Departments

Poetry: Picture of a Family after Cavafy

Micael Nussbaumer/Shutterstock

There’s a photo he carries for long journeys
like this one, for trips on loaded market lorries
where the passengers take their seat, perching
on top of cargo, or sitting on crude benches
inside the buses coming from Sudan with names
like “Best of Luck” or “Mr. Good Looking.”

As the road rumbles from Chad through Cameroon
to Nigeria, toward another year of medical school,
he always reaches into his inside coat pocket
and brings out the folded 4x6. Sees his brother,
with the latest jeans from the capital and a maroon
hoodie zipped half-way up, one leg placed forward
and his head tilted back—an “attitude” he’s learned
from movies and music pipelined from America.

Sees his mother, bright pink polyester swirling
around her figure, and remembers how she woke
before dawn to make him fangaso for his trip.
He sees the lines he and his brother have caused,
drawn into her face after years of worry,
fatherless years of selling produce in the market
and begging relatives for support. He sees the slight
twist of her mouth, the triumph of a mother
shining through the sorrow of leave-taking,
the promise for her child to have a better life.

Aaron Brown, author of Winnower, is an MFA candidate in poetry at the University of Maryland. He lives with his wife in Lanham, Md.

Darn It!

​You've reached the end of our free preview. For full digital access to Sojourners articles for as little as $2.95, please subscribe now. Your subscription allows us to pay authors fairly for their terrific work!
Subscribe Now!

Living the Word: What We Carry With Us

IN THE LECTIONARY PASSAGES for these weeks following Pentecost, we find God working in and through the ordinary: a shepherd boy, bread, dancing. In each passage God breaks through with incredible revelation; some promise, some challenge, some person unexpected. Not everyone in the passages notices. Paying attention is crucial. We’ll have to be open to being caught off guard, being surprised. The Holy Spirit gives us eyes to see. As we engage in leadership and ministry these weeks, what we are sure to find is Jesus showing up in all the places we might not expect, when we’re washing dishes, driving in the car, eating a meal. And we certainly don’t expect him in the faces of the white poor, in the lives of racially profiled black youth, or in the stories of the undocumented.

We bring into worship our vestments, our commentaries, our manuscripts. God speaks through these—no surprise there. But God grips us in these unexpected places. These are what we should carry with us into worship every Sunday. But we will need more than eyes to make them preach; we’ll need power. The Holy Spirit gives that too. It makes the heart come alive. The gospel artist Fred Hammond said it best: “When the Spirit of the Lord comes upon my heart, I will dance like David danced!” Dancing and singing shape the heart of God’s new community, for joy, for freedom, for hope. May we be open to the Spirit’s vision and boldness!

Brandon Wrencher is pastor of Blackburns’ Chapel United Methodist Church and director of The Blackburn House in Todd, N.C.

[ July 5 ]
Shepherd or King?

2 Samuel 5:1-5, 9-10; Psalm 123; 2 Corinthians 12:2-10; Mark 6:1-13

Darn It!

​You've reached the end of our free preview. For full digital access to Sojourners articles for as little as $2.95, please subscribe now. Your subscription allows us to pay authors fairly for their terrific work!
Subscribe Now!

Letters: Accessible Christianity

I wish to thank Susan Windley-Daoust for her article “Beyond the Wheelchair Ramp” (May 2015). As someone born with right-side paralysis in the 1940s, I know the frustration of being thought of as less by the general population. My parents were told that I would never walk and never be able to care for myself, and that I would likely be “retarded.” But my parents did not listen to those warnings and gave me the opportunity for as normal of a life as anyone else. While I have struggled in some ways physically, also becoming a Type 1 diabetic in my teens, I was an athlete long before the Special Olympics came along.

I have been active in ministry since the mid-’80s, after finishing a career as a rehab counselor. I mainly worked in parish ministry, where I encouraged the congregants to welcome all. I decry the fact that churches are exempt from being “accessible,” under ADA regulations, and I have appreciated congregations that go out of their way to make their churches available and welcoming.

I appreciate the author’s insistence that the abled “listen” to those with disabilities, for everyone experiences disability differently. Too often people are much like the “Western Christians,” treating those with disabilities as less, at best. It is unconscionable that 90 percent of people living with disabilities are unchurched. We should always seek to hear the stories of others—all others—and learn from them.

Stephen Nelms
Hartwell, Georgia

 

Darn It!

