Uniting as Friends

August 5, 2010 @ 03:16 pm by Jacqui Lewis

I am in Florida, trying to get off the grid, so to speak. I keep sending little notes to Trish and Chad, some of my staff, and even to a few of you. I got a lot of things finished before I left–worship planning, program development, meetings, and care issues. But, I did not get to talk to some of you or write to some of you, ‘How are you doing?’ I have been wondering.

So, this is a note to everyone, before I go into radio silence. If you have been absent, we miss you; come on home! If you have been feeling poorly, I am praying for you, even now. If you are sad or confused or hurt, I pray God’s grace will feel more than sufficient to heal you and comfort you. And, if for you, this is a great day that God has made, then I rejoice with in this day.

And if for you, the news is painful, like it is for me, then I pray that you put into God’s hands this world–created full of folk with free will, which means confusion and conflict on a bad day, and love and compassion on a good one.

I am thrilled about Proposition 8 being overturned and pray for good sense for everyone who wonders if LGBTI persons ought to be able to marry. “Of course!” is my answer and so I say Amen for the change!

I am angry at the crazy conversations about immigration in Arizona and the possibility that our constitution might be bastardized by immigrants to keep out other immigrants. I am sad at all the controversy about Cordoba House. To be sure, the tragedy on September 11, 2001 was a national horror. We lost innocent lives and our own innocence. The planes-turned-to-bombs happened on our land, in our space, and we will never be the same. We are hyper-conscious now of ourselves as a nation in a global community and that some people hate us! We who believe in freedom need to keep our minds and hearts open to the other, lest we become an enemy to our own souls. Space for a community center in which there is a house of prayer may be just the kind of ‘balm in Gilead,’ which we need. The center may also help to demystify Muslim culture and religion, and aid in uniting us all as friends. When we learn about each other, and see each other for who we are, we are less likely to maim, wound, bomb and annihilate each other.

So we share our stories, we learn about folk, we read their Holy texts, and we read our own. We find out that the One God is the God of everyone. God is on the side of justice and mercy and peace and reconciliation. Ain’t nothing wrong with a little prayer, is my belief. And the place of prayer should not matter. We have all come “over a way that with tears has been watered…” walking a path “through the blood of the slaughtered”. May hope and prayer heal our world.

The Living is Easy

July 16, 2010 @ 07:59 am by Jacqui Lewis

Hey friends, it is summer time and the living is easy for some of us. Listening to NPR this morning, we must keep our eyes and ears open to news about the gushing oil in our waters in the Gulf Coast. Our teens are heading down there on August 1st to work on the rebuild (the still much-needed rebuild). This is another thing that should not drop off our radar. The Big Easy needs our thoughts and prayers and our help. Log onto whatever help site with which you feel comfortable and stay connected with your funds, too! Keep in touch with what Middle Church is doing by checking out our website while the youth are in New Orleans.

I think of the Big Easy and I think of jazz. Last Sunday at Middle Church there was a lovely three-piece suite of jazz improvisers, led by Louie Belogenis. The music was breathy, cool and smooth, and the silences were full of Spirit. I did a homily on love that ended in a hymn called “My Funny Valentine”. Inspired by the band, I tried bending notes like God bends all the way down to love us just like we are. My colleague Chad – preacher/artist/accountant(!) – was there, nodding his head and praying with his eyes open.

The Breath that is all around, the Breath that loves us more deeply than we can ask or imagine gave him this poem, and I share it with you along with my hope for easy days, and the easing of suffering everywhere.

Take it easy and make it easy for others.

*****

Were I Jazz

Were I jazz

Cymbals sizzling
Summer sunset

Raspy whispered sax
Dusk

Twinkling piano plinking
Evening starlight

Were I jazz

Easing
Rhythm
textLoose
texttextFree

Trusting
Silence
Carry me

Savoring
Dissonance
Crunchy sour pickles

Our song
A playful prayer

Oil Spill Vigil in New York

June 6, 2010 @ 10:17 am by Jacqui Lewis

Friends, have you seen the photos of the disgusting oil spill? Spill is too mild a word. That should be reserved for milk or salt. One colleague said to me the other day that it is as though the earth is hemorrhaging. The picture is horrifying as thousands of gallons of oil fill the waters, kill the marine life, halt fishing, discourage tourism and muck up the shoreline.

