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Our Bodies, Our Selves: Women’s Bodies in the Pulpit

“The Crowning” by Sara Star

“The Crowning” by Sara Star

I was just one year past the anniversary of my ordination and ten weeks pregnant with my first child when my partner and I sent out the invitations to the annual Holiday Party at the Manse. We were waiting until after Christmas to tell the church about my pregnancy, so we hadn’t told a soul. But that didn’t stop Melvin. We were standing in the dining room when Melvin sidled right up to my husband and me with a drink in his hand and, in the casual manner of many an octogenarian, commented, “Pastor, I can’t imagine why, but it seems like your husband keeps getting thinner and thinner, and you just keep getting bigger and bigger!”

What does one say in a moment like this? I cannot remember what I did, but I suspect I laughed it off. On the other hand, I am still telling that story today. My family laughs about it now—about how Melvin’s adult grandson collapsed in laughter behind me in the aftermath, and about how Melvin showed up to church the next Sunday and sheepishly asked my husband if he needed to find a new place to worship—but as I reflect on my ministry, on the ways in which it has been changed by the growth of my family and the confidence that comes from experience, I am reminded that, as a woman who is a pastor, my body presents a particular challenge to those with whom I serve.

I am not alone. We all have stories (or maybe the better term is battle scars) that reveal the ways in which the people with whom we minister have invaded our personal space, have invited themselves into personal decisions about what is appropriate for us and what is not, or have defined the terms for us of what it means to be a minister in a woman’s body. We know what it is like to be told, like one minister, that our clothes are too revealing, without any context or explanation about what “revealing” means. Or to find ourselves on the receiving end of comments and judgments that evaluate our weight, our relationships, even our hairstyles with the same level of concern as the content of our preaching and teaching.

And then there is parenthood. As women who minister, it is inevitable that our personal choices around childbearing will, at some point, become a point of public discussion in the churches where we serve. And because the church as an institution tends to glorify traditional, heteronormative definitions of what it means to parent successfully, our very real lives as women can become a battleground over cultural ideals of parenting, motherhood, childbearing, and the work-family balance.

Amanda was already married and a new mother when she was ordained as a UCC minister. She entered ministry with a strong and healthy sense of identity as a parent, a minister, and a queer woman. But she quickly discovered that even in her progressive UCC congregation, assumptions around her body and parenting were inevitable. And because she is a parent, “there was a level of assumption that I have given birth. And no matter what, the fact that I had children meant that I must be sexually active. People went there. I didn’t expect that.”

For Amanda, being a parent thrust into the public sphere all kinds of assumptions about her health, her marriage, and her body. And, as a queer mother, she found herself working against her congregation’s attempts to “typecast” her. “Because I had a wife, I was put into this sort of ‘dad’ role, so guys around me treated me as one of the guys.” She shared that it caused her to start consciously dressing in a more feminine way at work while also pushing back against the sexualization of her body in the church.

For other young clergywomen, becoming a parent can threaten one’s job security. Bethany shared that, when she found out she was pregnant in her first call, she was immediately informed that it would cost her. “I was told not to expect an allowance for anything. I was to be a mom separately.” Implicit was the assumption that she needed to make a choice—she could either be a good parent, or a good pastor, but she could not be both, at least not at church. “They wanted kids,” she shared, “just not mine. They wanted him, but not with me.”

If there is a common theme in the experience of clergywomen who parent, it seems to be that their identity as a parent becomes a crucial part of how they evaluate the terms of their ministry. For Bethany, her congregation’s negative attitudes towards her identity as a mother ultimately led her to seek out a more supportive pastoral environment.

And she is not alone. When Cordelia became a single parent through adoption, it revealed real prejudices about parenting in her upper-middle class ministry setting. She found that leaders within her church seemed to resent her child. “I was told she was not welcome in worship (even with someone else holding her) or at any event or group where I was working. I was told by one parent that they were paying me to watch their kids, not my own.” In that environment, her identity as a single parent was treated as a problem that she had to solve on her own. At one point, the experience let her to seriously questioning her call to ministry.

Ultimately, Cordelia left her call and chose to focus on her child, who was “the most important thing to me.” That decision—to honor her identity as a parent over a ministry context that viewed parenting as a liability—ultimately gave her the time and space to seek out opportunities for ministry that would honor both identities. Today, she happily serves a small church in a small town, where her child is embraced and her ministry is valued.

