Monthly Archives: February 2015

March with me on March 8

In commemoration of the 20-year anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, Presbyterian participants in the 59th Session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women will join the march for gender equality on International Women’s Day! Please join us and our partners, the City of New York, the UN Women for Peace Association, NGO CSW New York, Man Up Campaign, and the Working Group on Girls.

We will march through New York City midtown, starting at Dag Hammarskjold Plaza and ending on Times Square.

1:30 p.m. Participants begin to assemble (Dag Hammarskjold Plaza – 47th St and 2nd Ave)
2:30 p.m. March begins (see below map for the exact route)
4:15 p.m. Final convening point: Renewing commitments to gender equality (Times Square – 42nd St and 7th Ave)
5:00 p.m. March concludes

Participants are welcome to produce and bring their own banners with powerful messages calling for women’s rights.

If you attend the march, share your images and messages on social media via the hashtag #Beijing20, and follow @UN_Women on Twitter for coverage!


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Filed under Current Events, Human Rights

Glory, Selma, tears

On Sunday, at the First Presbyterian Church of Far Rockaway, I quoted the song “Glory” by John Legend and Common from the movie Selma.

The young people of the congregation helped lead the service. Not too long after the sermon, the dance troupe provided a liturgical dance.

As the notes to their opening song sounded over the PA system, Darnell turned to me and said, “It’s your song. It’s ‘Glory’.”

The moment led me to the conclusion I had to see Selma. When my friend Hazel proposed tea; I counter proposed we go to the movie. She agreed. We did.

I do not offer a review here, simply three observations.

  • Selma is a powerful, profound movie about the struggle to end racism in the United States. Many of the issues addressed in the movie remain with us. Some have morphed. Some stay the same. We have work to do.
  • I have been to the Edmund Pettus Bridge. I was in Greensboro, Alabama to help rebuild the Rising Star Baptist Church. It had been burned in an arson fire. The rains came. Work stopped. We went to Selma to visit the National Voting Rights Museum and Institute. After viewing the exhibits, the group went to the bridge. Some walked quickly and easily on to the bridge. I paused for prayer and reflection before I joined them on that holy ground.
  • I wept as I viewed Selma. Several times. Interestingly enough, my tears did not come during the scenes of brutality and hate, racism and violence. Those moments made me wince and broke my heart. Painful as they were, they did not elicit tears. Tears came as I watched moments of unspeakable courage, unbreakable love, and astounding grace.

I give thanks for those who lived the story told in Selma. I give thanks for those who retold the story of Selma. I give thanks for those who give of themselves today to finish the work begun so long ago.

To those who worshiped at the First Presbyterian Church of Far Rockaway, I gave homework. Listen to “Glory.”

To anyone who has read this far, I give homework. If you have not done so, listen to “Glory” and go view Selma.

See you along the Trail.


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Filed under Antiracism, Movie, Music

Let your mentors know

10898187_10205565343713833_2358578664913363875_nMy mentor and friend, the Rev. Dr. Otis Turner, is having a heart procedure next week. Please hold Otis, his wife Patsy, their family, and his care team in your prayers. It is a procedure he has had in the past and is reasonably simple. But it is his heart; and he is my dear friend.I remembered that today.

Otis worked for racial justice in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), our country and the world for more years than I can remember. He gave himself in the struggle.

Otis and I met while I served on the staff of the Presbytery of the Western Reserve. He was on General Assembly staff.

He quickly became my mentor and we developed a deep friendship that has placed a significant role in my ministry and my life.

Otis recruited me to work on the Facing Racism: In Search of the Beloved Community paper of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). After the General Assembly adopted the paper, I went to Louisville to work on its implementation. With Otis, and others.

For two good, important, life-shaping (for me at least) years, we worked together.Otis retired for health reasons shortly after I moved to the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program, but our friendship continued.

When he moved to Florida, we would talk on the phone every couple of months.And then, as it so often does, time slipped away. The time between calls grew longer and then extended to years.

Yesterday I spotted Patsy on Facebook. We became virtual friends. I asked about calling Otis. She said he would welcome a call.

When I called, it was as though no time had passed. Oh, he spoke more slowly and deliberately, but I likely did so as well.

We laughed. Tears welled in my eyes at times, and probably in his.