I just got back from the beach in Hollywood, Florida. There were moments when the water was bathtub warm and crystal clear. Fish and human beings moved through the water as though safe in amniotic fluid filled with nutrients for life. This oil spill is another crude awakening that human need and greed will kill our Mother Earth if we do not take care of God’s good creation. See below from MoveOn.org. Be outraged and speak up!

Dear MoveOn member,

It’s just unbelievable.

By Tuesday, the oil spill in the Gulf will have been gushing out for 50 days straight. It might already be five times larger than the Exxon Valdez, and now BP says that the spill probably won’t be stopped until August.*

Meanwhile, our political leaders in Washington aren’t even talking about the real solution—getting off oil once and for all, and fully powering our economy with clean energy. It’s clear we need a major public outcry to make this horrible tragedy a turning point.

So on Tuesday—day 50 since the spill—we’re organizing emergency Oil Spill Vigils to demand an end to our dependence on oil, call for stepped-up efforts to end the spill, and stand in solidarity with all those affected in the Gulf.

Can you host an emergency Oil Spill Vigil next Tuesday? Click here to get started.

Hosting a vigil is easy. We’ll gather together, read stories from Gulf residents affected by the spill, and observe a moment of silence. All you need to do is find a nearby public location for people to gather, invite friends, and tell the local media about it. We’ll help you recruit people and give you all the guidance you need.

By standing together at events coast-to-coast, we can make sure lawmakers understand that the American people are demanding bold action to prevent disasters like this from happening again.

But we have to act now. The people in the Gulf of Mexico are facing the destruction of an entire way of life. Fishermen say they’ve lost 75% or more of their business, and it’s getting worse. Federal officials have closed over one-third of the Gulf of Mexico to fishing. And the oil is poised to reach the beaches of Florida soon.**

As Charlotte Randolph, president of one of the coastal parishes affected by the spill, said, “You see it in people’s eyes. You see it. We need to stop the flow. Tourism is dead. Fishing is dead. We’re dying a slow death.”***

Until we end our dependence on oil, disasters like the BP spill will keep happening. We can’t get off oil in a day, but the energy experts say that if we had gotten started 20 years ago after Exxon Valdez we could be most of the way there already.**** But because Big Oil still calls the shots in Washington, such bold action isn’t even being discussed. We need to turn this moment of crisis into a rallying cry to finally get America off oil.

We need as many Oil Spill Vigils as possible around the country so that tens of thousands of MoveOn members have the chance to speak out right in their neighborhoods. Can you host a vigil in your area? Click here.

Thanks for all that you do.

–Steven, Wes, Lenore, Kat, and the rest of the team

Sources:

* “BP oil spill worse than Exxon Valdez, according to government estimates,” Christian Science Monitor, May 27, 2010

“BP officials on Gulf oil spill: We can’t stop leak until August at the earliest,” New York Daily News, May 30, 2010

** “BP puts containment dome on gushing oil geyser,” The Washington Post, June 4, 2010

“Almost one-third of Gulf fishing grounds closed,” Associated Press, June 2, 2010

“Oysters: From The Gulf To The Table, ” NPR, June 3, 2010

*** Ibid.

**** “Winning the Oil Endgame,” Rocky Mountain Institute, September, 2007

Want to support our work? We’re entirely funded by our 5 million members—no corporate contributions, no big checks from CEOs. And our tiny staff ensures that small contributions go a long way. Chip in here.

Fight Racist Campaign Against Black Women

May 26, 2010 @ 09:43 am by Jacqui Lewis

Hi everyone,

Check this out. I have been on the advisory board of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice for ten years now, be sure to let them know how you feel about this.

Jacqui

On Peace

March 29, 2010 @ 02:49 pm by Jacqui Lewis

Friends:

I am writing this brief note on Palm Sunday, as I get ready for worship today. In our Christian tradition, this is the day Jesus makes his triumphant entry into Jerusalem. We call it triumphant, because his followers placed him on a colt, threw their cloaks down on the ground before him, hailed him as a king of peace, and waived palm branches before him. In fact, when he gets into the city, he is arrested, put on trial, and crucified as a criminal for insurrection. Jesus' encounter with the authorities was certain kind of contest, a struggle for peace in a time when Jesus' people were under Roman occupation--the so-called Pax Romana; the Roman Peace. It is not a new concept for powerful nations to think of themselves as peace keepers/peace makers as they wage war.

