Called to Dinner, Together

Growing up, I didn’t realize that my proximity to extended family would, 40 years later, turn out to be an anachronism. With my much older sister and three of my father’s six siblings living within a few hundred yards of our family farm, I came and went as I pleased. My mother, an unenthusiastic cook, was happy for me to make the rounds to see who offered the... Read more

What the Parrots of Telegraph Hill and Other “Invasive Species” Can Teach the Church

Some years ago, while living in San Francisco, I encountered the parrots of Telegraph Hill. I was walking through a park on the Embarcadero, the city’s western waterfront, when I heard a racket overhead. Looking up, I could see bright flashes of color moving in the branches and occasionally taking flight among the eucalyptus trees. Startling to hear and see,... Read more

Don’t Fence Us In!

And Other Lessons Learned from the Real Lives of College Students

Do this. Don’t do that. Spend your time this way. Pray this way. Believe this. Reject that. This is the kind of rigidity that young people like me cannot stand when it comes to religion. We just don’t get it. Indeed, although many would probably not say so outright, my hunch is that there is an underlying assumption among the increasing population of nonreligious... Read more

Border Crossings: Barriers or Points of Access?

From 1988 to 2012, I served as the pastor of a United Church of Christ congregation in the small city of Presque Isle, which is located in Aroostook County in northern Maine—just a few miles from the Canadian border. In the spring of 2001, I had been a member of the local Rotary Club for over a dozen years, and I was about to begin a term as club president. So... Read more

Not Quite Home

I decided to return to my old church for a visit. Readers of Bearings will recall that it’s been a while since I’ve crossed the threshold of the church that nurtured me through graduate school and the various ups and downs of life at that time. I’d been mulling a holiday return. I wanted to see how much changed in the intermittent years, and I wanted to know... Read more

Giving Up for Lent … Or Maybe Not

The sight of my marked forehead on Ash Wednesday brings the inevitable question: “What are you giving up for Lent?” I have a stock answer: Lobster Newburg and healthy thoughts. Truth is, I genuinely struggle each year, knowing that whatever I choose to give up will be short-lived and followed by a guilt chaser. Yes, I am aware that Lent is not just a period... Read more

Practicing Gratitude as Healing

How do people who’ve been robbed of so much ever come to feel grateful for anything again?

  As a rare breed of news reporter with divinity school training, I sometimes feel like I own the tragic violence beat. Editors send me in just as the TV news trucks are pulling out after a horrific event. When eerie stillness looms and survivors are crying out to God or to the abyss in the wake of disaster, I wipe away my own tears and straighten my tie... Read more

Joy is the Secret of Resistance

On January 21, a group of women from my congregation traveled to Augusta, Maine, for our nearest “sister march” to the Women’s March in Washington, DC. Too sick with a cold to join them for the march itself, I gathered with them anyway in our church parking lot to send them off with a prayer and blessing. I ended my spontaneous prayer with a hope that whatever... Read more

Where Can I Run To?

Creating Sacred Space as a Black Woman

The 1990s R&B girl group, Xscape, has a famous song entitled “Who Can I Run To?” The song discusses the complexity of whom to rely on when one needs love. I can relate. I entered my thirties this year full of hope, only to be hit with three significant losses in a six-month time span. I lost the love of my life, then my job, and then my father passed. It... Read more

Beyond Prophetic Rhetoric

Jesus and Justice in Practice

It’s not news to say that this has been a crazy, rancorous election season—perhaps the most ugly in modern history, many pundits claim. Maybe. But when I reflect back on earlier election cycles, there seems to have been plenty of media-infused hostility that we tend to mute in our nostalgic remembrance. The 2008 election of “hope and change,” for instance, was... Read more
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