Sound of the Genuine

Pastor and Politician: Called to Care for Neighbor

February 18, 2022 FTE Leaders Season 2 Episode 3
Sound of the Genuine
Pastor and Politician: Called to Care for Neighbor
Show Notes Transcript

Kim Jackson serves as Senator for Georgia State Senate District 41, representing portions of Dekalb and Gwinnett counties. Kim works every day to build a safer, fairer, and more prosperous Georgia, and bring the diverse voices of her district to the Capitol.

An Episcopal priest from the rural South, Kim made Georgia home over a decade ago. After graduating from Furman University, Kim volunteered as an EMT and advocated for Criminal Justice Reform. Upon receiving her M.Div from Candler, Kim commenced her vocation as a priest. Over the past 10 years of ministry, she has served as a college chaplain, nationally renowned consultant and preacher, and parish priest. As Vicar of Church of the Common Ground, Kim co-creates Church with people experiencing homelessness in downtown Atlanta.

She and her spouse live on a small urban farm with goats, ducks, honeybees, and chickens.

Instagram: @KimforGeorgia

Twitter: @KimforGeorgia

Music by: @siryalibeats

Portrait Illustration by: Olivia Lim

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Patrick: Hey, what's going on? It is Dr. Reyes here again for another exciting episode of the Sound of the Genuine. And today we have Georgia State Senator Representing District 41, Reverend Kim Jackson. What I am excited for you to hear is how she goes from the pulpit to the senate - to politics. Now what you'll find is this - she didn't move from one to the other she's still doing both so I'm excited to welcome Kim Jackson. 

I have with me Senator for Georgia State Senate District 41, pastor, criminal justice reformer, you've done it all. I don't even think we can do one vocation on you. Thank you for being here on the Sound Genuine. How are you doing?

Kim: I'm doing well and Patrick it’s so good to be here. 

Patrick: I know where you are, I know what you do. I know what you're about in the world, but take us back to the beginning. When did you first kind of experience a sense of call? Where'd you grow up? Who were influencers in your life? Take us back to the beginning.

Kim: Yeah, well, taking you back to the beginning takes me back to Cowpens, South Carolina. It's a small rural, one stoplight - literally one stoplight - town, in kind of the Appalachian foothills of South Carolina. Where I grew up I tell people, I was one of those kids that was in church every time the doors were open.

And sometimes my parents opened the doors of the church for me to get inside cause they did a lot of the Saturday programming for youth and for kids. I grew up in a really traditional, kind of Christian traditional Black family in that gospel music was the heartbeat of and the rhythm of our lives.

To this day, I cannot hear gospel music and not think about home. That is the sound of home for me. And I grew up with my grandparents just down the street. I could walk to their house and they could, they could walk to us. And so my grandfather, I often name as being one of the greatest influencers in my life, mainly because I got to spend a lot of time with him playing the piano.

My grandfather, my entire childhood had Alzheimer's. I don't remember him ever remembering my name. Like he didn't know who I was. But he knew that that was a safe place to be. And so he would come to our house and I would make him, what I now know is really bad coffee, and he would drink that kind of instant coffee that I made for him and then he would go and sit in the living room and I would sit on the piano bench and play the piano for him for hours. And I would just play gospel songs. And again, he didn't remember my name. He didn't even know his own daughter's name, right. So my mom, his daughter, he didn't know her name. But he knew all of the words to those songs.

They were just somewhere, despite all the atrophy that was happening in his brain, those words, those sacred hymns were locked somewhere else inside of his heart. And I just remember being this kid and being mesmerized by that and being really clear that that's the kind of faith that I want to have.

You know, God forbid if my brain kind of gets eaten up by that disease, I want people to still say, but she knew God well enough that all the other things kind of fell away. Everything else was stripped away, but she never forgot those sacred hymns. She never forgot the love of God that, you know, shows up in that music.

And so, I really just hold him as really the first person, I think, who truly showed me what it is to love God and to love God deeply and unconditionally. 

Patrick: I mean, how do you have, as a human young person, the kind of presence, the pastoral spirit to sit down and play piano with your grandfather like that and having that experience for hours on end. Where's that spirit of love come from?