So, here is a piece on peace, from our colleague Sekou, as Tavis Smiley focuses on Dr. King's speech against the war in Vietnam. Important as we think about our years in this terrifying war against terror.

Peace, for real

Jacqui

Expect Better & Demand More

March 26, 2010 @ 10:46 am by Jacqui Lewis

Friends, I am just back from three weeks in Africa, the trip of a lifetime. I have so much to share with you and will do so in the coming weeks.

I came home to an amazing accomplishment: the passing of a healthcare bill that realizes decades of work by several administrations toward providing healthcare for the majority of citizens of our country. You know as well as I do what a contentious process this has been, and the narrow vote speaks to both the divide in our Congress and in our country on this issue.

What is shocking to me is how a divide in opinion, no matter how deep, can lead to violence and threats and unspeakably uncivilized behavior by so many. Democratic Representative Anthony Weiner (Queens/Brooklyn) was the most recent recipient of this ridiculous and dangerous behavior, when a white substance was mailed to his office. 10 house democrats are under police protection now.

I am so sad about this, but I am more angry than anything else. I am heartened to know that both Democratic and Republican leaders are denouncing this behavior; we need to denounce it as well.

I got the note below from the people at MoveOn and Color of Change. No matter what your politics, join me in denouncing this violent behavior.

Let's expect better and demand more from our leaders, and from one another.

Jacqui

Last weekend, anti-health care protesters were out in force in Washington and some of their behavior was deeply disturbing.

A crowd of tea partiers shouted the "n word" at Congressman John Lewis, a former civil rights leader who marched with Dr. King. They yelled homophobic epithets at Rep. Barney Frank, an openly gay congressman. And one protester actually spat on a Black member of Congress.1

Then this week, Democrats who voted for reform began receiving death threats; one had a coffin left on his lawn and another was told snipers would kill the children of lawmakers who voted yes.2 Several Democrats had their district offices vandalized, and a gas line was cut at a home that tea partiers mistakenly believed belonged to Rep. Tom Perriello.3

A few Republicans have spoken out against the racism and violence, but most are still treating them as "isolated incidents."4 They are not isolated. They've been part of Republican-supported tea parties for almost a year and they're a natural consequence of telling people that reform is a totalitarian plot.5

It's an outrage, and no American should tolerate it. So we're joining with our friends at Color of Change to stand up to the hate. Can you add your name to this letter asking Republican leaders to unequivocally condemn bigotry, hate, and violence among their supporters?

http://pol.moveon.org/condemnhate/?id=19573-9108008-4X4rrQx&t=3

The letter asks the leaders of the Republican party to do two simple things:

Unequivocally condemn bigotry and hate among your supporters, and make clear that those who embrace it have no place in your party and that you reject their support. Make clear that you will not tolerate fear-mongering and coded appeals to racism from officials in the Republican Party, at any level. Instead of calming the tea partiers' anger, Republican members of Congress have stoked it. NBC reported that on Saturday, Reps. Mike Pence, Tom Price, and Michele Bachmann all addressed the tea partiers and that Bachmann stirred them "into a tizzy."6 Protesters from that rally then fanned out across Capitol Hill and were behind the assaults on Reps. Lewis, Frank, and Cleaver.7

Yesterday, Rep. John Boehner called the violence and threats "unacceptable."8 But just last week, he referred to fellow representative Steve Driehaus as "a dead man" if he voted for health care reform.9 And while Boehner's office insisted his remark wasn't meant to be taken literally, as Rep. Driehaus pointed out, "It doesn't really matter the way you meant it, nor the way I accept it. It's how the least sane person in my district accepts it."10

And there's more: During the debate on the floor of the House on Sunday, Rep. Randy Neugebauer shouted "baby-killer" at Rep. Bart Stupak.11 And after the vote, Sarah Palin told supporters "Don't Retreat, Reload," and then highlighted specific members of Congress she thinks are politically vulnerable using gun cross-hairs.12

The Tea Party movement has been marked by racially inflammatory and violent outbursts since its inception a year ago. And while most Republicans are probably disgusted by this behavior, the Republican Party and its leaders have repeatedly tolerated it at events they support.13 But the hateful rhetoric and the tacit acceptance of "isolated incidents" of violence have gotten way out of hand.

Will you sign our letter to the leaders of the Republican Party telling them they must stop it now?

http://pol.moveon.org/condemnhate/?id=19573-9108008-4X4rrQx&t=4

Thanks for all you do.

