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Black Church Traditions We Need to Kick to the Curb Now

 

Keeping traditions for tradition’s sake without determining if said tradition is still meeting its purpose amid a newer context can be harmful.

 

by Houston DefenderMarch 10, 2024

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This post was originally published on Defender Network

By Aswad Walker

Tradition can be a good, powerful, beautiful thing. Honoring and keeping traditions can allow values to pass on from one generation to the next, so that those children, grandchildren, and their children will be able to benefit from ancient knowledge and learn lessons from past triumphs and mistakes. But keeping traditions for tradition’s sake, without determining if said tradition is still meeting its purpose amid a newer context, can be harmful.

In fact, one of humanity’s most powerful traditions is the tradition of challenging traditions when new knowledge, new information, and/or new realities make the once-empowering old ways now modern-day death traps. It’s literally the tradition of making sure that our traditions are still serving us, rather that us serving them – merely for tradition’s sake.

On that note, here are a few Black Church traditions I believe we need to retire.

Bible Class

Here me out saints, before damning me to hell. I’m saying we need to get rid of the Bible Class tradition that doesn’t make geography, history, and cultural context part of the lessons. Why geography? Because far too many faithful church-goers don’t realize that the vast majority of the Old Testament and New Testament (and Intertestamental Period) stories took place in Africa. Quick aside: In ancient times, Africa, or “The Land of the Blacks,” was not confined to the continent we’re familiar with. It extended to the east as far as India and even included some parts of southern Europe. The first folk we would classify as white didn’t enter the area where so much of the Bible story went down in any conquering manner until roughly 300 BC with Alexander the Greek. But the African Nation Israel started their journey as a people at roughly 2000 BC. So, for 1,700 years, Blackfolk were living and experiencing and writing down and reading and passing on the Old Testament bible stories before Alexander and crew even showed up. So, along with where the Bible story took place, when it took place (history) should be foundational to Bible Class. And when you delve into the history of a people, their cultural traditions will offer some powerful, spiritual revelations. So, again saints – chill before damning me to hell. And speaking of…

Damning Everyone to Hell

Can we get off our high horse of damning everyone to hell who doesn’t “do” Christianity like we (whoever your congregation might be) do? And can we make the herculean leap to stop damning to hell those whose religious walk may have revealed God to them as Allah, Oludomare, Shango, etc.? We come dangerously close to playing God when we believe the way we walk our spiritual walk is the only way.

The One-Finger Thingy

Though 99% of Blackfolk know the origins of that one-finger raising Black church tradition, I’ll share this for that 1% who are still in the fog. A historian explains, “During the slavery days when the masters took their enslaved persons with them to public gatherings, the enslaved would always sit in the balcony. When one had to go to the bathroom or wanted to be excused for any reason, they would hold their hand up and keep it up until their master acknowledged that they saw their hand and gave them permission to leave or in other words ‘excused them to leave.’ After the enslaved person was given permission to leave, they would hold up one finger as they were leaving to inform anyone who saw them leave that they had been excused. So, it means, “My Master has excused me.” Again, we all know this history, yet continue to do it. News Flash: We don’t have to. We can give ourselves the authority to kiss it goodbye.

Suspending Logic, Reason, and Common Sense

One preacher/theologian explained this tradition as so: “Black people, including intelligent, accomplished Black people, have been conditioned to leave their brains in the vestibule of the church.” In other words, we take in and believe as unquestioned fact anything preached from the pulpit. This speaks to a deeper tradition of rejecting new knowledge, information, and ideas if that new knowledge, information or idea comes from outside the church… and especially if it contradicts any part of our faith. But then we’ll turn around and quote the millions of scriptures that speak on the importance of seeking wisdom. And we shout, “Preach preacher” when Brother or Sister Pastor reminds us that “a people perish due to lack of knowledge.” Make it make sense. Either we’re open to new knowledge or not. I don’t know about you, but my God did not stop speaking, creating, inspiring, and enlightening when the Bible was “completed.” So, “why-come” we think the new discoveries and information our enlightened brains (given to us by God to develop to their fullest) shouldn’t be wrestled with and incorporated into our faith?

Men’s Only Pulpits

More and more churches and denominations are warming to the idea that women can be preachers and pastors. Why the hell this is a news flash is beyond me. Well, really it’s not (sexism and misogyny). But there are far too many churches still wed to the tradition of only receiving the “wur-red” from a man of God. There are even churches that won’t allow women to enter the pulpit area. And I know, they’ll lean on the creation story that says God created woman from the rib of Adam. What’s interesting is, they ignore the other creation story in Genesis that says God created both male and female together.

CONFRONTING THE ROLE OF RACISM

IN MY FAITH

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By Rev. Anna Golladay

My childhood was spent in the northern Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. This gorgeous mountain and valley vista was the place where I learned to love God and love creation. I was baptized into the United Methodist Church as an infant and spent the first 35 years of my life in the arms of Stephens City United Methodist Church. This church has a rich Wesleyan history, having been established around 1778 by circuit riders who dotted the Valley at the direction of Church of England antagonist John Wesley.