​You've reached the end of our free preview. For full digital access to Sojourners articles for as little as $2.95, please subscribe now. Your subscription allows us to pay authors fairly for their terrific work!
Subscribe Now!

Letters: Divesting From Mining

Many thanks to Emilie Teresa Smith (May 2015) for witnessing to the costly impacts of Canadian mining companies borne by Indigenous and impoverished people around the world. As Christians, we must not ignore that churches in Canada and the U.S. are complicit through their investments in mining companies. Many of us in the United Church of Canada are responding to the call of our partners in Guatemala and are asking the United Church Pension Board to divest from Goldcorp. Learn more at www.marconf.ca/resources/treasure.

Kathryn Anderson
Tatamagouche, Nova Scotia, Canada

Darn It!

​You've reached the end of our free preview. For full digital access to Sojourners articles for as little as $2.95, please subscribe now. Your subscription allows us to pay authors fairly for their terrific work!
Subscribe Now!

Letters: Dirty Secrets Exposed

The “dirty secrets” in Emilie Teresa Smith’s excellent piece “Oh Canada!” (May 2015) are no secret to Canadians of faith, who have been advocating for change in mining practices for years. Last November at St. Paul’s University in Ottawa, 200 people gathered for a conference titled “The Global Cry of the People: Mining Extraction and Justice,” featuring expert speakers from Canadian Aboriginal communities as well as activists affected by mining in the global South. (A highlight of the event was the granting of an honorary doctorate to Peruvian theologian Gustavo Gutiérrez.) Those present called upon Canada’s government to do two things: Create an independent extractive-sector ombudsman in Canada, and provide legislated access to Canadian courts for people harmed by international operations of Canadian companies. This struggle continues.

 Joe Gunn
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

Darn It!

​You've reached the end of our free preview. For full digital access to Sojourners articles for as little as $2.95, please subscribe now. Your subscription allows us to pay authors fairly for their terrific work!
Subscribe Now!

Preparing For The Storm

The Greeks know how tightly coiled
are circumstances with many windings
before tragedy’s spring snaps.
The horse bolts flame-like from the gate;
we do not see its years of training.

So too, the thunderhead today slow bloating
and thickening with muffled rumblings.
The steeds were restless, but the reins
held tight, until a crack of the whip
unleashed the pummeling flood.

 

Remember how Gandhi’s salt marchers
lay themselves before the horses
of the Raj that trotted to the very edge
of that sea of prostrate bodies
before rearing back in alarm?

Those marchers knew a storm
was brewing, were neither cowed,
nor crushed. The heart is another kind
of stallion, stamping and kicking,
trampling the mind’s sour dust.

Lie down, lie down, there is still time.
And watch the horses prance.

Richard Schiffman is an environmental journalist and poet. His collection What the Dust Doesn’t Know is forthcoming from Salmon Press. Above, an Indian police officer attacks salt marchers in 1930.

Image: Ninh Hoa, Vietnam,  / Shutterstock 

Darn It!

​You've reached the end of our free preview. For full digital access to Sojourners articles for as little as $2.95, please subscribe now. Your subscription allows us to pay authors fairly for their terrific work!
Subscribe Now!

Short Takes: Erika Totten

Rick Reinhard

Jenna Barnett is an editorial assistant to Sojourners magazine. You can find her on Twitter @jennacbarnett.

Bio: Erika Totten is a leader in the Black Lives Matter movement in Washington, D.C., and the black liberation movement at large. She is a former high school English literature teacher, a wife, a stay-at-home mom, and an advocate for the radical healing and self-care of black people through “emotional emancipation circles.”

1) How did you get started with “emotional emancipation” work?
Emotional emancipation circles were created in partnership with The Association of Black Psychologists and the Community Healing Network. I was blessed to be one of the first people trained in D.C. I had been doing this work before I knew what it was called. My organization is called “Unchained.” It is liberation work—psychologically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally.

I want to tell people to be intentional about self-care. Recently, we had a black trans teen, who was an activist, commit suicide. A lot of times you need to see a counselor or therapist, which is often shunned in the black community. Because of racism, we are taught that we need to be “strong.” But it’s costing us our lives. As much as we are dismantling systems, we have to dismantle anything within ourselves that is keeping us from experiencing liberation right now.