Justin, Nita, Kat, Daniel, and the rest of the team

Sources:

  1. "'Tea party' protesters accused of spitting on lawmaker, using slurs," The Washington Post, March 20, 2010 http://www.moveon.org/r?r=87574&id=19573-9108008-4X4rrQx&t=5

  2. "FBI investigating threats to Democrats," The Associated Press, March 24, 2010 http://www.moveon.org/r?r=87575&id=19573-9108008-4X4rrQx&t=6

"Coffin placed on Carnahan's lawn," Politico, March 25, 2010 http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0310/34982.html

"The backlash: Reform turns personal," Politico, March 24, 2010 http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0310/34907.html

  1. "The Map So Far," Talking Points Memo, March 24, 2010 http://www.moveon.org/r?r=87576&id=19573-9108008-4X4rrQx&t=7

"Severed gas line found at home of Perriello brother," Charlottesville Daily Progress, March 24, 2010 http://www.moveon.org/r?r=87577&id=19573-9108008-4X4rrQx&t=8

  1. "Steele: Slur-hurlers 'idiots'," Politico, March 21, 2010 http://www.moveon.org/r?r=87578&id=19573-9108008-4X4rrQx&t=9

  2. "Swastika painted outside Congressman's office," The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, August 11, 2009 http://www.moveon.org/r?r=87580&id=19573-9108008-4X4rrQx&t=10

"10 Most Offensive Tea Party Signs And Extensive Photo Coverage From Tax Day Protests," The Huffington Post, December 28, 2009 http://www.moveon.org/r?r=87579&id=19573-9108008-4X4rrQx&t=11

"Armed and Dangerous?" Talking Points Memo, August 11, 2009 http://www.moveon.org/r?r=87581&id=19573-9108008-4X4rrQx&t=12

"We have something to fear from fear-mongering itself," The Washington Post, March 24, 2010 http://www.moveon.org/r?r=87582&id=19573-9108008-4X4rrQx&t=13

  1. "Tea Party Protest Scene," MSNBC, March 20, 2010 http://www.moveon.org/r?r=87583&id=19573-9108008-4X4rrQx&t=14

  2. "'Tea party' protesters accused of spitting on lawmaker, using slurs," The Washington Post, March 20, 2010 http://www.moveon.org/r?r=87574&id=19573-9108008-4X4rrQx&t=15

  3. "Leadership decries threats to lawmakers in wake of health vote," The Hill, March 24, 2010 http://www.moveon.org/r?r=87584&id=19573-9108008-4X4rrQx&t=16

  4. "Exclusive: House Minority John Boehner on the Health-Care Vote," National Review Online, March 18, 2010 http://www.moveon.org/r?r=87585&id=19573-9108008-4X4rrQx&t=17

  5. "Amid Death Threats, Dem Rep Driehaus Points The Finger At GOP Leadership," Talking Points Memo, March 24, 2010 http://www.moveon.org/r?r=87587&id=19573-9108008-4X4rrQx&t=18

  6. "'Baby killer outburst fuels Republican's new funding ad," The Houston Chronicle, March 24, 2010 http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/nation/6928920.html

  7. "Palin Uses Crosshairs To Identify Dems Who Voted For Health Care Reform," Talking Points Memo, March 24, 2010 http://www.moveon.org/r?r=87586&id=19573-9108008-4X4rrQx&t=19

  8. "Tax Day Tea Parties Officially Endorsed By Republican Party," The Huffington Post, May 15, 2009 http://www.moveon.org/r?r=87588&id=19573-9108008-4X4rrQx&t=20

  9. "Steele: I'd join the tea parties," Politico, January 5, 2010 http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0110/31177.html

We Are All One

March 18, 2010 @ 09:18 am by Jacqui Lewis

As we enter the third week of our travel, and prepare to leave for Ghana, I am thinking of all I have learned. I am thinking of talks with Dutch Reformed Church and Uniting Reformed Church clergy, and their candor about their struggle to unite. One pastor, Johanne, said, "We must learn to live the reality that already is: we are all one in Christ. That is the truth. Now we must live it." As I looked upon the faces of children in Africa, as I processed learnings with John and Anne and Peter, and I think about coming home, I think this is the truth. We are all one. We must learn to live as though it is true. We must learn to live as though when one of us is cut, the other one bleeds. When one of us is hungry, the other has a stomach ache. When one is lost, neither can we see. This is what God wants from us, I believe, one human family.