Kim: I knew I just wanted to spend time with him and I knew that was one of the ways that I could do it. I could ask him to tell stories and he would do that, but because of Alzheimer's and the way that it affected his brain, those stories became really repetitive in a way that, I think, made me just feel sad about where he was in terms of the course of that disease, but with playing the piano that wasn't there.

And I'll tell you, Patrick, like I didn't have a huge repertoire. I probably only had maybe 12 songs, but he didn't mind. We just kind of go through them all and just kept going back around them. And it was mainly because I wanted to, I wanted to be around him. I wanted to know him despite his inability to really express who he was because of that disease, right.

My mom is a nurse, she just recently retired, but in my youngest eight years, she was a community health nurse for children living with sickle cell disease. And so I traveled with her throughout rural South Carolina. And I'm talking about like rural, rural - people have outhouses, South Carolina, to go and visit these kids who were living with sickle cell disease. And I watched her nurse them, but more than just nurse them, right, I watched her be kind, be compassionate. I watched her really fight and advocate and these kids were living in great poverty and living with a really difficult and painful disease.

And she just loved on them and tried to make sure they had the resources that they needed. And so, you know as a seven year old, I'm out in these peach fields with my mama watching her, watching her love people. People who ain't kin to us, right? People who were strangers to me and strangers to her when we began, but who became family by the end of that meeting.

And so I think I had that model with her. And my dad was a social worker and I would see these moments where we would be in the grocery store and some random child would come run up and hug my dad really tight. And I'd be like, why is this kid on my dad? And inevitably it was some child that he had helped, you know, get into a safe place, into a safe home.

So, you know, I had these parents and my grandfather around me who just, I think, really showed me what it was to be kind and compassionate and to be loving towards other people - people who aren't even related to you. And, you know, my parents asked me, they're like, I don't know how you became such a nice person.

They don't think of themselves as necessarily that nice of people, but I'm like, no, I watched you! You all taught that, you taught me that, and showed me how to live my life in a way that was pastoral, in a way that was compassionate and loving. 

Patrick: That's so inspiring. And I'm curious as you have these experiences going out into the rural countryside, what was stirring for you in your imagination about what you wanted to be when you grew up, what'd you want to do? And also what were your parents hoping for you? What did they, out of a one stoplight town, what is it that they had hoped for you as well?

Kim: Yeah, that's a really great question. I feel like I need to go and ask my parents cause I'm not sure. I was a journaler, a kind of a chronic journaler as a kid. And so I have my third grade journals, eight years old, where I wrote about what I wanted to be when I grew up. And I said, very clearly, I wanted to be a preacher.

I wanted to also be a recycler because recycling had just come to my hometown and I was fascinated with it. And I wanted to be somebody who had some real impact on children's lives, right. I had that kind of clear sense. In my little journal it says My Deam, D E A M when I grew up is that I want to be a preacher, recycler and a teacher.

I remember going to my pastor in that same time period and telling him when I grew up, I want to be a…I'm want to be a pastor. But I didn't say to him, when I grow up, I said to him, I want to be a preacher. He said to me, girls can't do that. And I responded, well, of course not, not while I'm a girl, but when I become a woman, I want to become a preacher.

And he then explained to me even then that in that tradition, particularly women couldn't do that. And so I believed him. I mean, I was eight, he was my pastor. Of course I believe that he was... that he was right about that. And so I kind of turned my energy towards wanting to be a teacher and wanting to be really what ultimately became an environmentalist, right?

Somebody who cared about the earth. I think my parents supported that desire for me to be a teacher certainly. Both of my parents were college graduates, first generation college graduates. And my mom taught nursing by the time I was in middle school and high school. And so her general sentiment was just make sure you go get a four-year degree.

I don't care what you do. You just have to go to college. And that was kind of the baseline. I'm going to have to call my parents and ask them. That's a great question, Patrick. I don't know what they expected me to become, but you know, here I am. I think they're okay with what happened. 

Patrick: So what did you pursue? So you leave town, I'm assuming after high school, go off to college, do you go to study environmental sciences? Like, is that, is that what you were pursuing? 