 

As I grew, I would come to realize the importance of our sister congregation, Orrick Chapel Methodist Episcopal Church. From the late 1700s to the early 1800s, black Methodists in Stephens City worshiped with whites in the same building. By 1858 African American Methodists in my hometown had a separate house of worship, just one block away. Many of my friends attended Orrick Chapel. One of the women who babysat for my siblings and I attend Orrick. Our children's ministry and youth ministry often overlapped with activities.

 

Due to finances, shrinking membership, and other factors, Orrick Chapel merged with my home church in 1991, the year I graduated from high school. I was so excited that we would be worshipping together and that I would see these friends and mentors weekly. I remember being puzzled when none of them showed up at church the Sunday after the official “merge.” As weeks went by, and they were not there, I raised the strength to ask why. I’ll never forget the answer I received: because they spent too many years being under the control of the white church and they didn’t plan on moving backward.

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It took me more than 20 years to understand what that meant. What I initially took as selfishness and stubbornness was far from it. It wouldn’t be until began to actively look at my own racism and supremacist tendencies that I could recall that time with sadness and embarrassment.

 

The Christian Church has a long history of racism. As Robert P. Jones, author of White Too Long: The Legacy of White Supremacy in American Christianity reminds us,
 

“Underneath the glossy, self-congratulatory histories that white Christian churches have written about themselves—which typically depict white Christians as exemplars of democratic principles and pillars of the community—is a thinly veiled, deeply troubling past. White Christian churches have not just been complacent or complicit in failing to address racism; rather, as the dominant cultural power in the U.S., they have been responsible for constructing and sustaining a project to protect white supremacy. This project has framed the entire American story.” 

 

Over the last decade, denominations, congregations, and leaders have begun to wrestle with this unsettling history. We have hosted book clubs, become less fearful of naming racism from the pulpit, and engage in reparative work with our communities. But these actions often come off as performative – never having a meaningful impact on us confronting our own racist and white supremacist proclivities. Individually, institutionally, and denominationally, we are, and remain, complicit in the original sin of America.

 

Convergence is no different. As an organization, we are continually confronted with the work we must do internally and individually. No one becomes anti-racist from reading their way out of it. It is a constant and lifetime pursuit - one riddled with the confrontation of our truths, often resulting in that same confrontation over and over. Our ultimate hope results in a shrinking of our ego and an expansion of our desire to be changed by the work.

 

Because the Church (us) is “complacent or complicit in failing to address racism;” and is “the dominant cultural power in the U.S.,” it (we) is/are an essential place to start. Convergence is launching Anti-Racism Training for Pastors and Leaders on April 1, 2024. Participants will learn from denominational experts and the team at Convergence about the need for an anti-racist approach to leadership in congregational and community settings.

Modules contain specific learning objectives, a thorough review of the ways that racism shows up, best practices, and video interactions.

  • History of Racism in the Church

  • Important Terms and Definitions

  • The Interaction Between Racism and White Supremacy

  • The Characteristics of White Supremacy

  • Evaluating Self and Community

  • The Challenges That Come With Awareness

  • Leadership Tools for Successful Conversations and Change

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For a limited time, use the
code ANTIRACISM20 for 20% off

We encourage you to pre-register for this course today. Ask other leaders in your community to take it with you. The work is ours and ours alone.

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WEBINARS YOU SHOULDN'T MISS

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PILOTING FAITH IN THESE TENUOUS TIMES

Join CEO & Founder Cameron Trimble in this important conversation with Traci Smith, Chalice Press. Put it on your calendar today!

Wednesday, March 20 – 1pm CST

WHY ISN'T THE CHURCH WORKING?
with Dr. Andrew Root

What if the solution for the decline of today’s church isn’t more money, people, programs, innovation, or busyness? What if we honored how tired our people are and how hard it is to get volunteers? Perhaps it’s time to reimagine what a congregation is, how it functions, and why it matters.

Thursday, April 18 - 1 pm ET

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RESOURCES FOR LENT
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The season of Lent is here.

 

If you are a leader in a congregation, the chances are you could use some ideas. In this webinar series, you will hear from international author and activist, Brian McLaren, as he talked about "Preaching Lent." You will also hear from musicians and worship consultants such as Marcia McFee, Bryan Sirchio, Mark Miller, Richard Bruxvoort Colligan, and Nicole Halvelka.

Listen to Matthew Fox and Bruce Chilton as they explore the meaning of Easter in a two-session event hosted by Cameron Trimble.

 

"Chilton is an able guide, showing that how early followers came to believe in Jesus’ resurrection reveals deep changes in ideas about cosmology, the nature of being human, and their experience of reality. So, too, can this book challenge contemporary readers to make richer sense of their own thinking about life, death, and belief."

 

-Claudia Setzer, Professor of Religious Studies, Manhattan College

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IS YOUR CHURCH ON THE EDGE OF A BIG DECISION ABOUT YOUR FUTURE?

We are now living in unprecedented times and many congregations are facing difficult decisions about their futures. The reality of the global pandemic is the final blow to fragile congregations that were already operating with limited margins.

We are wise to heed the wisdom of Robert Frost when he said, “The only way out is through.” We need to face into the reality that many congregations - perhaps yours - are no longer sustainable. They may need to merge with another church in the community or close completely. What matters most is that we don’t delay action even as we are heartbroken by grief. The sooner we act, the more vital and generous your future can be.