We fly tomorrow to Ghana, we will see Pat at BASICS and we will see the slave castles and I will preach on Sunday about unity.

This is my passion, and I know it is also yours.

Checking In From South Africa

March 10, 2010 @ 10:52 am by Jacqui Lewis

Our conversations in South Africa these last days have been blessed by candor and vulnerability. The folk we met from the Uniting Reformed Church (Black and Colored) and the Dutch Reformed Church (White) are thrilled that the US is working on the Belhar Confession. They see signs of hope for reconciliation, but are sure this racial work will not happen in their lifetimes. The Church everywhere has so much work to do. We met a man who left the Dutch Reformed Church due to its slow speed at this work. When I preach against racism, it is my passion for a world free of racism that is on the table.

I am grateful for colleagues who share this passion with me. Hug Trish when you see her because we promoted her to Associate Minister. Along with administration, she will help with our social ministries like Celebrate Life/Momentum Project and the Clothing Closet.

We are off tomorrow to see some of this country, to let the words we have heard settle into our hearts.

Healing

March 5, 2010 @ 11:42 am by Jacqui Lewis

I was talking about teeth the last time we chatted in worship. When I preached Sunday, I was in pain. On Monday morning, my secondary expert dentist took five minutes to numb me and then another hour to do the work. There are some pains not easily numbed, but once we get together to work on stuff, once we learn each other, once we get it, it can go really well. We have to, like my Vietnamese dentist and I, learn how to work together, how to communicate, how to work it out. Some of us have, like he had for me, the clues to the other's healing. Some of us have a word on target. Some of us will tell stories that lead to transformation. Some of us will be great listeners and then replay a certain wisdom that will change the world.

I am here, with my heart burning and my brain churning with wisdom and candid sharing and confession from South Africans working on reconciliation. I have more to tell you, and I will. For now, God is in the business of making all things, and all of us new.

Those of us on both sides of the world need this newness. I love you...

and my tooth does not hurt. Maybe there are other healings to follow.

Watch this space!

March 1, 2010 @ 05:07 pm by Jacqui Lewis

Greetings everyone!

I just left for South Africa, and I will have so much to share! Keep your eyes on this space in the coming weeks.

The Women in Church and Ministry Lecture: “The Word Became Flesh”

February 24, 2010 @ 04:14 pm by Jacqui Lewis

Jacqui will be speaking on this topic at Princeton Theological Seminary on Thursday, February 25. Come check it out! Details can be found below, or on the Princeton Theological Seminary’s site.

The Women in Church and Ministry Lecture: “The Word Became Flesh”
Location: Main Lounge, Mackay Campus Center
Start: 7:00 PM
End: 8:00 PM

Free and open to the public

For more information, contact the Communications/Publications Office or call 609.497.7760.

Believe Out Loud

February 14, 2010 @ 11:44 am by Jacqui Lewis

Hello Progressive Leaders.

If you do not get Religion Dispatches, you should sign up for it. See this piece by Jean Carstensen and the report on how much silence there is from progressive clergy when it comes to human sexuality. What we do not say from the pulpit speaks volumes. We need to say that economic justice, gender justice and sexual orientation justice are braided tightly together with racial justice. We need to say that when abortion rights are restricted young women and poor women are most affected. We need to say out loud and Believe Out Loud that women and LGBTI persons should be afforded full rights and inclusion in faith communities, and that includes the right to be ordained. We need to say that LGBTI persons should have the right to marry and raise families. It is not enough to believe it; we need to believe it and proclaim it. Our people need to have theological discourse from and with clergy they trust about human sexuality.

Sunday ends National Marriage Week. Let's make Sunday the beginning of a movement: Believe Out Loud that human sexuality is a gift from God and that there is a full spectrum of sexual orientations that express that gift. Let's preach and teach that from our pulpits and break the silence.

Toward the peaceable reign of God.

Jacqui

Cancel Haiti's Debt

February 8, 2010 @ 01:11 pm by Jacqui Lewis

Dear Progressive Leaders:

Critical to the rebuilding of Haiti is the cancellation of their debt, and then grants for the rebuild, not loans. Check this out and see what you can do to help.

Also, don't forget to register for our leadership conference "The Leading Edge".

