The Rev. Dr. K. Jason Coker is the national director of Together for Hope, the rural development coalition of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. He is also the Field Coordinator for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Mississippi. After nearly two decades of life and ministry in Connecticut, Coker returned to his home state of Mississippi to work for peace and justice in areas of persistent rural poverty. The lessons of human compassion and equality he learned as a minister guide his work in poverty relief.
What is your hope for how your new book might impact readers?
I hope that my story and the story of our congregation can provide a witness to how we moved through some of the most tragic space in our church’s life. By telling my/our story, I sincerely hope that others can find a light in it that can illuminate their own path through tragedy. My greatest hope, however, is that this book can intervene in someone’s life that is contemplating suicide and prevent them from doing so. I want them to know that they are important to our world and we all need them.
What was the most meaningful or surprising experience you had in the process of writing Faded Flowers?
As you will read in chapter 7, I actually lost the manuscript and had to rewrite the sermon that provides the narrative of that chapter. Months later, I found the manuscript in an old envelope hidden in the deep dark spaces of my office desk. In what felt like a spiritual experience, the sermon I wrote nearly a decade later was remarkably similar to the one I rewrote for the book. It was a holy moment for me to see how they were so similar and yet represented my own growth over a decade later. It was both meaningful and surprising.
What can pain and grief teach us about our faith?
Faith is not and should not be impervious to pain and grief, because those experiences of pain and grief are foundational for all human beings. We all experience these deep, transformative moments of grief and pain. They shape our faith in important ways and our faith shapes the way we experience pain and grief. At the center of our Christian faith there is a cross. All of Christian faith is forged in the crucible of the crucifixion. It is an unmistakable fact of our faith.
Outside of ministry, how do you enjoy spending time?
I love to run, bike, and swim; but anything outside is pure joy to me—even mowing the lawn. Taking my kids fishing and watching them land a huge catfish is enormously fun. When I’m not in nature, I’ve got my nose in a book. From Faulkner to Foucault or Spivak to Steinbeck, I love reading—and writing. Being a Mississippian puts me in pretty good “book” company!