 

The temptation will be to hold on and wait. We will want to spend our last penny trying to save our buildings, even when there are only 10 people left. We beg you - don’t. Instead, consider the gift your church could offer the future Christian movement by repurposing the assets you have for a future you may or may not see but one that ensures your grandchildren will see.

Convergence is here to help you walk this challenging road. We have worked with dozens of congregations as they have:
 

  • Created new churches out of the merger of two congregations;

  • Closed their building and invested the funds into new ministries;

  • Closed their buildings and gifted their funds to denominational partners.

We know this is hard. We also know that going through this alone is overwhelming. If you are in the place where discerning a faithful future for your church is needed, we want to help. We are all in this together. 

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DID YOU KNOW THAT WE HAVE OVER 130 CONVERSATIONS AVAILABLE TO HELP YOU REMAIN ENCOURAGED?

  • Since 2000, Convergence has hosted eight online summits.

  • Those summits have produced 130+ conversations.

  • The most popular and important voices in our progressive Christian space have participated.

 

You can purchase Lifetime Access to all of these conversations for $1140.Access ranges in price from $149-$249 per summit.

-OR-

 

 

You can upgrade to COLAB+ Membership.

You will get all 8 summits, plus more than 90 other courses that you have full-time access to for the duration of your membership. All for only $240/year.

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COURSES TO HELP YOU NAVIGATE THESE DAYS
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FREE

While much of the world is experiencing significant transition, few places are as vulnerable to major shifts in engagement as faith communities. For years, we were seeing a decline in attendance within many congregations. Today, we see major shifts across the board - in attendance, giving, engagement, demographics, conflict, and change management to name a few.

 

Few people understand these trends as well as Dr. Scott Thumma, Professor of Sociology of Religion and director of the Hartford Institute for Religion Research at Hartford International University. Join us for a conversation with Dr. Thumma as we explore what is happening to congregations, what the future might hold, and what YOU need to know as a leader traversing these interesting times.

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$199
(use code BOUNDARY for 35% off)

Learn from denominational experts and the team at Convergence about the need for and management of excellent boundaries. Each unit will contain specific learning objectives, reflections based on theological foundations, case studies, best practices and video interactions.

  • Boundaries in Pastoral Relationships with Adults

  • Boundaries in Pastoral Relationships with Children & Youth

  • Boundaries with Finances and Church Business

  • Boundaries with Social Media

  • Boundaries for Self-Care

Welcome!  Meet the New Urban Missiology
Board Members!
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Rev. Reiko Brown

An Accomplished Music Minister;

Associate Minister,

St. Marks AME Church, Dallas, Texas

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Rev. Dr. Marvin L. Morgan

Interim Senior Pastor at Evangelical

Reformed United Church of Christ,

in Frederick, MD

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Rev. Cheri Hicks

Mental Health Counselor, Women and Children

Survivors of Domestic Violence

Atlanta, Georgia

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Rev. Dr. Japhat Z. Ndemera 

Pastor of Pilgrims Community Church and

Christian Fellowship International,

Fayetteville, GA

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Reverend Calvin Peterson

Founder and Director of  Disabled

in Action, Atlanta, GA

AND

CONGRATULATIONS!

OUR OWN BOARD MEMBER IS  ELECTED INTERIM GENERAL SECRETARY

NOTE TO READERS: Join us in expressing congratulations to Ghanian theologian Rev. Dr. Setri Nyomi. After serving a combined 14-year terms as General Secretary to WARC and WCRC, he was re-elected as interim General Secretary of the World Communion of Reformed Churches. He began his new assignment in January 2024, and is the first non-European to be appointed to that position.

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Setri Nyomi is returning to the World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC) as its interim general secretary. He is with his wife, Akpene Esther Nyomi.

“Setri Nyomi is a dedicated leader who has been journeying with the Communion for a long time as a continued voice against global economic injustice, ecological destruction, and climate change,” said Najla Kassab, WCRC president. “His coming back will provide strength to the journey of the Communion that is alive in its programs. His pastoral approach and wisdom will deepen communion relations among the churches and secure trust in our ministry together, supported by a capable team in the head offices.”

An extraordinary session of the Executive Committee meeting virtually on 2 November elected Nyomi, who served as general secretary for the World Alliance of Reformed Churches (WARC) and WCRC from April 2000 through August 2014. He will begin his term in January 2024 and serve through the next General Council, to be held in October 2025.

The Collegial General Secretariat (CGS), composed of the WCRC’s executive secretaries, will conclude its responsibilities in providing leadership upon Nyomi’s return. The change in leadership was approved by the Executive Committee at its regular meeting in May 2023, based on a report from a select committee that noted the need “to enhance management, accountability, and capacity at all levels.”

“The WCRC has a major role to play in adding value to its member churches, regional councils, and the Reformed family as well as ecumenical partners more than ever before, especially as we see the world descending into further chaos at several fronts,” said Nyomi. “I am convinced that we have a good team of executive staff and administrative staff to build on the good work that the WCRC has done in the past, and through perseverance to overcome our challenges.”