Kim: I go to college to become a teacher. that really was my goal. Like I enrolled in Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina, with intentions of someday being a teacher. And while I was there in the course of my freshman year of college, my chaplain came to me and said, I think you have the gift for ministry.

And I told him very boldly, that's not possible I'm a girl. And I'll never forget this, he says, I think I can show you better than I can tell you. And so he arranged for me to get in his car and we drove around Greenville, South Carolina, and he introduced me to women who were pastors. He introduced me to white women who were United Methodist pastors, and it was a lot of white women at first,  and then finally I said, I think I need to see somebody who looks like me. 

And so he introduced me to this woman. I don't know how old she was, but in my like 18 year old mind, she had to have been like 95 years old. She was an old black woman. And I just remember staring at her. And in retrospect, I think that I might've even been rude in that I didn't have words because looking at her was like seeing a miracle. It was seeing something that I did not believe was possible, right? 

I think that was just such a pivotal moment in my own life seeing this black woman who was a Baptist pastor, had been pastoring a church for many, many years and realizing that this calling that I had had when I was eight years old, and that was a clear calling, that that was real and authentic and was possible for me in the future. I'd kind of turned my life around in college at that point and began to really think about, okay, how do I make this work? I can't do it in my own home tradition. And that was clear. but I do feel like I need to follow this call. 

Patrick: And so what do you do with that now that you've seen it? I think of what a great moment that a mentor has is not trying to explain it which so many mentors try to do, like, let me tell you why this is the right call for you, but that showing. Now that you have an imagination around, oh, this could be me, what do you do with that new sense of this could be my call?

[00:10:49] Kim: I mean, it was scary. I remember shedding actually quite a bit of tears. I wasn't sure how to tell my parents. I mean, I felt like this is ironic now, but I felt like I was coming out to them as a person who was going to be a preacher. they were members of a church, right, that did not condone that, that would not allow for women to be pastors. And so I had a lot of anxiety about it. But I was in a context at college where people kept affirming that call for me over and over again. I, you know, went through these programs, these discernment programs that were sponsored by my college.

And every time I went on a retreat, like it was affirmed once again, that I had these gifts for ministry. So I couldn't deny it, but I was really afraid of it. And also really unclear about what does the future look like for me as a black woman who, feels I need to answer this call to ministry, but I'm not sure there's a context for me to do it.

I will say there was, there's another piece of this that happened in my freshman year, that was also really helpful in that my college chaplain introduced me to black pastors who were doing community organizing in Greenville. The very first rally that I ever went to as a freshman in college was organized by faith leaders.

I mean, we marched down downtown Greenville, South Carolina, with Jesse Jackson, calling for, Martin Luther king day to be, acknowledged. And so I was introduced also to this different kind of pastoring that had a social justice bent, right? Like I went with pastors to the county council meeting and watch them make public comments.

And, so this social justice piece was being formed inside of me at the same time. And really I think those two things wed together in a way that felt right to me. And it was just a matter of figuring out how to do it. I got clear, I feel like I'm called to do it, but like how do I enact it?

Going to seminary, of course for me, was that first step in figuring out how to start walking in that path towards answering who I feel truly called to be.

Patrick: So help me and I guess help our listener too. As you come to this, this is your call and you need to figure out this how, how do you decide on - let me just say - which seminary, given your denominational background, given this new awakening, how do you find the place that's going to help you answer that question of how?

Kim: I wish I had like some profound answer to that but I don't. I knew that there was a school called Candler School of Theology because a mentor went there and I went to visit. They gave me a lot of money, I mean, they gave me a full scholarship. A lot of students who were in my college went to Duke as the alternative.

And so I visited Duke too but the same year that I was visiting Duke, they had the Duke lacrosse scandal in which the lacrosse team was accused of sexually assaulting black women. And so that did not feel safe to me as a black woman to go there. And so that left Candler, and Candler was great in many ways for me, because I also did not know this, but at that point I was really yearning to be in an environment where I was surrounded by people who looked like me.