In the struggle for a better tomorrow,

-Jacqui

Melinda St. Louis Jubilee USA February 6, 2010

Today, the US government listened to your call for justice for Haiti and took action. Congratulations on all your hard work. This morning, the US Treasury announced its support for Haiti's debt cancellation and grants, not loans. "Today, we are voicing our support for what Haiti needs and deserves - comprehensive multilateral debt relief," said Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner. We couldn't agree more. In the days following the devastating earthquake on January 12th, Jubilee USA Network helped lead efforts by US civil society to achieve debt cancellation of the $709 million Haiti owes to the international financial institutions, including the International Monetary Fund and the Inter-American Development Bank. Your calls to the White House, letters to the editor, and now thousands of petitions have shown our leaders that Haiti's debt cancellation is critical. Last week, over 80 US faith, labor, and human rights organizations sent a letter urging Secretary Geithner to negotiate Haiti's debt cancellation. This message was echoed in another letter sent yesterday by 94 Members of the House of Representatives - Members you called and emailed. Legislative momentum also continues to build in both bodies of Congress. This weekend we are sending your petitions to the Artic Circle in Canada, where the G7 finance ministers are meeting to discuss Haiti relief, among other things. The Treasury committed to using its leadership here to make sure that the ministers support debt cancellation for Haiti. As the country begins to rebuild, debt cancellation without harmful conditions and an assurance that Haiti won't get back into debt are critical and important steps in the right direction. In the coming days, we'll be watching closely to see how the Treasury and the G7 will fulfill this commitment. To stay updated, make sure you check out www.jubileeusa.org/haiti and follow our blog "Blog the Debt" at jubileeusa.typepad.org. Thank you again, Melinda St. Louis Deputy Director, Jubilee USA
Leadership Watch: Noteworthy News

February 1, 2010 @ 02:57 pm by Jacqui Lewis

News that has caught our interest:

I Choose Choice

January 27, 2010 @ 09:39 am by Jacqui Lewis

Hi everyone. I am not sure where you stand on abortion; this is a very complicated issue, and even those of us who are progressive leaders vary in our opinions. I am a leader and I am a woman who has never had to make that choice. I am also solidly and unwaveringly for women having that choice to make. I have been an advisor to the Religious Coaltion for Reproductive Choice for over seven years since I lived and worked in Washington, DC. Check this link out from the Director, Rev. Carlton W. Veazy and then do what you think is the right thing to do. I am writing CBS today.

Jacqui

Our his(Story) to Write

January 21, 2010 @ 10:06 am by Jacqui Lewis

In a lovely book, The Butterfly’s Way: Voices from the Haitian Dyaspora in the United States, edited by Edwidge Danticat, there is a poem in chapter one called “Present, Past, Future”. Penned by Marc Christophe, these are the opening lines:

What will I tell you my son?

What will I say to you, my daughter?

You for whom the tropics are a marvelous paradise

a blooming garden of islands floating

in the blue box of the Caribbean Sea

What will I tell you when you ask me

Father speak to us of Haiti?

What will the fathers and mothers who survive the aftermath of the devastating earthquake tell their children about Haiti? What will they say about a place named Ayiti Quisqueya, Bohio by its inhabitants? A place of mountains whose beauty was captured by the French and the Spanish? A place whose people were killed off by disease; a land inhabited by kidnapped Africans, whose land was tilled by forced labor? What will they say to their children about Hispaniola and Saint-Domingue-identities forced upon a land by colonial presences?

What will they say about slave rebellions and Francois Macandal and the Six-Year War? What will they say about those who fought in the American Revolutionary War and who went home to fight in their own? What will they say about François-Dominique Toussaint L’ouverture and the abolition of slavery in 1794? What will they say about January 1, 1804, the equalizing meal of soup, and Black Independence.

What will they say about Jean Baptiste Point Du Sable, a free Black man, the son of a French mariner and an African-born slave mother? What will they say about his time in Peoria and the way he founded Chicago, Illinois? What will they say about how his father took him to France to be educated? What will they say about a man who had the diplomacy necessary to befriend the area Native-Americans who considered him one of their own; who spoke several Indian dialects, as well as English, French, and Spanish? How can they speak about this Haitian American Hero?