Having served as general secretary through two General Councils, Nyomi brings extensive experience as the Communion prepares for the 2025 General Council.

Commenting on the potency of the Council’s theme—Persevere in Your Witness—Nyomi said, “This is a good mobilizing theme. Especially as the situation in the world is becoming worse and many people could lose hope, we are being called to trust God and be unwavering in fulfilling what God has called us to do. This is not the time to lose hope, but to persevere in our witness to the Lord Jesus Christ who came so that all may have life in fullness.”

Noting that 2025 will be the 150th anniversary of the WCRC, Nyomi said he looked forward to joining the preparations already underway, “working as a team with staff colleagues, the officers and Executive Committee, leadership of our regional councils, and with the General Council Planning Committee to execute a very good General Council in Chiang Mai, Thailand, that will give us new marching orders into a future in which the WCRC is well placed to be a leader in the ecumenical movement especially in the area of justice.”

Nyomi received a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Ghana, Legon, in 1978; a Certificate of Training for the Ministry from Trinity Theological Seminary, Legon, Ghana, in 1980; a Master of Sacred Theology degree from Yale University Divinity School, New Haven, Connecticut, USA, in 1981; and a Ph.D. in Pastoral Theology from Princeton Theological Seminary, Princeton, New Jersey, USA, in 1991.

He was ordained in the Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Ghana in August 1980 and served as parish pastor in both Ghana and the USA. He taught pastoral theology and homiletics at Trinity Theological Seminary in Legon, Ghana, in the 1990s.

After concluding as WCRC general secretary, Nyomi has taught in Princeton Theological Seminary (USA) and the University of Göttingen (Germany). He was also the chairman of the University Council of the Evangelical Presbyterian University College in Ho, Ghana, from 2015 to 2023. He is currently a senior lecturer in Trinity Theological Seminary, Legon, Ghana, and the district pastor of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, Accra New Town, Greater Accra Region, Ghana.

He is married to Akpene Esther Nyomi (pictured above); they have three adult children, two of whom are married. They have four grand children.

The Reformed Ecumenical Council and WARC came together at the 2010 Uniting General Council to form the WCRC.

AND

CONGRATULATIONS!

OUR OWN BOARD MEMBER

imam michael saahir and His team haVE newly compiled a 570-page book titled, Commentary of Selected Verse of the Holy Qur'an: by Imam W. Deen Mohammed.

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NOTE TO READERS: This is an actual letter received earlier this month addressed to you.
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Chris Carberg - Founder & Grateful Recovering Addict (2005)
AddictionHelp.com

1187 Falling Pine Ct
Winter Springs, FL 32708

https://www.addictionhelp.com

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Hi there, Urban Missiology, Online Community,

My name is Chris, and I'm a grateful recovering addict (19+ years). I’m also one of the founders of the new website, AddictionHelp.com. Addiction Help is one of the only educational websites founded by a recovering addict, an addict’s spouse, and a board-certified addiction doctor.

While I was researching websites with helpful information about addiction and mental health, I came across Urbanmissiology and noticed the valuable resources you have available here - https://www.urbanmissiology.org/teaching-learning.

According to the PACER National Bullying Prevention Center, bullying can lead to mental health disorders and addiction in adulthood. People bullied often use drugs or alcohol to cope with their trauma and are twice as likely to commit suicide. 20% of all middle and high school students report being bullied. Suicide is now the SECOND leading cause of death for individuals 10-34 years old.

I was bullied. Viciously. I was 12 years old when I began being viciously bullied and went from being a happy-go-lucky kid to having panic attacks every day. The severe impact of bullying led to extreme anxiety, binge eating, alcohol abuse, and drug addiction. I founded Addiction Help to help anyone suffering from addiction issues, with many of those wounds beginning during adolescent bullying.

Addiction Help is committed to helping save the lives of innocent bullying victims from drug overdose and suicide, but we need your help.

I’ve put together information that educates about the connections between bullying and substance abuse, including a video of my own story. https://www.addictionhelp.com/addiction/bullying/

Will you help us save lives and spread awareness by adding our link to your website?

Thank you.

Note to Readers: Let us wish Chris a very Happy Anniversary and many more!

19 Years Sober. 19 Years of YES to Life on Life’s Terms

Feb 10, 2024 By Chris Carberg 

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19 Years Sober.

What a ride.

As the founder of AddictionHelp.com, I wanted to share my feelings on this special day.

I have never regretted my sobriety, even as I’ve walked through moments that some would describe as “excuses to get drunk/high.”

Some were just incredible, others incredibly painful, yet the world would have told me I needed something to take or drink to “enjoy” or “forget” them.

  • Facing the shame and horror of the lies, broken relationships, and the remains of my actions due to my addiction.

  • Rebuilding relationships and witnessing tremendous and selfless love from family and friends.

  • Going back to college sober and having a prolific year culminating in a produced play kickstarting my career.

  • Meeting my bride, the love of my life, and choosing to stay in Orlando and build something together here.

  • Getting married while in the middle of filming a movie and having my first “real” job.

  • Jumping headfirst into excitedly building a new career in tech and media because I loved the web so much and launching my first startup company.