The truth is that church folk have a tendency to forget that we are not their family. We are not their children, or their grandchildren either. But the intimacy that is inevitable in ministry tends to blur the lines between what is acceptable and what is not. In unhealthy churches, that boundary-crossing can feel intrusive and toxic to our identity as pastors and as parents. It can lead us to feel that our children are not welcome, that the fullness of who we are is not welcome. In these cases, perhaps the only answer is to walk away.

But in a healthy church setting, one that affirms the ministry of clergywomen in all of its uniqueness and its fullness, this same intimacy can become the life-force that sustains good ministry. In Kathleen’s case, the experience of becoming a mother was incredibly positive. She credited this to the fact that her church had eight members in the congregation who were also pregnant at the same time. For her, becoming a parent while also pastoring her church deepened her sense of intimacy with those around her. She found herself empowered to explore these connections more fully in liturgy, exploring the physically evocative language of Incarnation and the gritty realities of embodiment more explicitly in worship.

Amanda was surprised to discover that when members of her congregation learned that she had not physically birthed her children, some of them treated her as though this meant that she could not understand the female experience of giving birth. But her experiences of parenting without giving birth have enabled her to identify with and minister to women in the queer and trans community who wanted to parent, but weren’t able, or chose not to be pregnant.

At the end of the day, so much of our calling is wrapped up in our experience in the world.  And many of the experiences that are so often marginalized and silenced in an institutional environment are precisely the things that have the potential to make us better pastors. Our experiences have the potential to help us to find common ground with our neighbors in the pews and on the streets who experience oppression, victimization, silencing and policing from the dominant culture that is more interested in silencing opposition than in creating life. We have a unique opportunity as clergywomen to model another way, to break down the barriers that constrain those around us. To use our privilege in the pulpit to advocate for and stand alongside those whose voices are not heard.

Why? Because we know what is at stake. For we have been in the trenches. We bear the physical and spiritual scars on our person. We know how despairing it can feel to be limited, and how freeing it feels to find ourselves fully embraced. When we embrace the fullness of who we are, and enable others to do the same, the church is a stronger, healthier, more welcoming and faithful place.

2015 YCW Summer Conference

Congress StreetThis Summer, the YCW are GTT[1]

I look forward to the Young Clergywomen Conference every summer. For me, it’s a no-miss July ritual, right up there with hotdogs and fireworks. The Young Clergywomen Conference re-charges mind, body, and soul, comfortably navigating the line between solemnity and frivolity. Where else can you break from evening prayer and adjourn for beers at a local pub? The YCW conference, that’s where.

This year, YCW Conference will kick up its boot heels in Austin, Texas–that weird keeping, laid-back, music-loving capital of Texas. The dates are July 6-9, 2015 and  Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary will be our gracious host. Located just across the street from the University of Texas, and blocks away from downtown Austin, APTS is nestled between restaurants, pubs, and the ubiquitous Texas treat — breakfast tacos. Fellowship with old and new friends is a cornerstone of all YCW conferences, and Austin will provide the perfect context to feed your soul and stomach with the food of friendship.

As it turns out, this conference is all about context — from its location at Austin Seminary, to its keynote speaker, Dr. Margaret Aymer, professor of New Testament at Interdenominational Theological Center (Atlanta).  She’s going to be working with us on Contextual Bible Study, a tool that arose out of the church’s response to Apartheid in South Africa.  You can find her over at Twitter, where she is very active under the handle @mayog.

In addition to workshops, the conference will also offer:

  • Self-Care Opportunities (such as the very popular mani/pedis)
  • Field Trips for Spouses/Partners/Traveling Companions
  • Childcare will be available!
  • Cost: Early Registration fee for 2015 is $160. Childcare, meals for traveling companions (non-conference attending adults), and t-shirts are extra.  You may pre-register here.
  • Hotel: We have a group rate set up at the Holiday Inn-Midtown, Austin. The cost is $99/night.  We may have more housing options available in the coming months.  If you would like to reserve a room at the Holiday Inn-Midtown, please go to this link.  You are responsible for arranging your own housing for the conference.

See y’all in Texas!

