For People with bishop Rob Wright

Divine Diversity with The Rev. Laura Masteron

For People
For People
Divine Diversity with The Rev. Laura Masteron

About the episode

This July, we are featuring special guests from across The Diocese of Atlanta. Our first guest is The Rev. Laura Masterson, Priest in Charge at St. Mary and Martha in Buford, Ga.

Kids see our world differently. They don’t tolerate simply tolerate others; they accept others. They tap into the divine diversity of God.

In this episode, Melissa and Laura have a conversation about diversity in our world, where kids hit the mark that adults might miss, and how we move towards embracing God’s diversity in the world. Listen in for the full conversation.

Before listening, read For Faith.

Laura began her ministry at St. Mary and St. Martha in August of 2021. Having experience in education in her past vocation, she recognizes the value of every interaction in community. Laura has a passion for mobilizing the body of Christ. Laura emphasizes the need for formation and energy of the laity and has a heart for care and mission…and belly laughing.


Keywords: God, diversity, listeners, Jesus, divine, icon, Rev. Laura Masteron, remember

How can I really be myself when there’s so much propensity to put on airs, especially in this urban and suburban cultures alike? I think that’s the rub of it. To say that we are never fearful as wrong. If we didn’t have fear, we’d be dead. But how can we put it in its box in order to be genuine, to be authentic, to not give it lip service? That’s divine diversity.

Easton: This is For People with Bishop Rob Wright.

Melissa: Welcome to For People with Bishop Rob Wright. I’m your host Melissa Rau and today Bishop Wright is off. And we have Laura Masterson in as guest speaker, guest devotionist. Laura, who are you? 

Laura: Just a small question. 

Melissa: Yeah, who are you? 

Laura: Well, I don’t know. I originally am from New England. I grew up in a family that worked hard, had good manners. I tried to undo all of that with my pink dirt bike, of course. In my attempts to unattach from the stigmas of being a principals kid, a couple of times over by both my parents, let’s see my Greed Orthodox family was pretty stereotypical. All that from My Big Fat Greek Wedding is true, mostly except for the Windex part, that’s the part that I don’t understand. 

Melissa: So, what’s your role in Atlanta? 

Laura: My role in Atlanta is I’m a priest in charge at St. Mary and St. Martha in Buford. And I’m there to just sort of do what we’re all doing, actually. We’re all actually doing this, but particularly growing and healing at the same time.

Melissa: Tell me as a priest in charge with a church going through some stuff, what really jumps out at you about this?

Laura: Well, I think that the kid thing is just to say that, you know, kids are on to something, right? You were right and I agree, birthday girl. Every person, every kid is awesome. And I think we just get layers piled on top of ourselves as we age, but that anybody really could say that this is a generational thing. The youth are more progressive and open-minded. Think about it this way, two generations ago, was a century ago. And there’s constant change, right? It’s from 100 years ago. And we just adapt as humans. But younger people being on the globe, less time, It’s just their norm. They don’t consider it change. They don’t need to come to grips with changing ingrained viewpoints. And by engrained I don’t mean built in by God. I mean, drilled in culture. I think that’s what is so good about coming around kids. 

You know, in church we talk all the time about how can we do something intergenerational? And I just have been thinking a lot lately. Like, what if we’re just being with, what if we were just together doing Sunday school or doing some such other thing where we’re actually the intent is different? We are coming alongside the kids to remember who we all are, rather than us pouring stuff into them. 

Melissa: Yeah, I love that. Remember. That’s the loaded term, for sure. Well, you also say this, I really love this. Jesus even mocks those who proclaim that they are “right”. Tell me where that statement came from? 

Laura: Yeah. Well, you know, it’s so weird. I’m actually on vacation now. And we’re driving in the car for several hours. And my niece who is just about to turn 18. First of all, she said she was reading a Kurt Vonnegut novel, like, wow. 

Melissa: Nice. 

