maxresdefaultMy older brother was the first to play high school football, so we four younger brothers idolized him.

I remember packing into the family station wagon and driving to his night games. I couldn’t wait to get there. It was all so exciting – the smell of hotdogs and cotton candy rising from the snack bar, the band playing rally songs, and the roar of the crowd when a big play was made.

As young boys entering our teen years, we were pretty fascinated by the cheerleaders too. One cheer in particular stuck with us.

My High School Cheer

Screen Shot 2017-07-11 at 9.57.44 AMOur local high school didn’t have a cool name like the Gators or the Trojans. We were the “Pointers,” which, as I understand it, is a type of hunting dog bred in Germany. I suppose it was a fitting mascot for a high school in Point Loma. At least some founder must have felt compelled to riff on the word “point.”

Nevertheless, we loved Pointer, our cheerleading dog, and we loved to cheer:

We are the Pointers,
the mighty, mighty Pointers
Everywhere we go, people want to know
Who we are, where we’re going
So we tell them
“We are the Pointers,
the mighty, mighty Pointers.”

The fun thing was that we applied the cheer to our family. We took pride in being “the Cramers,” so we would substitute our family name for the name of the team. “We are the Cramers, the mighty, mighty Cramers. Everywhere we go…” Well, you get the idea. We would sing it ad nauseam until nobody could stand to sing it any more, much less listen to it.

The funny thing about this cheer is that we loved it so much. Yet, it was inspiring to be distinct, to know who we were and where we were going.

Screen Shot 2017-07-11 at 8.52.25 AMAt our Gathering in May, Rodger Nishioka (videos) encouraged us to cheer for our presbytery. Noting that our theme song (our Vision Statement) begins with the phrase, “to be a community of flourishing congregations,” he led us in a shout out that rocked the rafters of Community Church, La Mirada. He taught us that for a community to flourish, it involves celebrating what makes it distinct.

Rodger’s Epiphany

The epiphany came to him when he was invited to be part of an interfaith panel on youth spirituality at the White House. In his mind, he was doing fine on the panel, but he had an enlightening encounter at the break. One of the imams came up to him and said, “Excuse me, doctor, you are a Christian, are you not?” And Rodger said, “Well, yes?”

And the imam said, “Then why do you not speak like a Christian? You are speaking like you do not believe anything. This is an interfaith panel. I’m trying to have a conversation with you as a Muslim cleric to a Christian cleric. It is very hard to have a conversation with someone who is not talking. Be a Christian, so we can talk.” He turned around and walked away.

Rodger’s friends said to him later, “You know, Rodger, were you feeling okay? Because the first part of the morning you were kind of lame. We were like, ‘Why isn’t Rodger saying anything?’ And then after the break, you were back on it. You were talking about what it means to be a follower of Jesus and how that is crucial for faith formation for adolescents in the United States, and what it means to the common good.”

Screen Shot 2017-07-11 at 10.25.20 AMRodger says, “It took a Muslim cleric to remind me to speak like a follower of Jesus Christ, because he wanted to engage me in a conversation. It was the word of the Lord to me.”

What will make us distinct? What will make Los Ranchos raise its voices in song? What will make others shout out, “Everywhere they go, people want to know!”

Rodger might say, “It’s a discovery that you make together. It becomes contagious. And it leads to a cheer, probably more than one.”

A Second Cheer

When my parents were asked what they hoped their children would do when they grew up, they would say, “We just want our children to be lovers and givers.” It was a simple statement really, but it too caught on with our family, “to be lovers and givers.” The verse informs us still.

DAtt6C8XoAUMH8lAt the Gathering with Rodger, the Generative Catalyst Team led us in a second cheer, “We are Los Ranchos!” Everyone took selfies to commemorate the moment.

In the photos, you can see who we are and whom we are becoming. In this face, there’s joy, in that one, hope. In still another, there’s redemption. It’s a chorus of praise.

We’d like the campaign to go viral, for us to hear the roar of the crowd. What about us do you celebrate? Send photos here

Even now, the Council is composing “a cheer,” which I’ll share in the coming months.

From the cheerleaders in Point Loma to Rodger at Presbytery, I have learned an important lesson.

True community is community that sings.