[1] gone to Texas

When Procrastinating on the Sermon is Good

wheatfield-with-sheaves-1888.jpg!Blog

It was late July, and I was enjoying the school holiday break from my usual School Chaplaincy activities. Over those two weeks I had periodically glanced at the readings set for our staff commencement service on the first day back, at which I was to preach, but I was lost for ideas and put off the sermon writing a little longer. Then, just days before our return to school, MH17 fell victim to a missile attack and crashed over Ukraine. This suddenly drew greater attention to the once localised conflict between Ukraine and Russia, at the same time as tensions in Gaza began to escalate. It is perhaps no surprise then that when I finally went back to writing my sermon what stood out immediately in the readings were themes of woefulness, disaster and sorrow; of war and conflict; and of tyrants lording it over their people. I could not overlook these because, sadly, recent news had reminded me that they remain as much a part of our human life today as they ever have. We do not live in a kind of utopian wonderland – ours is a world often broken and suffering.

After what seemed like two weeks of procrastination, recent world events became the catalyst for a sermon that tackled some very big issues – evil, suffering, doubt, the presence and nature of God, and the basis for Christian hope. I could have written my sermon weeks earlier, but I doubt very much it would have addressed any of these topics, and I doubt it would have led to the meaningful conversations I have had since then with various colleagues.

First, I named the realities that were going on around us. Putting aside our individual viewpoints on current issues, we will surely agree that the state of our world at the moment is concerning to say the least. Our nightly news is filled with images of wars, protests, and uprisings. We see natural disasters and human disasters side by side. We see images that cannot be described as anything other than evil, and we see the subsequent pain and suffering endured by those directly affected. We see innocent people caught in the crossfire as they go about their daily lives. There is much to be concerned about when we really stop to look at the world we live in, even despite the relative peace and comfort that many of us enjoy. All of these grim realities I named so that we could hold them and wrestle with them together.

My intention was not to be pessimistic though, and so I interspersed these reflections with clear messages of hope. I explained that one of the gifts the Christian scriptures offer to us is the reflection on God’s loving and restorative presence within the world. As we read through the musings of various people from different times and places, we hear one very clear message – a message of hope. I treasure the fact that the writers of our biblical texts did not shy away from real human experiences and emotions, yet neither did they lose sight of the hope they had in God’s ability to restore even the most broken of lives. They teach us that not one person is beyond the reach of God’s love and comfort in times of sorrow, and no matter how low we are brought by our circumstances God is always at work restoring us and our world to newness of life.

I suggested that a part of me wonders if this sounds a bit trite in the wake of recent tragedies. It’s not that its untrue, not at all, but it does skim past the raw emotions felt at a time like this. It also rushes over the big questions that many people will be asking today: questions of why and how, and questions of where God is in all of this.

This led into my next point: that it is ok to be asking questions. When we are asking the tough questions we can turn again to the Christian scriptures for comfort, because in those texts we meet many other people who in the wake of their own sorrows asked similar questions to our own. In this way the Bible gives us permission and encouragement to ask those questions that are on our mind, and it even gives us the words when we cannot find them ourselves. Take the Old Testament prophets, for instance. In times of deep sorrow they dared to say aloud the questions that were on their minds as they cried out to God in utter despair. This is good, because until we give voice to our questions we cannot even begin to work through them. When we face difficult times it is perfectly understandable to have doubts and worries, and we need to voice them so that we can start to make sense of things.

Is that where I left things though, with a grim view of the world and a chapel full of colleagues wrestling alone with tough questions? Not at all! I explained that, thankfully, the Bible isn’t just filled with our questions. In it we also hear God’s responses to our questions: words of love, peace, and hope in every situation. Resurrection will always come, for our broken lives, and indeed our broken world, are always under the care of our God, who is actively working to restore all that is not whole. Things may not go back to how they were, but God will always make things new. God will bring smiles, laughter and joy back to us.

Turn again our fortunes, O Lord:
as the streams return to the dry south.
Those who sow in tears:
shall reap with songs of joy.
They that go out weeping, bearing the seed:
shall come again in gladness,
bringing their sheaves with them. (Ps. 126)

Our world is indeed broken and in pain, but this is not the end. Evil, death and suffering will never have the last say, in this world or the next.

(Photo of Vincent Van Gogh’s Wheatfield with Sheaves)

Tired Shoulders

 

My shoulders are tired this afternoon. Most of that is soreness from doing hair yesterday. All of yesterday: 10 hours of washing, conditioning, putting in product, brushing, combing, parting, twisting. 10 hours from which my daughter emerged with a beautiful head full of dark brown twists. Gorgeous. She is funny. She is smart. She is beautiful and I love her.

