the southern States border. And I'm trying to find accounts from those people.

I'm not trying to find what people from above are saying. I'm trying to hear those words and pray into that imagination. And it's hard because I don't live there. And so there's a bit of fear and trembling as I pray into these spaces that I don't live in. And yet I don't feel like I'm allowed to not pray into those spaces, either.

So yeah, that's a bit of how I enter that process of trying to open our imaginations to what it looks like, that we might see what God sees in that situation.

Chris: Yeah.I've heard it said—I mean we I'm gonna use a term and just call people “justice people.” Justice people—it's a wide community with a varying array of interests and expertise and focus. But I'm privileged to be able to walk in some of those circles and have some friends who do some amazing work. And you know I'm hoping to count you as one of those going forward, right?

But I've heard the phrase: thick skin, soft heart. Hmm What's your process for—I mean you shared a little bit about it—but is there something… Because I'm thinking of the person who's listening right now, who wants to step into this arena, who wants to be courageous, and pray a certain way, or give voice to something. Is there a certain amount of heart prep? I'll just give you the space. Is there something that you do particularly to enter into that space?

Jacqui: Hmm. The two things I do—you can tell me if this answers the question well or not.

The first thing I do is, as I am reading whatever it is or whatever I've decided to pray on, I have to locate myself in the character of God there. So if I'm reading something about children I'm remembering “oh, my goodness! To the Lord who welcomed the children,” and who kind of said, “if you get in the way of me and the kids, the millstone is for you” right? Like this is who I am praying to and and from where I am praying. So locating the prayer there helps me not to think I have to fix it, because this is God's good and beautiful world being restored. And I can just speak into that. Remembering my job—maybe that's what I'm trying to say—I prepare my heart by remembering my role as a pastor and as a writer and as a liturgist, if that's what I do, is only to open up and get our imaginations rightly located. And maybe move some of this stuff from our eyes, so we can see, “I wonder how God is seeing this right now.”

So there's the locating ourselves in the character of God. And the best way to do that for me is that the character of God is seen in really specific stories of Jesus, and really specific passages in the Psalms and in the prophets. Because they're wild, and they're not expected and they're not very safe. And then like I said kind of locating, centering the voices of the people this actually affects. So that's those two things.

But then personally, afterwards—and I’ve done this many times—there is a communal part of this. And I have a couple of friends that I will text almost every time I write my prayers because I'm like “it was prayer writing day today and I need you to tell me good news. I need you to tell me something beautiful that happened.”  Because I've been spending, you know, hours in the space imagining and wondering how I might move in this space. 

And then that's made even…when the hardness of what I'm thinking about or praying into is created by—the hardest ones are when those things are created by Christians, those are the hardest ones. A couple of weeks ago, we just the prayer around all this and sexual abuse stuff coming out in the SBC. I'm not southern baptist. I don't know that. But I know what it's like to have dignity absolutely taken from you. And so I needed to tell someone this is what was happening, and where I had spent a lot of hours. And then I needed them to tell me where they had seen some good news, where they had seen some redemption in the world. Because I can't see it all on my own.

So those are the things I do to maybe not bear the weight of the world in my own body, by God and others, I guess. 

Chris: Super helpful. And I think there's a lot there for us to take and ingest and see and apply to our practice as well. But I love how you touched on, you know, “I have a community.” And this is one of the things that is part of my reminder and part of my process—I'm not doing this stuff in a vacuum. I'm not doing this. I'm not having these conversations in a vacuum. It's not just me and a book. It's not just me in a podcast. It’s not just, you know, me and Megan and Victoria. We're integrated into community. And so since it doesn't happen in a vacuum, our work is going to trickle over and spill into and influence and begin to color what's happening around us.

And so I guess the question—you are a minister. How does this translate to your church and campus ministry? What does that look like?

Jacqui: Yeah, I was thinking about this actually. I didn't know you'd kind of go here. But I was thinking about this this week like, “how does this translate in a group where we are very different?” So even the church I minister in is a group of people that comes from so many different places and experiences, different cultural locations, and different Christian cultural locations, too. We have people who grew up Dutch Reformed. We have people who grew up Catholic. People who were in the Vineyard movement for decades. And we're all here, and we're speaking into the common life that we have together in God. 

But how do you speak to that? Because when I speak I'm coming from a really specific place. I know certain things. I've learned this. I've had this experience. And when I speak I'm coming from my point of view. And then other people hold that. And it can go a couple of different ways. It can go in a way where it adds to the conversation, where people bring something. But then it also can shut down, because someone might not understand what I'm talking about, or might not understand where I’m coming from.

So just examples. So in Canada we're talking about—it was around a year since the unmarked graves had been not discovered, but made more aware of. And so someone who is in these worlds is speaking into that, hearing all the things. And then, I’m speaking at church to someone who literally has never heard that yet, or like this new story is the first time they've heard about even residential schools. Like, I know, it's hard to believe that there's just such a vast difference of where we're coming from. And church is one of those times where words are said and they have to hit all different people from where they're at. I mean social media is the same way.