I mean at the time I was at Furman, it was 5% of us were people of color and then I showed up at Candler and it's like 35%. And so that was also just super influential in my decision making. And Candler turned out really well. I'm really grateful for that experience because it was the right place for me to really begin to explore both ministry, but particularly the kind of ministry that I feel strongly called to which is one of ministry in the public square and how to do social justice and how to be engaged as a pastor in issues of social justice. 

Patrick: As you're doing that work, social justice, thinking about your dominational home, really turning this call into work, thinking about ‘I'm going to do this for a living,’ how do you negotiate knowing what denomination you ended up in, how do you negotiate that sort of traveling from Baptist to Episcopalian? That's not a short journey.

Kim: It's not, it's not a short journey. And this is where I feel like God was just,..God was so clearly present in it. So I needed a new denominational home because I was a woman, at the same time I also was coming out as a lesbian. And so that limited my options of church denominations at that time, that would ordain me.

And I really had three choices. I had the Episcopal Church, the Presbyterian Church and the United Church of Christ. The Lutherans may be sorta kinda, but it was mainly those three were my options in terms of a place, a denominational home, that would receive me and welcome me as my full self.

And so I just started visiting those churches and I will say, you know, the first time I walked into an Episcopal church, I was greeted in the parking lot by a lesbian couple that were holding hands. I'd never seen that in my life, like lesbians outwardly holding hands in a church parking lot. I mean, if that had happened at my hometown.

People would have, I mean, they might've gotten stoned. I don't know. It just like... so, I mean, that was, that was really important that I saw that just on the outside. And then I walked in and it was completely foreign to me. Patrick, I'm not sure that I had ever seen like people in robes and all the smells and the bells that come with the Episcopal tradition.

I'm pretty sure I'd never seen that before. And I'm definitely sure that I had never seen people read all of their service. The concept of an entire liturgy being written down in a book was completely foreign to my Baptist self. 

And so all of that was completely foreign, right. None of that really resonated with me. But then there was this moment where it was time to celebrate communion. And I watched this old white guy who looked like Santa Claus, you know, standing up with all these robes on and all these smells and bells, and he starts chanting that communion. And it was as if…it was as if it was the thousandth, hundred thousandth time that I'd heard it. It was so familiar in this deep, spiritual way that I still struggle to put words around. And I knew in that moment that, I don't know a whole lot about this Episcopal church thing, but this communion thing, I get and the way in which they're doing communion, I get it and I want to do it.

And then when I learned that they do it every Sunday I was sold! I didn't go to any other churches to visit. I did find me a black Episcopal church, like that was very, very important because I needed to hear some music that I liked. I didn't explore any other churches at that point because that communion, that moment of Eucharist was just so, so right in a space that was so foreign.

And I think that's what really stuck out to me, right? Like nothing else really fit except for that moment of lifting up those elements of hearing him chant of seeing us and receiving of that bread and that wine. 

Patrick: That's so powerful as I hear you saying this, especially around the communion piece, I think about so many of the young adults who we work with who are trying to find a home for lack of better word. That they want to feel like they can experience themselves, see themselves, you know in the mirror and yet that transition from searching as a congregant, to leading the church, to instead of experiencing the service to leading the service that you have to read. Tell me a little bit about that transition from ‘I'm here, I think I found this is going to be my call.’ What is it like to transition into leadership in a church like the Episcopal church that you were serving at? 

Kim: It was actually not as easy as I had hoped. I knew that nationally, in this kind of big picture world, Episcopalians were ordaining out queer people. And in fact, they had recently, when I was going through the process, ordained the first out LGBTQ Bishop in Gene Robinson.

I have this kind of national view of the Episcopal Church as being a welcoming place. But then when it came to this local view, the local place of me being in Atlanta and saying, hi, I'm Kim Jackson and I'm this queer, you know, lesbian - at the time I had like, a big Afro, like I was black and proud.

I'm still black and proud, right. And I'm showing up at this very pretty white church. And I learned pretty quickly that in theory the Episcopal Church was all cool with people being gay, but in practice, there were still some things that have to work out. The way you get ordained in the Episcopal Church is you have that go through like a discernment committee in your church.