What will they say when they speak of Haiti and of this time and of the reaction of the world-their neighbors? How will they speak of 40 seconds of terror, of two aftershocks and the aftermath of the crumbling of buildings and the crushing of bodies and souls? What will they say about the promises of an American president and a people? And when, more than a week later, there is another aftershock – a devastating 6.1, what will they say of how their spirits were rocked? What will they say about how the fault lines of race and class collided to crumble an infrastructure before the earth quaked?

And what will we say to our children, and to theirs?

A history of a people is just that – a story. Some of it is true; some of it is shaped and retold by those in power. In this month where we celebrate the African diaspora in America – African American History month, we think about how race is “storied”. We know there is only one race – the human race – but ethnicity and culture get “raced” in our country, and in other places around the globe. Race, skintone and color become signs for who is privileged and who is not; who holds the power and who does not.

How will we, on this soil, on this land help shape our history, and support and encourage the Haitian people to shape theirs? How we respond, what we do in these times can help reinforce the scars of a colonial past or help heal them. To be sure, money is the best way to help in these early days. Money can buy needed supplies and water, and money can flow over the internet; it needs no transport, airfield or road on which to travel. But in the days and weeks to come, as Haiti rebuilds and as we help, the way the world puts the power to shape policy, to name priorities; the way the world pardons debt and gives grants rather than loans – these tactics will help to create a story of hope, power and agency in a critical time in history.

Let’s do all we can to help write this chapter of history with love, grace and generosity. The Collegiate Churches of New York have made a first strike at this tragedy with a grant of $50,000; you can join in this grant-making by sending a check to Middle Church marked “Haiti Relief”, or you can go directly to www.churchworldservice.org and make a donation there. In time, we will do more – with our resources, with our time, with our love, prayers and support.

Let’s make African History Month a time of African diasporan connection. We all come from the same cradle of civilization – Africans, Europeans, Asians and Indians. So Haitian history, African American history, Chinese history – all of it belongs to all of us; and our future story is ours to write, together.

Help Our Haitian Neighbors

January 16, 2010 @ 04:06 pm by Jacqui Lewis

40 seconds. 7.0 Magnitude. More than 50,000 dead. Too many to count. A cloud of dust and debris. Brown bodies covered with soot and dust; with blood sweat and tears. 3 million people will require aid for up to a full year. Mansions and shanties, churches and hospitals--they all fall down. And Pat Robertson thinks the Haitians brought this on themselves.

These are the snapshots of the disaster in Haiti; pictures too horrible to even process.

Where do we see ourselves in that picture? Who is our neighbor?

This Sunday at Middle Church, we will celebrate the life and ministry of Martin Luther King, Jr. We will sing, and pray, and dance, and hope and talk about what it means to be a neighbor in these days and times. And we will collect a special offering for our neighbors in Haiti. Please come and be with us for worship at 11:15 followed by our SoulFood Brunch and then a workshop and panel of The State of Race in the Union featuring John Janka, Dean Hubbard, Granville Leo Stevens, Bruni Pabon, Kendall Thomas, yours truly and you in conversation.


If you can't be with us, join us in helping by sending a check to Middle Collegiate Churchwith "Haiti Relief" in the memo, donating through Reformed Church World Service, or take a moment to look at Charity Navigator's guide.

Lead the Way

January 8, 2010 @ 05:35 pm by Jacqui Lewis

I was sitting with my god daughter Morgan the other night. She loves to hang with me and my husband and when we all go out in the world, we pretend that this gorgeous café mocha colored child is ours. Morgan is one of those women who look like she could be from anywhere; she gets that from her mother. As stunning as she is to look at, and she is stunning, when I am with Morgan, I think to myself, “I am in the presence of brilliance”. She is so smart! In her last semester of law school, Morgan is smart about the world, smart about politics, smart about torts and other legal things, smart about life, and smart about herself. She is honest, funny, forceful, focused, she takes no prisoners as she speaks her mind. She is at that age when she seems both older than her 25 years and younger (when she seems to be permanently attached to her smart phone).

People this age move from working on who they are to finding strength at standing apart from the parental ethos and a more widely cast net of influencers and influences. She and her peers at 18-30 scoff at hypocrisy and want to see clear evidence that words and actions match. They believe they can change the world, and they can. One of Morgan’s BFF’s decided that she could start a business in Africa, pull some friends in, and not only make a living but make a difference; she did and they do.

This is the Yes We Can generation. They get technology and want their media served quickly how and when they want it. They thumb at the speed of sound– as they text, email and Tweet. They want connections and they want action and they know how to make it happen.