She is my daughter. It’s me or my husband who comfort her after bad dreams, dose out the ibuprofen in the midst of a horrible cold, or drive to dance lessons. We are the ones who remind her to pick up her room, to put the dishes into the dishwasher, to finish packing up her back pack. At first glance, we may not look like her parents, but we are. I am not a person of color. I am, in my colleague Rev. Michael Russell’s words, “a person of white.” We are a multi-racial family. We are not alone: 15% of the United States today are part of multi-racial families. That’s about 21 million folks.

I have sat at a kitchen table with a good friend, laughing, telling stories, and watching and listening as my friend reminds her teenage son about how to interact with the police should he be stopped for “DWB” (driving while black). “I know, Mom,” he says, “I know: you’ve told me.” She reminds him that she loves him. I have sat there, hearing this conversation, and for the first time realizing this could be my conversation with my children in a few years. Read more

Pilgrimage with My Mother

In May 2014, my mother and I walked the last 110km of the pilgrim route to Santiago de Compostela, in Spain. There have been many wonderful books, blogs and websites published about the pilgrim journey to Santiago, as well as many films, such as The Way with Martin Sheen. I commend all of these resources to you. I could fill pages with stories about the pilgrim route itself, about the wonderful experience of meeting God’s people in all their infinite variety, about what it is like to go on a literal and spiritual journey…but what I really want to reflect on is what it was like making the journey with my mother. Making the journey with my mother is what truly made the pilgrimage a God-filled experience for me.

Spending ten days, walking close to seventy miles, with ones mother may sound like a nightmare to some people. It was wonderful for us! My mother and I have always had a close and loving relationship. We get along; more than that, we actually enjoy and value each other’s company, insight, and conversation. I have especially enjoyed, now that I am officially in my early thirties, getting to know my mother as a fellow adult. She was a wonderful and amazing parent—she is also a wonderful and amazing woman. I feel very blessed to have such a supportive and caring relationship with my mother, knowing especially, that not everyone has such a gift available to them.

My mother and I had an interest in making the pilgrim journey to Santiago for a long time. One day, in the course of a phone conversation, we just decided to do it. We had the time, health, resources, and motivation, so why not make it happen? Until the day we boarded the plane to Spain, we literally could not quite believe what it was that we were about to do.

Previous to making the journey, my mother and I talked some about what we hoped to get out of the pilgrimage to Santiago. I was hoping for time and space for personal, spiritual and professional discernment, especially in my role as a parish priest in the congregation. My mother, who recently retired from a longtime career in clinical social work, was hoping to gain some spiritual insight into her goals and purpose post-retirement. We were both at different places in our personal and professional lives.

We were also at different places in our spiritual lives. I am an Episcopal priest. My mother attends an ELCA Lutheran church, which she joined after an extended period of spiritual seeking. While I serve God as a clergy woman in the church, in the capacity of inviting people into the life of faith, my mother has struggled for a while with the institutional practice of faith. She is a deeply religious and faithful person, but, like many people, has a difficult and sometimes painful past with the organized church, both as a child and adult. What’s more, the question of what to believe and why, is a very present matter for my mother, as it is also sometimes for me. Essentially, we were both seeking some of the same things, but for different reasons, and coming from drastically different personal, professional and spiritual contexts.

To be honest, I was hoping that God would speak to me somehow, and let me know clearly and compellingly, what God wanted me to do with the rest of my life. My mother was essentially hoping for the same thing. That’s not quite what happened.

Here’s what did happen. We had a very long and beautiful walk together, as mother and daughter. We were up at 9am and walked steadily until 6pm, for 6 days straight. Sometimes other people would be beside us on the path, sometimes, for long stretches of time—even, for about eight hours—there would be no one but us. We walked together, at the same pace, the whole time. Sometimes we laughed and talked together. Sometimes we walked in silence, lost in our own thoughts. What was especially wonderful about our walk together is that, when you walk for such a long time and over such distances, everything else falls away. The to-do lists, the professional and personal pressures, even the big spiritual questions—all of it fades away into the background. All we needed to do was put one foot in front of the other. All we needed to do was to be together. All we needed to do was just to be. At no other time in my life, has it been quite as possible or quite as easy to fall into simply being–being so present in the current moment and present also, to the woman beside me.

