Acceptance...then love

     I was driving in my car this morning as the local NPR station kept me company amid Atlanta traffic.  An article came on that caught my attention.  The following article speaks of a classical Indian dancer who began  (what I believe can be rightly called) a ministry by teaching male inmates at a local prison how to dance.  She originally came to watch the female inmates perform but was struck by the body language of the men.  Their bodies communicated, in her words, that they were people without a future, with nothing to look forward to. She then began to teach them traditional Indian dance.  The male inmates, murderers, rapists, thieves, and the like, started to see her as a mother who loved them.
     What struck me the most about this article is the way in which the woman, Alokananda Roy, spoke of her journey with these men on the margins of Indian society.  When speaking of the affection that grew between her and the men, she simply said, "all I did was accept them.  The love came later."
     For some reason, this phrase struck me.  Acceptance first.  Then love.
     ....I'm not sure why but I can't get these words out of my head.  Is it possible to love without accepting?  Is it possible to accept without loving?  Does one always have to precede the other?
     Does this challenge you as much as it does me?  
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Stephen Fearing

Stephen was born in 1988 in Cookeville, TN, where his parents met whilst attending Tennessee Tech. Shortly after, they moved to Dalton, Georgia where they put down roots and joined First Presbyterian Church, the faith family that taught Stephen that he was first and foremost a beloved child of God. It was this community that taught Stephen that it was OK to have questions and doubts and that nothing he could do could every possibly separate him from the love of God. In 1995, his sister, Sarah Kate, joined the family and Stephen began his journey as a life-long musician. Since then, he has found a love of music and has found this gift particularly fitting for his call to ministry. Among the instruments that he enjoys are piano, trumpet, guitar, and handbells. Stephen has always had a love of singing and congregation song. An avid member of the marching band, Stephen was the drum major of his high school's marching band. In 2006, Stephen began his tenure at Presbyterian College in Clinton, SC where he majored in Religion and minored in History. While attending PC, Stephen continued to explore his love of music by participating in the Wind Ensemble, Jazz Band, Jazz Combo, Jazz Trio, as well as playing in the PC Handbell ensemble and playing mandolin and banjo PC's very own bluegrass/rock group, Hosegrass, of which Stephen was a founding member (Hosegrass even released their own CD!). In 2010, Stephen moved from Clinton to Atlanta to attend Columbia Theological Seminary to pursue God's call on his life to be a pastor in the PC(USA). During this time, Stephen worked at Trinity Presbyterian Church, Silver Creek Presbyterian Church, Central Presbyterian Church, and Westminster Presbyterian Church. For three years, Stephen served as the Choir Director of Columbia Theological Seminary's choir and also served as the Interim Music Director at Westminster Presbyterian Church. In 2014, Stephen graduated from Columbia with a Masters of Divinity and a Masters of Arts in Practical Theology with an emphasis in liturgy, music, and worship. In July of 2014, Stephen was installed an ordained as Teaching Elder at Shelter Island Presbyterian Church in Shelter Island, NY. Later that year, Stephen married the love of his life, Tricia, and they share their home on Shelter Island with their Golden Doodle, Elsie, and their calico cat, Audrey. In addition to his work with the people who are Shelter Island Presbyterian Church, Stephen currently serves as a commission from Long Island Presbytery to the Synod of the Northeast and, beginning in January of 2016, will moderate the Synod's missions team.