  • Witnessing the “failure of that first company” and subsequent un-or-underemployment that spanned being hired, fired, laid off, or simply witnessing companies collapse (At least 6 of them in little more than 2 1/2 years).

  • Having a wife who worked so hard, providing for our family while I “figured it out” and who, in the midst of my sojourning, never stopped believing in me, telling me that “I know who Chris Carberg is, I know who I married, and I KNOW you are going to break through.”

  • Reaching a breaking point of deciding that God must want me to go back to acting or writing because I can’t do it.

  • Getting that dream job opportunity at the peak of my sorrows, minutes away from throwing in the towel, working diligently, growing it successfully, and building new brands.

  • Experiencing a traumatic miscarriage and walking with my wife through years of hopeless infertility.

  • Finding a beautiful new church home and something of a community to be a part of.

  • Leaving a company I helped build and loved, abandoning one particular product that was my brainchild, my baby, all because I couldn’t put up with the darkness surrounding me there anymore.

  • Having my first child, a beautiful daughter, but temporarily losing my wife to intense mental illness in the form of nine long months of postpartum depression.

  • Launching PostpartumDepression.org to help cope with the extreme pain and to witness it explode into a wellspring of hope for the nearly a million visitors since.

  • Becoming a caregiver for my father as he faced a painful cancer journey, and I was in the role of the advocate for my mom and dad.

  • Buying and completely renovating a home, moving in March 2020 as the world changed in the face of Covid-19.

  • Welcoming my amazing son into the world while the rest was locked down.

  • Returning to my passion, seeing lives saved and hope restored with the launch of AddictionHelp.com. And now, having reached and served millions of people through our brand, all while prioritizing PEOPLE over profits, we are seeing ethical and compassionate business models appear, a testament to our faith in this vision and our commitment to our community of recovery.

The mere thought of ever missing ANY of those moments is now unimaginable.

These are only a very small compilation of moments from the past 19 years and hardly scratch the surface of all that has happened.

The long and short of it is that sobriety has given me the gift of a memory of these moments and the clarity to see it accurately. And while I’ve done this 19 years in a row, I can only be sober right now, today. I live in a perpetual now, an enduring today.

Sobriety is the greatest gift I ever gave myself, and what I’ve learned along the way is that most of the world doesn’t see sobriety the right way.

You see, sobriety is deeply misunderstood.

Most believe that sobriety is seeing a drink or drug or substance or behavior and making a sign of the cross with my hands to ward off its evil, and reluctantly saying no to it, to fun, to everything.

Sobriety is not saying “NO”.

Sobriety is saying “YES!” to life on life’s terms.

I’ve been saying YES to life for 19 years and am beyond grateful.

Happy Anniversary!

With George Floyd in mind, Bible co-editors created
the Breath
e Life Bible

After the death of George Floyd, a Black man killed by a white police officer,
the co-editors of the new Bible say they felt compelled to do something

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Protesters rally outside Minneapolis' 3rd Precinct on April 19, 2021, as the murder trial against former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin in the killing of George Floyd advanced to jury deliberations. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

February 13, 2024

By Adelle M. Banks

(RNS) — Michele Clark Jenkins and Stephanie Perry Moore have known each other for almost three decades and have worked together on two specialty editions of the Bible. But more than friends and colleagues, they say, they hold each other spiritually accountable.

After the death of George Floyd, a Black man killed in 2020 by a white Minneapolis police officer, the duo say they felt compelled to do something new that combined their faith and their desire to advance racial and social justice.

The result is The Breathe Life Bible, the title echoing Floyd’s repeated insistence “I can’t breathe” as he was restrained with the officer’s knee on his neck.

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Cover of The Breathe Life Bible.

(Courtesy image)

The tome, set for release Tuesday (Feb. 13), introduces each biblical book with a “Breathe It In” segment and features “#Oxygen” tidbits that point to what they consider promises in the scriptural verses. The Bible includes devotions written by Christian leaders, including the Rev. Bernice A. King, daughter of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and CEO of the Atlanta peacemaking center named for him; NAACP CEO Derrick Johnson; and Thelma T. Daley, president of the National Council of Negro Women.

Each of these contributors expands on different imperatives summed up in the acronym BREATHE: believe, reconcile, exalt, act, trust, hope, elevate.

“You can be a part of groups that are doing things for change,” said Moore, 54, in a joint interview with Clark Jenkins. “You can also have an inward and a personal relationship with God for him to guide you on your own heart and mind on what you should do.”

Clark Jenkins, 69, wrote 49 “We Speak” segments that give brief first-person introductions to Bible characters and short interpretations of their role.
“It has been taught that the curse of Ham is on Black people and that’s why we were enslaved,” she said in the interview. “And that’s why we are on the lower rung of society and why we’ve been oppressed all these years. And that’s just incorrect. And so we wanted to make sure that when I’m talking about who people are, that we dispel rumors.”
They talked to Religion News Service about their reaction to Floyd’s killing and their hopes for their new Bible.

The interview was edited for length and clarity.
Why did you decide to co-edit The Breathe Life Bible and why now?

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Michele Clark Jenkins, left, and Stephanie Perry Moore.