2) What does liberation look like to you?
It’s a multitude of things, and it changes every day. But mainly it is having the space to be. To just exist. To not have to perform. It is the ability to exist and live life unapologetically. You don’t have to accept me, but my life shouldn’t be in danger because of my skin. And for my children, liberation means walking down the street and not being harassed. Liberation means living.

Darn It!

​You've reached the end of our free preview. For full digital access to Sojourners articles for as little as $2.95, please subscribe now. Your subscription allows us to pay authors fairly for their terrific work!
Subscribe Now!

The Soulful Bells of Summer

THE SEASON AFTER PENTECOST is a challenge. Some churches call it “ordinary time.” This is where most of our life is lived, spiritually speaking. The fact that other churches call it “the season after Pentecost” reminds us that a miraculous tongue of fire is needed for any sermon to work—and the Holy Spirit has a tongue of fire for us. Pentecost propels us through ordinary time. The Holy Spirit can take as sorry a lot of losers as the ones Jesus chose as disciples and turn them into apostles, martyrs, world-changers. God has always done more with less-promising material.

A retreat at a monastery gave me a glimpse of what ordinary time means. By the time 8 a.m. Mass rolls around, we’ve already been in church three times that day. Mass is beautiful, we leave buoyantly, the Trappist monks are nearly chatty. Then the bell rings. It’s time for Terce, another hour of prayer. That bell sets me to sighing—weren’t we just in church? Terce is like the Sunday after Easter or Christmas—a letdown. Same building, half full of people, and with a quarter of the energy. And it is precisely then that it’s important to worship God. The church’s worship of God carries on when we’ve all gotten bored or tired. Such worship is good for souls. Preachers’ souls included.

Jason Byassee is pastor of Boone United Methodist Church in Boone, N.C., and a fellow in theology and leadership at Duke Divinity School.

[ June 7 ]

Out of the Depths
1 Samuel 8:4-20; 11:14-15; Psalms 130; 2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1; Mark 3:20-35

ABRAHAM JOSHUA HESCHEL famously said that the biblical prophets show God’s pain. Here in 1 Samuel, God grants the people’s wish for a king because “they have rejected me from being king over them” from “the day I brought them up out of Egypt to this day” (8:7-8).

Darn It!

​You've reached the end of our free preview. For full digital access to Sojourners articles for as little as $2.95, please subscribe now. Your subscription allows us to pay authors fairly for their terrific work!
Subscribe Now!

Anti-Semitic vs. Uninformed

As someone who, I confess, has frequently nodded along at the gospels’ sweeping language, I read Amy-Jill Levine’s “Quit Picking on the Pharisees!” (March 2015) with great interest. Her fine piece and the additional reading it inspired have convinced me that certain Christian criticisms (Luke’s “money-lovers” charge, for example) are unfair and promote harmful stereotypes, while others (Jesus’ discussion of the Sabbath in Mark 2:23-28) demonstrate not distortion, but legitimate theological critique. I regret that such subtleties are missing from the article’s headlines, which I know Levine did not pen. Far from arguing that “Christian criticism of the Pharisees is anti-Semitic,” Levine says “[t]he pastors and priests who make such comments are not anti-Semites.” Instead they are, as I was before reading this piece, insufficiently informed.

Adam Pachter
Arlington, Massachusetts

Darn It!

​You've reached the end of our free preview. For full digital access to Sojourners articles for as little as $2.95, please subscribe now. Your subscription allows us to pay authors fairly for their terrific work!
Subscribe Now!

O Changing Town of Bethlehem

In regard to Ryan Rodrick Beiler’s article “Pro-Israeli, Pro-Palestinian, Pro-Jesus” (March 2015) concerning the prospects for Palestinian-Israeli peace, it would be worthwhile to examine unemotionally the demographics of the area. There have been Christian communities in the Middle East since the time of Christ. There has, of course, been a lessening in numbers since the advent of Islam, but in the past 50 years there has been drastic erosion. The town of Bethlehem, once a thriving, prosperous, virtually all-Christian community, is now but a shadow of its former self. This marked decline is evident everywhere except in Israel proper, where the Christian population, virtually all Arab, is growing both through natural increase and immigration.

Sol Schindler
Bethesda, Maryland

Darn It!

​You've reached the end of our free preview. For full digital access to Sojourners articles for as little as $2.95, please subscribe now. Your subscription allows us to pay authors fairly for their terrific work!
Subscribe Now!

Pages

Subscribe