Laura: I was not doing that when I was 18. But she’s talking about this book, The Sirens of Titan. And how it’s about he says to people can be right about every single thing they say. And yet they don’t agree on anything because the universe is so vast that two people conceive of different ideas and judge accordingly without ever coinciding with another thought quite the same. It’s about our iteration as human, all of the iterations on being made in the image of God. And I think this text, you know, that I wrote about, does reflect that. 

Melissa: Wow. So, my head just went like this. Kind of blew up. What does it mean to be made in the image of God. And made in the likeness of God. Does God just have one image? What is God’s image? 

Laura: Exactly. Image, infinite image. That’s kind of what I was trying to say. Human diversity is limited by what we can put words around. That’s a made-up thing. Everything is divine diversity. But we don’t know all the types or the facets of divine expression because we’re creatures, we are not the creator. And I think our Jewish brothers and sisters get that better, you know, that we just can’t possibly know. So, let’s tell it in story. Let’s tell it an allegory. Let’s tell it in metaphor, is like, is like, such as. That’s what I think. 

Melissa: I love that so much. You know, diversity of thought, diversity of expression, diversity of everything. And yet, I think so many people, maybe it’s a sign that we are creating God in our own image when we try to put people and keep people as this uniformed like sameness because that just happens to be what we are most comfortable with. 

Laura: Exactly. It’s easier. And it’s less scary. You know, I think, our human condition, also, let’s give ourselves some respect here. We want to be able to figure things out, we want to be able to know, and that works for our betterment in a lot of situations. But here in this text, you know, here’s Jesus’s clear expression of faith versus John’s. John is speaking prophetically. I always think this, one crying out in the wilderness should conjure up some weird thoughts about what that looks like for John to be eating locust and hanging out by himself. And then Jesus is kind of the opposite. He is gaining access to God by being with the supposed ungodly people. It wasn’t about himself. But who he was hanging out with. To very different iterations of being made in the image of God. 

Melissa: That’s right. So, how do we do that, then? Laura, you’re a priest, you’re a faith leader. Are you a mom?

Laura: Yes.

Melissa: That’s great. How do we do that? How do we go about doing that work, one feeling comfortable with, and to taking the risks to be more appreciative and honoring of divine diversity?

Laura: I well, I can say it all day long. And the reality of it, you know, Melissa, is that I figured this out probably too late. My kids are grown adults, almost grown adults. If I had reminded myself that old thing, I love that meme about God is loaning them to you. That they have what the need, part and parcel of being God’s own, not my own. And if I had reminded myself in my early parenting of that, I think I would have done much better relaxing a little bit and leaning in. That phrase, I know, I’ve already said it like three times but this idea of being with rather than pouring in. That gives it a little more of a dynamic nature. I’m learning from them just as much as they’re learning from me and growing. And I think, you know, kids are postured for learning, but they’re also postured for teaching. And that’s what I probably would have told myself a little bit more, these are moments that condition ourselves to listen and the world needs more listeners, not more talkers, I think. 

Melissa: That’s great. We’re going to come right back right after a short break.

Easton: Hi, listeners, thank you for listening to For People, a space of digital evangelism. You can keep up with us on Instagram and Facebook at Bishop Rob Wright. And now back to For People.

Melissa: Welcome back to For People. So, right before we broke, we were talking about the world needs more listeners, less talkers. And I almost said, have you heard the acronym, wait? 

Laura: Wait, I don’t think so. 

Melissa: Why am I talking? Isn’t that a fabulous acronym? 

Laura: It is, it is. It jives with this other one that I know, if I can share it. I got this from the Reverend Donna Moat. Don’t just do something, stand there. 

Melissa: Should out to Donna Moat. It’s been way too long since I have seen Donna and I feel a little guilt about it. So, we’ll unpack that later. That’s fabulous. That’s really great. 