(Courtesy photo)

Clark Jenkins: The summer that George Floyd was assassinated was a very contemplative time, and so Stephanie and I started talking, and really the question before us was: There’s so much happening, there’s injustice, we’re feeling oppressed. What are we supposed to do as Christians? Are we supposed to go into our prayer closets and not come out? Throw Molotov cocktails through Macy’s window? That’s what caused us to want to do this project, to talk about how we as faithful people are supposed to respond, no matter what’s thrown at us.

Stephanie, you wrote in the acknowledgments that this Bible is “a road map of how we can allow the Father to lift the weight of this world off the oppressed.” How do you think a Bible might do that?

Moore: When you think about faith in action, there’s no other way to walk with the Lord than to have the Bible, every piece of it — your favorite scripture, what your pastor might say from the pulpit in taking a passage from the Word. It’s a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path.
Michele, there are sidebars labeled “Inhale” and “Exhale” and verses that you label “Oxygen.” Are you hoping that this Bible will be a tool for physical as well as spiritual exercises?

MCJ: The stresses of life affect us spiritually, mentally and physically. And so, to that extent, yeah, we want the burdens of your life to be lifted, we want people to have joy. We want people to be able to breathe. We wanted people to have guidance and to feel comfortable with how they were taking action in their life because it was biblically based.

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An individual reads The Breathe Life Bible.

(Courtesy photo)

The King James Version has long been a favorite translation for African Americans.

Is that why you choose to use the New King James Version for this Bible?

SPM: You’re right on. We’ve got about 30 different contributors. We have some women, some men, pastors, presidents of (seminaries), gospel singers, rocket scientist. But when we polled a lot of them, the New King James Version of the Bible was one that was always pretty much on the top.

You contrast this Bible with the Slave Bible, the 19th-century American edition that omitted passages about freedom and God’s delivery of the oppressed. Does your Bible pay special attention to those very passages?

MCJ: Not purposely. Places that we really highlighted were those that really talk about how we demonstrate our faith through our actions. So it focuses on when the Bible talks about fighting injustice and oppression and our responsibility to do that.

George Floyd comes up a number of times in the commentary. Are you seeking to reach those who have been involved in the Black Lives Matter movement or the protests that followed his death?

SPM: Personally, it affected me. And that was one of the reasons why I was called, with Michele, to figure out what we could do. If not us, then who? To be able to work together with folks who were hurting, to be able to change that with other people that are stakeholders and faith leaders. To be able to put together a comprehensive piece that hopefully could be hope in the midst of a lot of pain.

MCJ: This Bible is geared towards anybody, by the way. Although we write it from an African American perspective, it’s not just for African Americans. It’s for anybody who wants to put their faith in action. We know that faith without works is dead. Now that you have faith, the question is, what do you do with your life? How do you live your life? How do you go through your life, the good, the bad, and the ugly? And so this is for anybody who struggles with those questions.

Source: https://religionnews.com/2024/02/13/with-george-floyd-in-mind-bible-co-editors-created-breathe-life-bible/

African Methodist Episcopal Church calls for end

to all US aid to Israel

Leaders of the historic denomination called Israel’s military campaign in Gaza ‘mass genocide’

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President Joe Biden during a campaign event at Mother Emanuel AME Church on Jan. 8, 2024 in Charleston, South Carolina. Photo by Sean Rayford/Getty Images

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By Camillo Barone

February 16, 2024

Describing Israel’s military campaign in Gaza as a “mass genocide,” leaders of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the nation’s oldest predominantly Black denomination, have called for the U.S. to halt “all funding and other support” for the Jewish state.

The statement came from the church’s Council of Bishops Thursday as the Israeli army continued to move into Rafah, a city in southern Gaza where 1.6 million Palestinians are sheltering.

Israel has “denied them access to food, water, shelter, and health care. After this torture, they plan to murder them,” the statement reads.

Several major American Christian churches and the National Council of Churches have come out in support a ceasefire in Gaza. Some have called for the U.S. to end military aid to Israel, as opposed to the AME’s call for the U.S. to end all its support for the Jewish state.
Israel has said its purpose in Gaza is to wipe out Hamas before it can make good on its stated intention to repeat attacking Israel until it is destroyed, and to free the hostages the militant group took on Oct. 7. It blames Hamas, which rules Gaza, for the high Palestinian death toll, pointing to its strategy of hiding militants and weapons among civilians.

According to Gaza’s health ministry, Israel has killed more than 28,000 Palestinians, mostly civilians, in its four-month military campaign. The terror group killed about 1,200 people and took 240 hostage in its Oct. 7 attack. The bishops refer to Hamas’ killings in Israel as “brutal murder.”
“The cycle of violence between historically wounded peoples will not be dissolved by the creation of more wounds or through weapons of war,” the statement continued. “We remain in solidarity with Jesus Christ of Nazareth, a Palestinian Jew, and the Prince of Peace.”
The bishops noted that they issued their statement on the birthday of  Richard Allen, an enslaved person who bought his freedom and founded the AME Church in the late 18th century.

