Seeking Refuge

KK_Boat_Drop-OffI’d just put my two young sons to bed when I opened the computer to see the picture of Aylan. My sons are two and five, and the youngest has round soft legs, like Aylan, and little shoes, like Aylan. I saw the picture of Aylan and felt my blood go cold.

That day I had been humming through hymns in some music planning for our small startup Episcopal community in rural Washington. “We are one in the spirit, we are one in the Lord,” came to mind, an old camp song. Good energy for coming back together at the end of a summer. Now the music stopped.

One in the spirit and one in the Lord? I couldn’t get the picture out of my mind. How blind I was to God’s people struggling each day just to live? Aylan must have tussled and played with his older brother just like my little one, but his brother drowned too. Aylan’s mother must have tucked them both in the same way I tuck in my sons, until she drowned that same day. I started to feel desperate. “They’ll know we are Christians by our love,” the hymn goes. How was I showing Christ’s love?

My feeling of discomfort grew. I emailed a friend who does overseas mission work, but she didn’t know a way to plug in directly. What if my family flew somewhere, worked in a camp? There were places to give, but that didn’t seem enough. We could take a family into our home, but the US has only permitted immigration to 1,500 Syrian refugees. [Read more...]

Today’s Child Sacrifice

The following will be delivered as a d’var Torah, reflections on the Torah reading on the second day of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, at Congregation Beth Israel, Asheville, North Carolina.

Let’s get straight to it. Child sacrifice.

The akedah, the story of the binding of Isaac, invites us to think about child sacrifice and putting an end to it. But haven’t we already put an end to it? Are children still being sacrificed? In the United States? In North Carolina? In Asheville?

Well, that depends on how you define sacrifice.

What would you call it when a girl is born to a poor mother, whose husband, when he’s around, abuses her, if not physically then emotionally, in, say, Charlotte, North Carolina? Born in Charlotte, that child, according to the Equality of Opportunity Project, has only a little more than a 4% chance of climbing out of poverty in her lifetime. If she is born under similar circumstances in Asheville, North Carolina, her chances improve: 7.1%. Given the miracle of life, this child’s opportunities for life seem severely limited from the day she is born. Is this a kind of child sacrifice? [Read more...]

The March on Washington: A Personal Anniversary

Guest Post

By Christine A. Scheller

 

“Many of our white brothers…have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. They have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom.”

— Martin Luther King, Jr., August 28, 1963

 

I was born on the first anniversary of the day these words were spoken. My black son was buried on the fortieth anniversary of the day their author was silenced. I’ve been pondering this bit of providence ever since.

I didn’t expect to mother a black child and certainly didn’t expect that brilliant, beautiful child to kill himself in the year America’s first black president was elected on a message of hope and change.

Growing up in a small, lily-white New Jersey town, I briefly had a black friend. One day, she came home from school with me and my mother advised me that it would be best if she was gone before my late father got there. My father had grown up in Newark and had gotten beaten up regularly by black boys, my mother says, at least until he became a gang leader and Golden Gloves boxing champion. (Men who worked with my late father in urban ministry in the 1960s have told me they never saw any hint of racism in his interactions with people of all races and ethnicities. I believe that like all of us, he was a product of his time and place, a man who sometimes rose above his circumstances and sometimes did not.)

The afterschool play-date was my formal introduction to the concept of race and it was startling. I had no idea what it meant. All I know is that the girl, whose name I don’t recall, disappears from my memory after that.

[Read more...]

Women Who Make America

Imagine that you’re in grade school in the 1950s. At Thanksgiving, Uncle Richard turns to you and asks, “So, what do you want to be when you grow up?”

Ah, but this is a trick scenario. Uncle Richard will turn to you only if you’re a boy. And you’ll answer “a mailman” or “a doctor” or “a policeman.”

If you’re a girl, Uncle Richard won’t turn to you with this question. As far as his question goes, you’re invisible. Because he already knows, along with all of American society, what you’ll grow up to be. If you’re a white middle-class girl, you’ll become a wife and mother. If you’re a black girl living in poverty (as most black families were), you’ll become a housemaid…as well as wife and mother in your own home.

It’s this reality of women’s lives in the 1950s that the magnificent documentary, Makers: Women Who Make America, begins with. The three-hour film aired on PBS in February, but you can stream it in one-hour segments here.
[Read more...]

Remembering Deacon Patenotte

On Wednesday, June 12, 2013, at more or less the same time that I was standing in a Greek Orthodox cathedral for the memorial prayers honoring the second anniversary of my mother’s passing, the Funeral Mass for David “Deacon” Patenotte was about to take place at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in my hometown of Yazoo City, Mississippi.

I am a longtime Mississippi exile by this point, but I would have given anything to be in both places at once. As Father Steve censed the icon of Christ and asked for my mother’s memory to be eternal, I lifted up Mr. Patenotte’s name, too.

David, or “Deacon,” as he was known by most folks, was the owner of Patenotte’s Grocery on Grand Avenue: the expansive, tree-lined street that led out from the nineteenth century downtown to houses that were gradually newer, and finally to the flat streets of small 1950s and 60s houses that had been carved out of what had originally been the Curran family’s plantation. [Read more...]


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