And I remember somebody in my discernment committee in my church, asking me what kind of priest did I want to be? What did I want to do? And I was like, I hope that I can be a college chaplain or, you know, work in a school as a chaplain, because I also want to coach basketball, girls basketball.

And he said to me very seriously, he was like, how are you going to be able to be around children when you're a lesbian? And I was just so shocked and hurt, and it was like, this is happening in the Episcopal Church, right? That's when I finally realized that the Episcopal Church locally was different.

And there was a psychologist who was in that, in that group with us and she, you know, very kindly corrected him and explained the difference between being a lesbian and being a pedophile. So it all worked out but it wasn't an easy, it wasn't a smooth transition, it was hard. And I wasn't always sure that there would be a church that would welcome me as an out queer person because we are still in the south.

But I did end up being a college chaplain. My very first call was to serve at the Atlanta University Center. And I got to spend such great time mentoring young people and also growing up myself. You know, I was 25 years old when I began serving as a pastor and chaplain at the AUC center.

I was, I always tell the students y'all are like my little brothers and sisters, cause you're only two or three years younger than me. It was helpful because it was a space where I really got to design the ministry for myself. 

And I didn't have to worry about was the church going to actually accept me? Like they gave me my own church basically to make for myself. And I think that was really important to really establish for myself, like what kind of priest that I wanted to be, who I was, without having to really be under the thumb of anybody else and try to conform with anybody else's expectations. 

Patrick: And so as you do this work as a campus chaplain, so things are starting to check boxes. what is kind of stirring in your imagination about what's next? Because you don't stay at campus chaplain and we know that. What is stirring in the 25 year old mind that's moving forward?

Kim: Yeah. So the twenty-five year old mind, it was always thinking about how do I make positive change in the world in the public square? You know, I come through this kind of social justice-oriented process in seminary, you know, I'd been exposed to it in college. And so, right out the gate, I'm thinking, I want to make sure that I'm engaged in the public square and I want to have my students there, right?

So, I mean I took my students to rallies and marches. You know, we went to pride parade cause I'm just like, y'all need to see this link. Like, this is a part of what it means to be alive in this world. And so I was always trying to just figure out a pathway to making sure that I was speaking publicly as a person of faith about what I believe God calls us to do when it comes to governing one another. Because fundamentally for me, the Christian faith is all about how do we, how do we love one another? How do we care for our neighbor and how we care for our neighbor in this country is through government right? It's state government.

We make policies about how to care for one another as neighbor. I think that was always kind of my trajectory is figuring that out, that pathway. And I did know, I mean I've known Patrick, since I was 13 years old that I wanted to run for office. This is not a new thing. It was more of a how do you do this thing? And a when, kind of thing. 

Opportunities kind of kept showing up and I feel like I just kept walking through open doors. I don't know that I ever created one of those doors. I don't remember ever even like asking for those doors. I just kept walking through the open doors and found myself in spaces where I got to speak at the Capitol and advocate for different laws to be passed. 

I spent a lot of time really fighting against the death penalty as a person of faith. I don't know, it just kind of seems inevitable in many ways for my road to kind of lead to this place where I get to be both a pastor and serving in elected office. 

Patrick: So you're going to have to tell me, I'm thinking of that discernment in the Episcopal Church, where you're sitting with your committee, it's not just a smooth ride, you know, you're not on the escalator to leadership. I am wondering about this call to public service. So as someone who has been called to ministry and ministry in a particular way now, what was that like to run for office, to discern like this is the time? This is the time, in this district, at this moment I need to run for office. Who's around you helping to discern that call? How are you doing that work to make that shift?

Kim: So first and foremost, my wife was right there beside me. And she tells me, I don't actually remember this, but she says that on my second date with her, our second date, I let her know that, you know, hey heads up, I'm going to be a pastor, which she knew that cause I was in seminary, but I'm also going to be an elected official.

I told her that on the second date and she never forgot that. I spent, you know, many, many years - eight years, not really actively pursuing that goal necessarily, but she always knew. And so when I found out that the Senate seat where I live was going to be an open seat, I came home and I just said to her, you know, the seats open, what do you think?