Not surprisingly, neither of us received a clear and compelling vision from God for our individual futures. There were no straightforward answers. I have a friend and fellow priest who has walked the pilgrim journey in the past, and she believes that answers and insights come over time, after the journey is over. I think she is right. I am sure that I will gain even more from the journey, now that the actual walking has ended. From a practical standpoint, once the trip was over and we went back to our separate homes and lives, I found that I really missed my mother. I had just spent every day with her for ten days straight. I felt the need to call her, to email her, to hear her voice even after the trip had ended—so I did, and have continued doing all those things regularly. But what God did give my mother and me, while on the journey itself, is the ability to be freed for a while, even of the questions and the need to ask them. The questions didn’t matter, and certainly not the answers either, at least not while we were walking together. We were able to simply be together, and I believe that God was with us in that space also.

I wish I could offer you wise words or a great insight at the close of this reflection. I really can’t. All I can say is that being present to someone you love, taking the time and the space to do it, is absolutely worth doing. I believe God is present with us in any loving relationship–in the conversations, the laughter, the weighty matters, the long walks, and the tired feet. Yet God is present in the silences too, when no one is talking, or laughing, or asking questions, but just connected by loving presence beyond words. When we talk about being surrounded by a Great Cloud of Witnesses, I believe those witnesses are the god-filled relationships in our life—like my relationship with my mother, and all the people who I care about. I truly am blessed; I truly am surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, people to love and who love me, and to know that God is in the midst of the relationships we share. That is so good to know again in my heart and my body and to remember into my future – whatever the journey holds.

We Have What It Takes

FS AlexIn 2002, my spouse and had I both graduated from seminary and had began serving as a clergy couple in rural Kentucky. Soon after we arrived, I experienced an incredibly sexist and hurtful incident while participating in a community ministerial alliance. I remember feeling so alone in my sadness and frustration. Even though my husband was my co-pastor, he could only sympathize up to a certain point.

Last week was Holy Week 2014. One of my clergy sisters experienced an incredibly sexist and hurtful incident while participating in an ecumenical worship service in her community. Hundreds of clergy sisters from across the globe reached out to offer support, good humor, and suggestions. I imagine she felt the power of the Holy Spirit reaching out in the spirit of “You’re not the only one!”

I attended my first Young Clergy Women conference in August of 2007 and haven’t missed a summer gathering since. We’ve met in Washington D.C., then D.C. again, St. Louis, Atlanta, Raleigh, Chicago, and Nashville. The 2014 conference will take place in Minneapolis. And I’m going to miss out! I’ll be in New Mexico, as my spouse has his twentieth boarding school reunion. It is so disappointing that these two events are happening at the same time, because I am keenly aware of what I will be missing.

By not gathering with my clergy sisters in Minneapolis in July, I will miss:

  • An engaging continuing education experience.
  • A chance to check out everyone’s pedicures and cute sandals.
  • The opportunity to share resources and best practices.
  • Margaritas. Or red wine. Or both.
  • An international, intercultural, ecumenical experience of women called to serve Christ.
  • The chance to cuddle babies.
  • Singing. The blending of women’s voices in prayer and song is a specifically profound experience of the Divine.
  • Hanging out with the most intelligent, hilarious, diverse group of women I know.

I turned thirty the month before attending the first YCW conference in 2007; it was at that same conference that we held our first board meeting. We began the process of drafting our by-laws, brainstorming the birth of this publication, Fidelia’s Sisters, and affirmed our desire to gather both in-person and on-line on a regular basis. I remember my best friend asking what I thought I might accomplish in my thirties; looking back, I realize that The Young Clergy Women Project has been one of the greatest professional accomplishments I’ve ever been part of.

I’m sure many of you reading this piece have also read articles or listened to sermons that decry the internet as the end of the church/humanity/God/life as we know it. I offer this counternarrative  a little bit of testimony to lessen the digital doom-and-gloom parade –

The Young Clergy Women Project and the virtual and in-person relationships that have resulted from TYCWP have allowed me to remain in ministry.  

Even though my own denomination, the Presbyterian Church (USA), has been ordaining women for nearly sixty years, it can still be a lonely, difficult vocation for young women.

Ground-breaking author and politician Clare Booth Luce once said, Because I am a woman, I must make unusual efforts to succeed. If I fail, no one will say, ‘She doesn’t have what it takes.’ They will say, ‘Women don’t have what it takes.” I can absolutely affirm that Young Clergy Women have what it takes…to be there for you, to show you the ways you are loved and not alone, to surround you as witnesses to your own ministry. If you aren’t sure, I encourage you to go to Minneapolis this July to find support, sisterhood, and a big dose of the Holy Spirit.

