What is Call & Response?

Who are we? What are we doing here? An introduction to Call & Response

By Jason Byassee

Welcome to Call & Response, the weblog of Faith & Leadership (we do have names for things without “&” in them, just so you know). This blog is a space for a conversation among Christian leaders about how faith affects our work.

When Mike Royko, the late great columnist for the Chicago Tribune, was stuck on a piece, he’d employ the “Billy Goat Tavern” rule. He’d get up, walk across the street from Tribune Tower and down the stairs to Lower Wacker Drive and its Billy Goat Tavern (made famous, under a pseudonym, in John Belushi and Dan Ackroyd’s “Cheezeborger” skits on Saturday Night Live.) Part of the Tavern’s schtick is the staff is rude to you for fun. You’d better be quick in there, or they’ll lose patience. When I went in once, I asked for a chicken salad. The guy took one look at me and said, “No, triple cheese.” That’s the normal reception in there. And I wasn’t even wrestling with writer’s block.

Royko would order a beer and explain to the barkeep what he was writing about and why it mattered. In the course of a conversation with a gruff recent immigrant or middle school dropout, Royko would realize whether what he was on about mattered and how. He’d tip well, walk back up to his office, and hammer away (and perhaps the beer helped). I take this from my friend Lou Carlozo, a reporter now at the Tribune, who assures me the Goat is still a helpful aid. The Tavern abides.

This is your Billy Goat Tavern. You will be talking with me, late of Christian Century, and Mark Chaves, leader of the National Congregations Study, both here at Duke. Pastor Lillian Daniel of 1st UCC in Glen Ellyn, Ill., Pastor Prince Rivers of United Metropolitan Missionary Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, N.C., and President Richard Mouw of Fuller Seminary will join us. We’ll bring in others over time. We have a wide variety of Christian perspectives, regions of the country, and life experience to bring to bear on our reflections on the intersection of faith and leadership. The blog is where we five, and all of you, sit around and talk, hopefully even argue, about what our faith means for how we lead.

It only works with your participation. So jump in, comment, tell others about us, get them to comment too. And somehow in that give-and-take, that Call & Response, we’ll get it right. Or at least have fun trying.

Jason Byassee is an executive director of Leadership Education at Duke Divinity.