We say stuff on social media and it's like you're gonna hit 8000 different perspectives on it, and places and maturity levels. That's not often that those are the cases but church is a little bit like that, too. 

So—I don't know if this is a long rambly answer to your question—but I think about this often.

I think about how does this way we are praying open up the subject, or close down the subject to someone who might not know more? And so I think about language, and how language is used quite a bit. Yeah, I don't know. So your question I don't know if I have an answer to, I just have more questions about it for myself. 

Chris: Yeah. I think that's set up, sort of a for me like as you were talking, I'm thinking like how many times have I been in conversation—like I'm a dad. And I'm also a kid. So I'm trying to think of that dynamic where you know, sometimes it's the “because I said so.” And it's like “oh, well, that that sucks.” And then other times it's like you know, “what do you think of this?” And you I’m thinking of how we lead and worship, and how we do community together: what are we opening up? And what are we shutting down? And that's super helpful Jacqui. I really believe that.

But we're talking about worship. We're talking about church and justice. And it's like this venn diagram of the nexus between worship and justice, and that's the space that we've been kind of plodding through together over the last few episodes of the podcast. And so we're operating—again, I’ve said this before a previous episode—but we're operating under the conviction that worship shapes our imagination. It broadens our understanding of who God is and it broadens our understanding of the world that we live in and a world that God so deeply loves. And for us as a crew over here, and I think for our listeners, I think the question of the day then is, how do we shape our corporate worship so that orient our hearts toward justice? And when the world fell apart this week, right? How do we do that in the context of community?

Jacqui: Yeah, I am convinced that…I'll start here. God's word does not ever return void; his word is powerful. But how we use those words in our mouth can flatten it and decrease our imagination with familiarity, especially if we are in spaces where our own lives are not affected by injustice. We then kind of read these big, beautiful words about who God is, and how this world could be flatly. We read them flatly. They do not have the power they do to speak into the deep injustice. And so one of the things we have to do—I have to do as I lead—is watch how my language is, like I said, either opening up or shutting that down, either opening up imaginations or shutting it down. Am I using familiar words that have come to mean kind of nothing, right? Like you know when you smell a smell for a while, and you kind of get used to it, and you don't smell anymore? Am I using those words so much, or are there ways I can understand and unpack them in a different way?

That's something I think about. Are there ways I can use Scripture, and the prophetic call in Scripture to jarr people in corporate worship? So sometimes, what I've done at church is I do a little mash up between really familiar, nice things that we like. Like “my yoke is easy, my burden is light,” that goes next to some more powerful passages. Or not more powerful—that's a powerful passage—but really incisive passages. Because then we can hear this differently. Maybe we can hear this differently.

I think our role as—my role as a pastor and my role as a worship leader in that role—is to help us, to remind us that this is about seeing and hearing. To remind us that this is about seeing and hearing. And that God will do that in us. God will open our ears and open our eyes, and we might not see or hear what we thought we were gonna see and hear. Honestly, in some of our churches, getting people used to that, getting people used to like “Oh, that's what we're here to do? Have our eyes out? Is the whole thing—” And I say that in the most abundantly generous way I can, because I do that. I come into these spaces like not thinking I might actually be that changed by this word that says this world is good, and you can live into that imagination. It's not beyond us to do that. 

Chris: Yeah. Oh, that's such a powerful picture. Like the image of it for me is like—yeah, I can see what you're talking about.” And there's another word that gets used a lot, and that word is authenticity. And how do we—how does authenticity play into the conversation? Because you talked about it: maybe you're part of a community that isn't going through hardship or the injustice, but praying or worshiping from a position of privilege. So then, what does authenticity look like in that space? 

Jacqui: That's a great question. I think it has to be absolutely soaked in a humility of “I don't know. I have no idea what that might be like” for this or that, or the other thing. And yet I'm called to stand in solidarity with someone who does, and then to listen to them. I think that listening piece, as it pertains to authenticity and shaping or worship—I need to be listening to the people that these events do affect, that the systems of the world have denigrated.

And listening to those experiences, and believing them when they say what it is like to go through this. What is it like to be at this camp? What is it like to have this policy put into place?

How it is affecting their humanity. So that authenticity means I have to say “I don't know, but this person does so let's uplift this voice” and let that shape our our prayers.

But then also on the flip side of that is then to pray also from my location, which is to say, “there's some work that needs to happen in my heart, too. So God, do that work now, please, in the name of Jesus, cause it because it needs to happen, and in our hearts, too.” So I don't know—I think maybe when you said authenticity, I think humility and honesty.

And this is the—not danger, that's not the right word—the risk of speaking into any situation, the  risk of praying into any situation is that we don't know all the things. And so that humility, that honesty about that, and then just bringing that. Like “God I know you don't forget mercy. And I do. So I need you to do this. If you leave it up to us, we're not gonna do it that great sometimes.” 