Urban Missiology: Urban Cafe-Elonda Clay

LIBERATION AFTER AI?
THE RISE OF AI AND THE FUTURE OF SOCIAL JUSTICE

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Topic: Urban Missiology: Urban Cafe-Elonda Clay
Time: Feb 10, 2024 10:00 AM Eastern Time (US and Canada)

Join Zoom Meeting:
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Meeting ID: 561 595 6303
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Note to Readers: Imam Michael Saahir is an Urban Missiology board member who is actively involved in the city of Indianapolis.

Israel and Palestine – Do Imams and Rabbis cry?

Friday, January 26, 2024

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By MICHAEL SAAHIR

Reprint from the Indianapolis Recorder,

Friday, January 26, 2024

“It is He Who has let free the two bodies of flowing water: One palatable and sweet, and the other salt and bitter; yet has He made a barrier between them, a partition that is forbidden to be passed.” (Qur’an, chapter 25: verse 53)

The Qur’an mentions two bodies of water that meet but never integrate; one water-body is sweet and palatable and the other body of water is bitter salt-water. Tears of joy and laughter are not bitter to our taste buds, but tears of sadness and pain tend to be salty, you ever wonder why salty tears accompany difficulties?

The Israeli-Gazan difficulties – more accurately “the Zionist-Hamas” difficulties – have resulted in much of the whole world shedding bitter and salty tears. I wonder if the tears of imams, rabbis and other world religious leaders, if they too are shedding tears? Not just tears for the suffering adherents of their respective faiths, but for the sufferings of people who practice or believe a different faith.

Do imams cry salty bitter tears when they hear of a Jewish baby being murdered or kidnapped by terrorist? Do rabbis cry acrid tears when bombs kill innocent Palestinian babies by the hour? Or do we only cry and protest for the innocent baby whose parents worship and pray as we do? Are faith leaders allowed to be that selfish? Of course not!

Where in the Qur’an or in the Hadith1 is there an inkling of support for imams to remain quiet while innocent Jews are being slaughtered? Likewise, where is there even a whisper of support in the Talmud or the Torah for rabbis to remain quiet while innocent Palestinians are being slaughtered? How can we claim to be leaders and lovers of peace, i.e. Salaam and Shalom, but our inaction to speak out against violence to others betrays the very idea of universal peace; that transcending peace without borders?

If an imam can’t shed tears for the human being, G_d’s creation, whose parents just so happens to be Jewish, can that imam be called to account for his insensitivity towards that human being? If a rabbi can’t shed a tear for the human being, again, G_d’s creation, whose parents just so happens to be Palestinian, can that rabbi be called to account for their insensitivity towards the life of that human being? As imams and rabbis, often we are emulated by our members of our faith traditions. We are models that set the tone for our communities’ conduct. If we publicly shed a tear for others of a different faith, hopefully, our membership will do likewise.

Tears are not prejudice; however, sometimes our motive behind our tears may not be as innocent as we would like to believe. If our tears are reserved for only “my people” or for “my nation,” then the motive behind such tears are often weaponized or politicized to garner self-pity. Such tears are not for humanity. Are the tears of imams reserved only for Muslims and not for humanity? Are rabbi’s tears reserved only for Israel? Would the Prophets Muhammed and Moses, peace be upon them, cry tears only for abused and murdered babies of their particular faiths? No!

Our Creator is not the exclusive Lord of Israel and not also the Lord of all people. Allah is not just the G_d for Muslims. Allah is the Lord of all the worlds. The salt content of Muslim tears are no different than the salt content of Jewish, Christian, Buddhist, Sikh – or any person of faith – tears of pain.

Where are the tears of joy that we exchange during our “cookies and punch” interfaith gatherings; the laughter and hugs that accompany firm handshakes of brotherhood and peace? What good are these meetings of multi-faith unity if such gatherings can’t produce a sincere tear for the innocent loss of lives of those who are not of your particular,  individual faith? Interfaith/multi-faith vitality becomes impotent if not maximized during difficult times.

Physical tears of joy, often, are not bitter. The same is true for mental tears of joy that accompany clear understandings, and our spiritual tears that flow when our souls find solace in the sacred words of G_d. The Qur’an promises that these two bodies of water, albeit adjacent, are bodies of water that never mix or integrate together. We can’t cry one bitter tear simultaneously with a palatable tear of joy. In other words, an imam can’t cry salty tears only when the victims are Palestinian, but cry tears of joy when the victim is Jewish. Likewise a rabbi can’t cry tears of joy when the victims are Palestinians and then expect the world to cry with them when the innocent victim is Jewish.

We need our religious leadership – from all faith traditions – to return to their respective holy text and relearn to cry tears that benefit humanity – the whole of humanity, not just for a select few who look and pray like you! Salty tears are bitter because they flow when the bitterness of life dominates our minds and souls. Bitter tears we can overcome when we take moral stands that produce sweet palatable tears of universal joy that we shed together as one!

  1. Islamic reports on the life of Prophet Muhammed, prayers and peace be upon him.

Note: Happy New Year! It seems wise to listen to wisdom as we begin a new year. Marc and Angel Chernoff are New York Times bestselling authors, professional coaches, full-time students of life, admirers of the human spirit, and have been recognized by Forbes as having “one of the most popular personal development blogs.” 

https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/#inbox/FMfcgzGwJRwqHWMpJDBmFMdVJRKXzbCL (12/24/23)

40 Quotes for Letting Go and Coping with What You Can’t Control Today

WRITTEN by ANGEL CHERNOFF // 10 COMMENTS

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The goal every day for the rest of the year (and beyond) is to gradually grow stronger on the inside so that less and less on the outside can affect your inner wellness without your conscious permission.

