Love Passionately, Hold Lightly: Words to Shape a Vocation

Rev. Rebecca Hale, NBA Executive Vice President

On a weekday in 1992, I sat in chapel at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary listening to my mentor and professor, Dr. Susan Nelson preach. The words “a faithful way to walk in this world is to love passionately and hold lightly,” settled themselves into my spirit. Love passionately and hold lightly – those words have been winding themselves around my vocation, my theology, my ecclesiology, and my being for decades. 

The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) is the community in which my call has unfolded, and I’ve found meaningful work within the relationships and structures of this denomination. Yet always, the words “love passionately, hold lightly” twine their vines in my work and spirit. This has come to mean seeking a path that loves deeply the work of God in the world while holding lightly to the structures and forms in which that love is embodied. This includes the structures of this beloved church. Imagining the kinds of forms, structures, relationships, and initiatives within which that love can be enacted is deep at the center of how I wish to engage my work. 

When I joined the team at NBA in 2002, the NBA stood on a threshold in which it had the opportunity to

President/CEO Mark D. Anderson and I with NBA partner Hiram Farm.

integrate well over 100 years of rich history while leaning into wide-open spaces for new ways of faithfully living its mission. This church needed an innovative, vibrant Health and Social Service General Ministry to support ministries of care and leaders across the church who were leaning into new ministries of compassion and care. These leaders needed a place to find support and community. These are and were Disciples who need to know that the church in which they felt called to do their work welcomes them and sees their work as the work of the church. 

What an amazing 10 years it has been working alongside this extraordinary NBA team as we accompany Disciples who are passionately embracing the call to embody love in their communities. This church is rich with leaders imagining forms and structures for the work of compassion and care that pull us all towards a faithful future. A guiding question we all might do well to ask is “how do we help shape denominational structures that can be flexible, light, and open so that we can shift resources – including dollars, attention, and leadership – towards those places and persons that are doing justice, building community, and restoring hope in ways that fit the needs of this day?” 

Myself and my trivia team at NBA’s Trivia Night at the 2019 General Assembly.

For nearly 10 years, my work has focused on program development, building partnerships, and missional consistency. Now, as the Executive Vice President, comes shifts in focus for my work. The NBA is weaving a rich history with new ways of living into the mission and this moment calls for internal work to be sure we are healthy and whole and that our own structures are consistent with the work of compassion and care. As part of this new role, I will serve as the liaison for NBA’s equity and support staff leadership development towards the nurturing of a diverse, equitable, inclusive organization. 

This moment also calls for attending anew to our broader context. In this new role, I’ll have the opportunity to, along with my colleagues, help read the landscape in which the NBA does its work including internal organizational realities, denominational and ecumenical shifts, and trends in the non-profit community. This will allow the organization to build on our strengths, meet challenges and ensure a forward-leaning approach to the work of the NBA.  

Loving passionately and holding lightly – still words worthy of guiding a vocational life.