By Alyssa Schnugg
As pastors, Eddie Rester and Chris McAlilly have spent countless hours addressing their congregation at Oxford-University United Methodist Church on a variety of subjects and how they relate to God’s word.
However, the two wanted more. They wanted conversations. Sometimes, difficult conversations – the kind that can’t happen from a pulpit.
“I feel like the church talks at people a fair amount and I think what we wanted to do is to create space where people could speak from, with conviction on a range of different views,” McAlilly said. “In a way that honors the weight of a person’s perspective and their particular story.”
In March 2020, just as COVID-19 was starting its assault on the world, the two men recorded a podcast called “The Weight” that still airs weekly on Thursdays.
Once COVID-19’s grip was felt locally, the originally planned podcasts were put on hold.
“When the pandemic hit, we just completely pivoted and started trying to respond to needs that we saw occurring, like mental health and parents at home trying to figure out how to homeschool their kids for the first time,” McAlilly said. “From there, we tried to find conversations that were weighty, that were important, and where we could talk on a range of subjects.”
“The Weight” episodes have featured conversations on politics, race, sexuality, art and mental health as well as more local issues involving the state flag and Confederate statues. The show has featured local and national authors and artists.
“The purpose of the podcast is to create conversations and it’s accomplished that goal,” McAlilly said. “Christians are called to love God with heart, mind, soul, and to love their neighbor as themselves. And I think one dimension that gets lost is the way in which we honor one another’s humanity. I think that that we’re reduced when we post on social media to a caricature. And I think that the podcast space is wonderful because you get to hear a person’s voice, and you get to hear their community. And so what we’re trying to do is model that kind of conversation that is lacking in American Christian culture today.”
The podcast reaches about 2,000 people weekly. The show breaks around Thanksgiving and continues after the New Year.
Upcoming episodes include talking to Duke Divinity grad and New York Times bestselling author Kate Bowler about her journey with stage IV cancer and local author, David Magee about his book, “Dear, William,” a memoir written to his late son who died of an accidental drug overdose.
The name of the podcast, “The Weight,” comes from the Old Testament and the Hebrew meaning of “honor.”
“There is a Commandment that says ‘Honor thy Father and Mother,’ and if you look at the Hebrew word for honor, it has a connotation of weightiness. And if you were to curse someone, it has the connotation of ‘to take lightly.’ It’s the weight of the conversation and honoring the weight of a person’s convictions,” McAlilly said.
“We’re trying to ask the weighty questions – what’s the weighty question for this episode? What’re the weighty issues of that conversation?” Rester added.
Rester said doing the podcast has not only been enjoyable but has helped expand his own range of conversations.
“I think that’s been important for me as a pastor,” he said. “Sometimes we talk to people I agree with and sometimes we talk to people I don’t necessarily agree with. But every time, I feel like I grow, learn and learn how to appreciate the beauty of difference that God gives us in this world.”
Listen to current and past episodes of “The Weight” on Apple Music, Spotify, Stitcher, or on theweightpodcast.com.