Truth be told, how you cope with unexpected stress and frustration can easily be the difference between living a good life and living an unhealthy one. If you choose unhealthy coping mechanisms like avoidance or denial, for example, you can quickly turn a tough situation into a tragic one. And sadly, this is a common mistake many people make.

When you find yourself facing a disheartening reality, your first reaction might be to deny the situation, or to avoid dealing with it altogether. But by doing so you’re inadvertently holding on even tighter to the pain that you wish to let go of — you’re, in effect, sealing it up inside you.

Let’s imagine someone close to you has grown ill, and supporting this person through his or her illness is incredibly painful. You might not want to deal with the pain, so you cope by avoiding it, by finding ways to numb yourself with alcohol and unhealthy eating. And consequently, you grow physically ill too while the pain continues to fester inside you.

Obviously that’s not good.

If you notice yourself doing something similar, it’s time to pause, admit to yourself that you’re coping by avoiding, and then shift your focus to a healthier coping mechanism, like using the quotes listed later in this post (several of which are excerpts from our books) to help you open your mind.

When you face struggles with an attitude of openness — open to the painful feelings and emotions you have — you find out that it’s not comfortable, but you can still be fine and you can still step forward. Openness means you don’t instantly decide that you know this is only going to be a horrible experience — it means you admit that you don’t really know what the next step will be like, and you’d like to understand the whole truth of the matter. It’s a learning stance, instead of one that assumes the worst.

The General Benefits of Healthy Coping

Coping certainly isn’t an easy practice, and I’m not suggesting that it is. What I am suggesting is that it’s worth your while. With practice, healthy coping allows you to find better ways of managing life’s continuous stream of unexpected and uncontrollable circumstances. For example…

  1. A task is harder than you expected it to be — Instead of running from a daunting and overwhelming task, you can accept it and see what it’s like to feel uncomfortable and overwhelmed, and still take action anyway. Writing a book, for example, is daunting and overwhelming, but you can still write one even with those feelings rolling through you (just like Marc and I did with our books).

  2. An interaction with someone you love angers or frustrates you — Instead of lashing out at a loved one when you’re upset with them, you can sit quietly with your difficult feelings and just be open to what it’s like to feel them. And then, once you’ve had a moment to breathe, you can see what it’s like to deal compassionately with someone you love who you’re also upset with. To try to understand them instead of just judging them at their worst.

  3. Unhealthy cravings overwhelm you out of nowhere — You may be inclined to indulge in unhealthy cravings like alcohol and sweets for comfort when you’re feeling stressed out. But you can sit with these feelings and be open to them instead, and then gradually build positive daily rituals for coping in healthier ways—taking walks, meditating, talking with someone about your feelings, journaling, reviewing the relevant quotes from our book provided in this post, etc.

  4. You are forced to deal with a loved one’s death — When someone you love passes away, the grief and sense of loss can seem overwhelming. And at that point, it’s incredibly easy to give in to unhealthy, “quick-fix” ways of alleviating the pain. But you have to force yourself to do the opposite—to give yourself compassion, to sit with the powerfully difficult thoughts and feelings you have, and to open your mind to what lies ahead. Gradually it becomes evident that death isn’t just an ending, but also a beginning. Because while you have lost someone special, this ending, like all losses, is a moment of reinvention. Although deeply sad, their passing forces you to reinvent your life, and in this reinvention is an opportunity to experience beauty in new, unseen ways and places.

And of course, we’ve merely just scratched the surface of an endless pool of possibilities for healthy coping. The key thing to understand is that by learning to cope in healthier ways, you will find that you can better handle anything life throws your way, and come out stronger, and oftentimes even happier, than you were before.

In the end, the world is as you are inside. What you think, you see, and you ultimately become. So gather and choose your thoughts wisely — think how you want to live today. And use these quotes to guide you:

Quotes for Letting Go and Healthy Coping

In moments of unexpected stress and frustration, an uplifting reminder can make all the difference in your mindset. And that’s exactly why I’m sharing the quotes below with you today. Together they collectively serve as a healthy coping mechanism for life’s inevitable disappointments. And understanding how to cope in a healthy way, as we’ve discussed, is an invaluable skill.

Truth be told, Marc and I personally reference these quotes on a regular basis to bring perspective, shift our mindset, and cope with the unexpected troubles we can’t control. And although this practice is indeed a personal one, it’s also been vetted by its extensive use in hundreds of successful one-on-one (and two-on-one) coaching sessions that Marc and I have administered with our course students, live event attendees, and coaching clients over the years. Perhaps they can help you too…

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…and I dare you to dance today, through the holidays, and into the New Year! ���​​

But before you go, please share this post with others who you think will benefit from it, and also share your thoughts with us in the comments section below. Which quote above resonated the most today? Or perhaps share an additional quote or personal saying that has helped you let go and cope more effectively with the things you can’t control.

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