Telling the Old, Old Story

“Preparations were carefully made. All the people who expected to participate were very sure that their feet were already clean and had nice new hose.  White sheets were hung up separating the men from the women. A pan of water was provided for each group and two long towels.  Then one after another looped the towel about his waist, washed another’s feet and dried them with the towel until all had been washed.  It was a very solemn occasion, one felt very humble and I have seen the tears streaming down their faces as their feet were being washed.  They were thinking of the time the Savior washed his disciples’ feet. “~ From Big Sunday at Friendship Baptist Church, Ola Shields Deckard

 I have a binder; an old black one I pack away carefully in a crate filled with my journals as well as folders of papers I read only when I need a shot of self-confidence.  Every so often I pull the black binder out and leaf through it carefully as though turning pages might cause the papers to crumble.  The pages, type-written years ago on a word processor before computers were prevalent or affordable and rough with perforations from the dot matrix printer, carry the memories in story and poems of my maternal great-grandmother, Ola Shields Deckard.  A school teacher and farmer’s wife, Ola raised 6 children, the second-youngest of which was my grandmother.

She passed before I was born of course, but the binder is filled with her recollections of childhood, of raising her family, of travel and of church.  I’m not sure how old I was when I first read these pages, but I have carried them through four states and six different residences and they never fail to make me a bit teary.  They communicate not merely a sense of family history, but also a sense of scripture, as though somehow infused with holiness and speaking revelation.  The stories aren’t great masterpieces but they are vivid nonetheless, relating image and smell and texture and feeling in ways that ring true and broaden understanding.  Ola’s writings invite me into her world and, in turn, to see mine with her eyes.

At extended family gatherings, one only has to bring up her name to spend the next few hours listening to her grand and great-grand children share their own memories and contest each others’ versions of events or portrayals of her character.  For many she was harsh and intimidating, living in the second half of the 20th century but adhering to traditions and attitudes of the first.  My aunt, everyone agrees, was the favorite, somehow turning the strict schoolmarm into an indulgent granny.

 

It is here, in the midst of these stories that I learned to see the world in story form.

 

For better or worse I’m a story-teller, interpreting the world around me with a very particular type of structure, looking always for the narrator’s biases, for how the tale builds and falls. From sitting quietly listening to family stories, I understood before I could really articulate it that no one narrative is ever complete, that each narrator has a perspective and a purpose.  Ola writes about her father attending church regularly but deciding year after year to resist affirming his faith.  Eventually, he admits that while “the church can get along without me, I can’t do without the church any longer” and Ola believes that “no doubt there was rejoicing among the angels in heaven over one sinner coming home.”

It makes me wonder how the story would change if told by her father. Is it stage fright that keeps him from publicly declaring his faith that way? Did he simply believe that his faith did not need testimonial, that his life spoke his commitment? Or did he harbor questions and doubts that made him feel somehow unfit to call himself a Christian?  I read Ola’s description of a creek-side baptism service and wonder what it looks like through the eyes of the newly baptized or those waiting on the shore to go next.  How does the preacher feel, out there in the center with his arm around the man’s back, his hands clasped to his chest, guiding him below the waters and raising him to new life?

Through this I know the questions and fears many people harbor, the uncertainty and suspicion with which the church can be viewed.  I know that all of those things lie within me as well.  And because I know that my grandmother began attending First Christian Church because she wanted to be married in the biggest (and most beautiful, she thought) church in town, I know that it is not only community and security that motivates people to join churches, but also sometimes a self-serving agenda.

In the end, Ola’s stories strike me as scriptural because they reflect and bear witness to the true nature of the Biblical text as well.  The scope of scripture reveals the myriad narratives of humanity’s relationship to the Divine, to that which feels bigger than ourselves and manifests differently in different times and to different people.  This is how, and why, I fell in love with God’s grand story and why I keep trying to tell it again and again with a multitude of voices — one of which I know is Ola’s.

“Make up a story…
For our sake and yours forget your name in the street;
tell us what the world has been to you in the dark places and in the light.
Don’t tell us what to believe, what to fear.
Show us belief’s wide skirt and the stitch that unravels fear’s caul.”
– Toni Morrison