It was a sacred moment. A moment in which I learned of his upcoming surgery.

I have been praying since. I invite you to join me.

And I encourage you to contact one person who has been a mentor to you and let that person know!

Do it for the love of Otis.

See you along the Trail.

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Filed under Friends, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

Dean Smith, healer

“John, you should never be proud of doing the right thing. You should just do the right thing.”
Dean Smith, quoted in an article by John Feinstein

With North Carolina alumni, college basketball fans, and people around the world, I join in mourning the death of Dean Smith. And I give thanks for his life and witness.

I am not a big fan of basketball. When living in Iowa, I attended the high school games because they played a key role in the life of the community. My wife follows Duke, her alma mater, faithfully; so I follow enough to talk with her intelligently. My sons follow the Cleveland Cavaliers, pretty faithfully; and again, I follow enough to hold my own in conversations.

I recognize Dean Smith’s amazing work as a basketball coach, even if I fail to understand the intricacies of his contributions.

Covenant 08 24 10 Ghost RanchI mourn  Dean Smith, the human being. The child of God. The healer.

Margaret Aymer preached at the Riverside Church today. What I took from her sermon is that Jesus came to bring healing. Healing. Not a cure. Healing of dis-ease. Healing by Jesus involved recovery from physical symptoms, but it also involved restoration to community and renewal for ministry working to transform systems of oppression, violation, and exploitation. Jesus frees, invites, challenges, dares those who would follow him to do likewise.

Dean Smith did. His work on a basketball court is legend. His work as a teacher helped see that his players graduated. His style built lasting relationships with athletes at North Carolina and coaches and athletes and supporters of opposing teams. As my wife posted, “Even though we still sing “to hell with Carolina,” Dean Smith deserves all respect. Condolences from a Blue Devil to all Tar Heels.”

That would have been enough. But there was more. Much, much more.

Dean Smith worked for healing as he challenged the systems that wounded and oppressed his sisters and brothers. He put himself on the line for racial integration and justice in basketball and society beginning when he was a student in high school. He opposed the war in Vietnam and Iraq and supported a nuclear freeze. He supported the rights of the LGBTQ community. And he opposed the death penalty.

As Rick Reilly wrote, twelve years ago:

In a state that gave us Jesse Helms, Smith’s is a rare voice speaking out against the madness of a war in Iraq and the hypocrisy of the death penalty. It’s a spiritual thing for him. “One doesn’t kill,” he once said. “I heard that in church.”

Though he served in the Air Force, Smith was proud to see two of his daughters march in Washington against this war. “This is not a just war,” he contends. “I certainly hope we don’t go. This would be horrible.”

In a state that sends thousands of Marines to the Middle East, that’s a big target to paint on your shirt. But Smith has never scared easily. Speaking out against the death penalty, he once pointed at the governor of North Carolina and declared, “You’re a murderer. And I’m a murderer. The death penalty makes us all murderers.”

Dean Smith was many things. Son. Teammate. Husband. Father. Coach. Teacher. Innovator. Opponent. Friend. I give thanks for all of these.

But mostly, I give thanks that Dean Smith was a healer.

See you along the Trail.

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Filed under Capital Punishment, Current Events, Death Penalty, Sports

Voices from the Border and Beyond – a few more articles

My friend and colleague Amanda Craft provides some links to information about a recent Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) travel study seminar that explored issues related to immigration in the U.S., Mexico, Guatemala, and El Salvador.

Walking with Guatemalan sisters in faith

A few more articles have been posted by the Presbyterian News Service about the travel study seminar focused on immigration – Voices from the Border and Beyond.  The two articles talk more deeply about the border between Mexico and Guatemala and the group’s time in Guatemala and El Salvador.  You can view them by clicking the titles below:

1. Two women, two borders, one cause:  In witnessing the plight of thousands of Central American migrants seeking hope along dangerous paths, two women offer a temporary home for the homeless. Written by Paul Seebach and posted on Feb. 2, 2015.

2. Dreams and dangers: For many migrants, the lure of a better life means risking countless perils.  Written by Paul Seebach and posted on Feb. 4, 2015.

I also wanted to draw your attention to another article on Presbyterian News Service.  This one highlights the work at one of the Presbyterian Border Region…

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