Laura: The listening thing is really important, because the the root of that is about being able to condition ourselves to talk, to be vulnerable. You know, I remember this story. It’s not a story, it was an actual thing. When I was a teenager, my grandmother told me that her nephew had passed away, you know, so early, and what a great person he was. And he was such a family-oriented guy and everybody’s going to miss him. And she went on and on. And I said, buy Yaya, how did he die? And she said, well, he went down to the reservoir, he was dabbling, and it just happened. And it was obvious to me, as like a 13-year-old, he had died by suicide. And in her cultural context, she couldn’t say that. She couldn’t say that. But we’ve got the unfortunate problem that it’s mental health and it is such a prevalent concern right now. But also, that our own kids are open to naming things. Like my daughter would say and does say openly that she has friends that are not okay. This generation understands the importance of calling something for what it is. 

Melissa: Authenticity. 

Laura: Yeah. And if we can name it, then we can talk about it. If we can talk about it, then we can listen about it.

Melissa: Well, I love that phrase, don’t just do something, stand there. Because Donna is a Chaplain, right? 

Laura: Yes. 

Melissa: And so, for me Chaplains are the epitome of people who value the ministry of presence. 

Laura: Right, exactly. 

Melissa: And so that makes a lot of sense to me. Sometimes you just need to stand there and be with someone. 

Laura: You need to stand there and be with someone and also looking for God in that moment to say, I’m not going to fix this person. But God has a message for both of us here in this. We forget that Jesus came to remind us that the law is one of adherence to love and human dignity. My yoke is easy and my burden is light. I’m just saying, maybe the message is also in our children, you know, it can be. We have the absolute agency of getting rid of bully and the horrible things that happen over social media, most especially. Kids are wise in the ways that they’re closer to the human story, instead of culture story. 

Melissa: That’s true. So, what about ulterior motive? Let’s spend a little bit of time with that. I feel like sometimes people go into relationships in a transactional sort of spirit, you know, I need to teach them or imbue upon them or, you know, especially with parents to children or whatnot. And yet, sometimes, I’ve noticed that when we walk into churches, we don’t even treat ourselves with dignity. Because we’re shoulding on ourselves, like what Dr. Brene Brown would say. Don’t should on people. Shoulding on people is really kind of forming them into what you believe they need to be or should be. I think the church does a really damn good job at that, sadly. So, what do we do about that when we try to live in our Baptism of trying to treat people with dignity and respect? How do we shift the culture?

Laura: Yeah, I know, I love the, I’m sure you’ve probably heard this before. That icon, having a Greek background, icons were sort of forced in me. They are beautiful and I get much from them. But the Andrei Rublev’s icon of the Trinity, where it’s three images, they’ve adopted it to be the icon of the Trinity. And then you’re supposed to be looking at it as if you are sitting on the fourth side of the table. So, it’s supposed to be combination between the Holy Trinity and yourself. That for me, has hold held so much weight in my life. When I walk into a room and feel fear about not, in my life when I walk into a room and feel fear about well, I don’t know any of these people, how can I really be myself, when there’s so much propensity to put on airs, especially in this, you know, urban and and suburban cultures alike. I think that’s the rub of it. To say that we are never fearful is wrong. If we didn’t have fear, we’d be dead. But how can we put it in its box in order to be genuine, to be authentic, to not give it lip service? And that’s, I think divine diversity. It’s being okay with who you are. It’s like your signature. Every single iteration is different. That’s why kids speak from their heart. 

Melissa: Yeah, so being okay with who we are, sometimes, even though we don’t do it all the time, is often easier than being okay with who other people are. And I feel like one lead to the next and you can’t have one without the other.

Laura: Yeah, exactly. Exactly. That’s a right. If you’re this, then what am I? It’s this transactional, labeling, scarcity model. And I think we have to get away from that. But I think the way to get away from that is to take a chance on our own vulnerability and that we can get from hanging out with kids. You know, they speak from their heart. They feel something particular about who God is in the world. And we have to encourage ourselves to do the same, indeed.

Melissa: Well, as the wise Laura Masteron said, kids these days are amazing change agents. They’re awesome. They’re beloved children of God. 

Laura, thank you so much for being with us and for being with For People. And listeners, we’re grateful for you for tuning in. 

Laura: Thanks for having me. 

Melissa: You bet. You can keep up with us on Instagram and Facebook at Bishop Rob Wright. Please subscribe, leave a review, and we will back to you next week.