And she immediately said do it now. And I was very hesitant. My whole thing was I imagined running for office when I was like, older. I would say old, but I'm going to be nice - older. You know, I was imagining like running for office when I was like, in my fifties. And here I was, I had just turned 35 and here's the opportunity.

And my wife was just really clear, like, you're ready, you've done the work. I mean, I’d taken all these training classes. Really I was taking the training classes because I wanted to work on other people's campaigns. That's what I told myself, but I'd taken all these training classes so that I was prepared to run for a candidate.

She was a hundred percent behind me. I had some other, really close clergy friends that I called and asked like, ‘how do you think this will go over with the Bishop?’ I mean, I do report to a Bishop, I made promises to obey him. And does this sound consistent with who I am? Does the idea of me serving in the state Senate, what you know of me does that sound consistent? And so I had this clergy, close, close, clergy friends who early on were a hundred percent behind me and said yes. They even wrote the seed money checks. I mean, that's how much they were behind me. 

And then my family, I will say, you know, Patrick, I spent 10 years of my adult life  fairly estranged from my family when I came out as a queer person. So I came out to them as somebody who was going to become a pastor and that was touchy, but it went over okay. But then when I turned around and came out as a queer person, my parents just…they theologically couldn't handle that. And we became fairly estranged for 10 years and I had all these aunts and uncles that had been a part of my life that I also just no longer really talked to.

But when I decided to run for office I needed money. And that's the reality of how you run for office. And so in one day I sat down and I called 20 of my aunts and uncles back-to-back to back-to-back, every single one of them contributed to my campaign immediately without hesitation. And then after I had called all my mom and dad's sisters and brothers, I called them and I was just like, this is what I'm doing.

And my dad said, oh, that's not surprising, what do you need? And they wrote me a check and it's been so amazing having my family after 10 years of real absence especially, having them stand up and really support me early on in the campaign and the whole way through - through all of my trials, all of my doubts about like, am I really able to do this? My parents, my aunts and uncles, my cousins, they've all been in my corner too. And that's been probably one of the greatest gifts that I've received throughout this whole process. 

Patrick: With that support, what does ministry look like now that you're doing the job? What does that look like on a day-to-day level? What is it that you wake up thinking about? What are the challenges you're taking on? Where are the hopes and dreams you have maybe the surprises of this new role in office? Yeah. Tell us about what this vocation is.

Kim: Well, so I get to do two vocations at the same time, right? So I still serve as the senior pastor, the head pastor, Vicar at the Church of the Common Ground, which is a congregation of people who are experiencing homelessness. My people, my parishioners sleep on the ground across the street from the capitol.

I serve and I do morning prayer with them in the morning and then I walk across the street into the Capitol. And I carry their stories with me, of course, right. I carry a real sense of we need to make some positive change here so that folks can get off the street. And part of my whole work around criminal justice reform, a lot of that is informed by my parishioners and their experiences in the criminal justice system. It's also informed by my own brother's experience in the criminal justice system, right. But I think whenever I'm in the Capitol, I'm just always mindful that I'm not there to just represent Kim Jackson, but that I'm there to represent the people of Georgia, in particular the people of Georgia that my colleagues aren't thinking about.

And so those folks are the people who sleep outside, they're people who are locked up, they're people who live in my district who have been refugees, who've come from all over the world. If there has been a war in some other part of the world, there's somebody living in my district today who came from that place.

And so I'm always thinking about them and trying to figure out how do we best care for them and love them? I think the other complicated part of this vocation is figuring out like, so we have this thing called separation of church and state. That is a thing and it's important. It's important to our democracy. And so I'm also always trying to think through like, how do I do this work in a way that's very principled, it's deeply rooted in my faith and that it doesn't cross that line of separation between church and state. Actually I’m clear, I think a lot more about that than my Republican colleagues do.

They don't seem as concerned about mixing those two things together. But I give it a lot of thought and every time I stand up in the well to speak, I'm always trying to remember, like, this is not a pulpit, it's different, but it feels amazingly the same. Because it feels, just as powerful, just as holy. You know, I tell people I've been preaching for 10 years and still every time I stand up to preach my hands get sweaty.