All of these people know a truth: people and institutions that talk the talk but don’t walk the walk are to be suspected. I believe they will wither and die on the vine. This is a newsflash for the church: if we don’t get relevant, if we don’t get with it, if we don’t get meaningful, if we don’t get relevant, we will die.

So we are doing a study of 18-29-year olds. Some of them go to church or synagogue or mosque. Some of them do yoga or chant. Others are recovering Baptists or Catholics. We want to know what they think, how they think about the world, about ethics, about doing the right thing. We want to know what gives them hope and what makes them want to make a difference. We think this generation will change the world and we better get on board or get out of the way.

If you are such a person, 18-29, who wants to get your voice heard in our study, January 29-30 at Middle Church (www.middlechurch.org) or you know such a person, reach out to Trish Sheffield at tsheffield@middlechurch.org. The conversations are on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, for 90 minutes each. We want to hear what you have to say. No compensation but lots of coffee will be provided.

Change the world, lead the way.

New Year's Resolutions

December 31, 2009 @ 01:23 pm by Jacqui Lewis

December 31, 2010, 10:00 AM. The last day of the year. The last day of the decade.

I have so many thoughts about the last ten years; I could not have imagined ten years ago how my life would be today. I have SO much to say about that, but it will wait until the New Year.

For now, I am thinking about how the sand in the hourglass is running out on this year. I am thinking about how the clock is ticking toward a new day, a new year, a new decade. I LOVE fresh starts and new beginnings. It is as though we get to wipe our slate clean and begin all over again.

Many of us will make resolutions in the next few days. We will resolve ourselves to be new, to do new things, to think new thoughts, to engage in new behaviors. I am a person who moves too fast, tries to do too much, needs to lose five pounds (maybe ten?), should give up potato chips forever, should stop swearing (a confession here), BUT

I want to use this reflective energy to think of deeper, more meaningful shifts in myself and in my life – the kind of shifts that make me a better human being and make me better at being human.

Here are the questions I am asking myself this year; maybe they can be good for you, too:

  • What was the most consistent attitude I had last year?
  • Was it helpful/hopeful or did it pull me and others down?
  • Is there anything I can do to get a new attitude? Is there anything I can do to keep that helpful attitude?
  • What was the hardest or most difficult thing that happened to me last year?
  • Where was God (or the Holy or the Universe) in that? Did I do anything to make that happen?
  • What is the most important lesson I learned from that hard thing?
  • What was the best thing that happened to me last year? Where was God/Holy/Universe in that?
  • What did I do to help make that happen?
  • What can I learn from that success/blessing/triumph/peace?
  • What is one thing I can carry with me from this year into the next that will make me a better world citizen?
  • However you engage with yourself in conversation about 2010, may it be a joyous, peaceful, purposeful year filled with new love for others, new love for yourself, new grace in tough times, and a new and abiding appreciation for the goodness of God — however you name God — and the Universe around us.

    Happy New Year!

    Jacqui

    A Little Child Will Lead Them

    December 23, 2009 @ 02:26 pm by Jacqui Lewis

    Sunday was a very special day at Middle Church. Our gospel choir performed an amazing concert in the afternoon, and our children gifted us with a great Christmas pageant.

    Most meaningful to me among the special moments happened when the children helped me with my sermon. I wrote a child-friendly one. After one of our little people recited a scripture by memory, I used the letters of the word Christmas to talk about what Christmas means. With great respect for their intellect, I was subtle and did not say, "C is for the Child and R is for the Region in which the shepherds worked." I just preached it with the refrain "Christmas means..."

    I was good and theological until I got to the second "S", at which time I acknowledged that Santa is part of the deal for many. Our children first coached me on all the names for Santa. Then there was a Minority report. One of ours was simply outraged: "Christmas is NOT about Santa. It is about Jesus and it is about love," he said.

    Now as a Christian clergy person, I was totally going there. But this child beat me to my own conclusion! Christmas is about love. And it is about this Child who re-presents Love.

    Christmas is also about little children who, if we will listen and let them, will fulfill a prophecy in the Hebrew Scriptures: "A little child will lead them."

    May the little ones be our leaders as we seek hope, peace, joy, and love this season, and in the next year.

    Happy Holy-days from me and the Middle Project

    Jacqui

    About This Blog

    Preparing ethical leaders for a just society. Posts by Jacqui Lewis, Senior Minister.

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