Chris: yeah. I’m smiling. This is all audio, so they can't really see us. But I'm smiling because I'm thinking of a time very recently—and I will protect the identities of the…It's all me. I did a silly thing. I was speaking to a church, and we did a little Q&A after. And someone asked me a question. And I just started answering, and I got about two minutes into my answer, and then I realized, “I don't know. I don’t know!” And I stopped. And I said “I don't know. You know what?” 

And I think sometimes when we don't know how to pray, maybe like, “Lord, have mercy” might just be the words. 

Jacqui: And I think, knowing when to fall silent is a deep key to praying well, knowing that I don't know and I just need to listen better.

Chris: So tell us about a time—as we kind of land our conversation—tell us about a time where you've used a justice prayer in a worship setting. And what did you see happen? What did you experience happen in that setting?

Jacqui: I think one—I'm thinking back to advent this past Christmas. We did an Advent series on the women named in Jesus’ genealogy. So those are women like Tamar, and Rehab and Ruth and Bathsheba.And then on Christmas Eve, we always uphold that Jesus is born.

But we uphold the words of Mary in a very deliberate way because they are justice words. And when we do that, the familiarity of those stories—and especially the Christmas story, in juxtaposition to this word that is not going to return void that's spoken from the mother of God—does something to people. Mostly it just confuses them. No, I shouldn't say mostly. But that moment of confusion when people are like “Oh, there's something way deeper and broader to some of these words I'm so familiar with.” 

So when I use a justice prayer like that, which is Mary's prayer. But then I also use other things.

So when we advocate—again last year, when the unmarked graves, and there was a lot that we even just offered our congregation that they do justice, I was able to pray those the prayers of the truth and reconciliation calls to action. We just prayed them with Shannon. I just prayed them with Shannon. We just said, “this is what we pray for.” And even offering that to the congregation was a new way for them to understand, like “Oh, my gosh. The language doesn't need to be flowery. The language can be as simple as just this. Ask like, “Please let this policy thing happen.” And it again opens that imagination to what they do in the world. Especially that one was really powerful for me. Maybe it sounded dry I don't know. But it was powerful to me, because it was just like “God you could work in this very specific policy way. And I can have a voice in that as a member of this society.” And that can be a prayer. It’s not abstract. I think it's very concrete.

I think maybe the key I've been trying to circle and land on is: when we do justice prayers we remove God's glory and God's love and God's justice from this very abstracted realm to a very real situation. And that, I think, is very helpful for people in the churches to get used to and then to participate in. And they are equipped to do that, to get really practical in their prayer lives with God and their—what's the word? Incarnated. They can really embody and flesh this out in their own prayer lives. It does not—if we keep anything abstracted, it does not work. And it just turns into irrelevance real fast.

Chris: Yeah. Oh, it's so good, Jacqui. I think one of the things that's really cool is just that we're all looking for a handhold. We're looking for something to grab on to to start the journey to to dive deeper in. And I think what's really cool is the way that you—through your ministry, and through your work as a liturgist, as a writer, and as a pastor, as a leader—you're providing that for people.

And so I had a mentor, years years ago. And he used to say, “preach, pray, or die in a moment's notice.” And I had no idea what that meant. He said, “be ready to do all three.” And so, Jacqui, would you be willing to pray for us and pray with us just in this space? Is that cool? 

Jacqui: oh my gosh, yeah. You know I like that stuff.

Chris: I figured that was gonna be the answer. But yeah, would you? 

Jacqui: Alright. To the God who heard Hagar’s voice alone and made irrelevant, but who saw her and heard her, you are the God we come to all the time. Even this week, my heart is so heavy for the real people whose voices have not been heard, and who have been made irrelevant, even in your church. And it's breaking my heart and I don't know what to do about it. Even here, we know you are God. We know You've called us to live into an imagination that is way bigger than we could ask, that we could conceive of. 

And we know that you hear all those voices, even as we try to do our justice work as imperfectly as we do it, with all the biases we come in with, all the privilege we hold in all the ways we do. We just always pray for your Spirit to bring us to that humility which it does, and it does it gently. It does it incisively. It does it without damaging our own spirits, but it will do it.

And so we pray for that to happen. And we pray that we will trust it. We'll trust that process of humility so that you can speak and we'll actually hear. You can show us what you're doing, and we'll actually see it and do it. And we pray these things in your very gracious, your very loving name. Amen. 

Chris: Amen. Wow. 

Jacqui: oh, I needed to pray, you guys. 

Chris: Thank you so much. We're running into a theme with our guests to see just the generosity of self that is on display for everyone. So yeah, our guest today has been Jacqui Mignault. She's the co-pastor of the Road church, and campus minister. She's an author. She's a liturgist. She contributes to the Do Justice Blog. You can check all that out in the bio of the episode. Jacqui, thanks a lot for being with us today.

Jacqui: thank you for having me. It was a great joy.


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