And it's because I recognize the enormity of the moment, right? Like what a gift and an honor, it is to be able to stand in front of a congregation and proclaim a word of God. And I have that same sweaty palms, that same kind of fear when I step into the well because what an honor it is to be able to speak on behalf of all of the Georgians and to call us to our better selves, to be a better country, a better state, a better place for all of God's people. So, it's a really interesting mix because I have those same feelings, but I'm also very clear I have to be mindful of the separation of church and state.

Patrick: And how much of your vocation as you're living into this, in the sweaty palm moments, how much is driven by your own sense of vocation? This is who I am, this is what I'm called to do, and how much is it driven by community? The community you serve the church you pastor, your community back home with a single stoplight. How much is driven by Kim Jackson, how much is driven by the community?

Kim: That's a hard question. I will say that there've been two outstanding moments in my vocational journey. When I first got ordained as a priest and the first time that I celebrated communion, my parents were there and I got to place bread in the palm of my dad's hand and everything was right in that moment. Like if I had had any doubts about whether or not I was called to be a priest or not, in that exact moment of placing that bread in his hand, that all passed away. I mean, I knew with great clarity this is right, this is where I'm called to be. The second moment of great clarity was when I stood up to be sworn in and I was actually wearing a stole from the Reverend Pauli Murray who was the first black, Episcopal woman priest ever ordained in the Episcopal Church. She's an incredible legal mind. I mean, Pauli Murray is all things amazing. But I stood up and I was sworn in wearing her stole. 

And as I made that commitment to honor and to uphold the constitution of the United States and of Georgia once again, I had that moment of rightness, of this is exactly where I'm supposed to be and what I'm supposed to do. And I may not even fully know how to do this job, but I know that I'm in the right place, doing exactly what I'm supposed to do. And really clear that that great cloud of witnesses. I mean, on that, day that I was sworn in, I was like, oh, my grandparents are so here.

They are here in that great cloud of witnesses. Pauli Murray is watching over me in this and I've just known that it was right. So some of that's Kim Jackson, I would actually say that's God, right? But then I do have this community that compels me and calls me.

I mean, I love my people - when I talk about my people, I'm talking about black people, I'm talking about people who are experiencing homelessness, who I get to serve. I'm talking about my district and the people who live here. Like I love them. They need a voice that's willing to stand up and fight for them and they deserve a voice that's willing to stand up and say, listen Georgia, we got to do better. We have 500,000 people who need access to healthcare and we can give it to them if we simply expand Medicaid. People need that. And so I definitely hear that cry from the community and it's my love of the community that compels me to try to be that responsible voice that stands up and advocates for them. 

Patrick: Kim, thank you so much for sharing your story, from the street lamp, all the way to the Georgia State Senate floor. I mean, I'm just so grateful for you and it's so inspiring. And you know, part of the intent of the Sound of the Genuine was to give people the experience of seeing folks that look like them, that sound like them, that are from communities that care like them. You're inspiring the next generation so they can see in themselves not just Pauli Murray but Kim Jackson and see their vision, so thank you for leading. I'm completely overwhelmed and inspired by your story. So thank you for joining us. This has been a gift and an honor.

Kim: Well thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to share this story. Also honestly, for all the ways that FTE has shown up in my life. I mean, I met FTE when I was in seminary and you all have kind of stuck by me and walked through all of my different twists and turns vocationally and I'm just extraordinarily grateful. It's the friends and the mentors on the path who have really helped me get this far and FTE, that family, has been a part of that journey for me. 

Patrick: I'm so grateful. Thanks Kim. 

Thank you again for listening to the Sound of the Genuine and Reverend Kim Jackson's story. You can find these stories and many more, not just at our website @fteleaders.org but also on our new emerging online platform. Courses are coming to you to help chart, map, and be inspired on your path to ministry. You can find out more at fteleaders.org. I just want to say thank you as always to the FTE team, Elsie Barnhart, Heather Wallace, Diva Morgan Hicks and @siryalibeats for his music and the rest of the FTE crew. Like and share this podcast with a friend and we'll see you next time on Sound of the Genuine.