by Jamilyn Cole | photos courtesy of Lindsay Butler
(Caption, photo above: Butler with Terry, the homeless man who she took in off the side of the road on Thanksgiving Day in 2005. Butler describes her relationship with him as inspiring and the greatest gift she’s ever received. Terry died in 2010. His was the first funeral where she was the officiate.)
Name you go by: Butler
B.A. in Christian Ministries and Theatre, Bethel College,
McKenzie Masters of Divinity, Memphis Theological Seminary
Clinical Pastoral Education certified (for Chaplaincy)
Current City: Memphis
I desperately want to offer the hospitality I did not receive (from my family and my church),
but from God and my “chosen” family to all I encounter everywhere I go. For those of
you wrestling with your faith know that to doubt can be divine. Know that your spirituality
is unique to you and not to what others tell you to believe.
I’ve known you for a couple of years through my finance but I wanted a chance to introduce you to Focus readers! Let’s start with something fun. What’s your favorite part about officiating weddings?
Just having the opportunity to share that divine milestone with people. I try to find ways to bring laughter to the ceremony as well.
You’ve been involved with homeless ministries here in Memphis since 2009, how did you first get involved in working with those experiencing homeless?
Honest answer? It started with feeling compelled to pick up a homeless man named Terry on the side of the road on Thanksgiving Day 2005. I was in the midst of a radical shift in my theology, beginning to embrace more of the “doing the gospel” rather than simply “believing it.” I realized spirituality is more about transforming the world than “saving souls.” Terry became a huge inspiration to me and the reason why I do the ministry I do today with the homeless, and as a chaplain.
He passed away in Feb of 2010 and his funeral was my first to officiate. Knowing him was one of the greatest gifts I have ever received.
How can we as Memphians better support those experiencing homelessness?
Get to know them. We as humans must realize that we belong to each other. There is no “us” and “them” and where there is, we should work to resist that. I highly suggest Manna House and Room in the Inn ministries because they are Interfaith oriented and offer hospitality, which looks a lot different than charity.
Hospitality requires knowing their names, their stories, and having a friendship with those on the streets. Hospitality transforms both persons in the encounter.
You recently graduated the Chaplain in Residence this past September at the Veterans Hospital. Can you walk us through a typical day (even though I know there is no typical day at a hospital)?
I listen more than I do anything. I listen and help facilitate storytelling through the lives of the veterans that I encounter. I find ways to relate to them with the open arms of radical hospitality.
I do not preach to them or proselytize. I love them through the ministry of inclusive presence. I visit patients in their rooms, lead worship services in the chapel, and teach spirituality classes where we compare religion to spirituality and ask hard uncomfortable questions that typically are not well received in most church settings.
What’s your favorite saying that relates to your faith and work?
“Preach the gospel always, when necessary use words.” – St. Francis
With Angie, Butler’s spiritual mentor in college who she credits with giving her the theological shift in college that inspired her to “do something as crazy as picking up a homeless man off the side of the road.”
What brought you to this point in your life?
Experiencing the lack of hospitality from my family and church due to my sexual orientation. I desperately want to offer the hospitality I did not receive there, but from God and my “chosen” family to all I encounter everywhere I go.
What’s coming up for you in the near future (job, volunteer gig, etc.)?
I started a personal sabbatical upon completing my chaplain residency this past September. I plan to apply for chaplain jobs anywhere after I experience for a few months not being a student for the first time in my life. I am ecstatic about coming home after work to not write a paper, but instead take my dogs to the park, play disc golf, have a social life, and read books I want to read. I have recently returned to the food industry while I am on sabbatical picking up sous chef shifts at CFY Catering and Imagine Vegan Café. I hope to sing and play guitar at the Café on an Open Mic night sometime this year and possibly start up a spiritual podcast of some sort with Imagine’s owner Adam Jeffries. I believe it will be called, “The Misfits Podcast.” In my time off, I hope to spend time with my wife (surprise we got married) and friends on the streets of Memphis.
Anything else you would like to share?
For those of you wrestling with your faith know that to doubt can be divine. Know that your spirituality is unique to you and not to what others tell you to believe. Explore your spirituality before you give up on it all together because we need passionate people just like you to help transform the world for the better.