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EPF's series of free, one-hour online presentations kicks off on August 1 at 4:00 pm Eastern with the Rev. Rosalind Hughes, priest in the Diocese of Ohio and author of "Whom Shall I Fear?" Register HERE

The Rev. Rosalind Hughes

BEING THE CHURCH IN A FEARFUL TIME
Panic buttons, locked doors, security teams in the aisles. If we can't feel safe in Church, what does that say about our community? There may be more to the fear/violence connection than first meets the eye.The Rev. Rosalind C. Hughes, author of Whom Shall I Fear? will lead us in considering lessons from Scripture and experience as we reflect together on the fears that shape our lives today. 
Rev. Hughes was naturalized as a US citizen and ordained an Episcopal priest on either shoulder of a busy weekend in January 2012. Both vocations have called upon her to work for peace, and particularly for an end to gun violence. Her latest book, Whom Shall I Fear? Urgent Questions for Christians in an Age of Violence, examines how the landscape of violence and fear affects our ability to proclaim the gospel of love and grounds itself in scripture to look for paths toward peace within and beyond the congregation. 

Whom Shall I Fear? Urgent Questions for Christians in an Age of Violence is designed to help church leaders open and guide gospel-based conversations in a fear-infested world. It assumes that, with God’s help, we can do better than to accept the landscape of violence that surrounds us and build up barriers to protect ourselves. It takes seriously the advice of Paul: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God – what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2).

In this presentation, Rosalind Hughes addresses the fear that would divide us and the Gospel that would unite us, and suggests a Bible-based approach to raising difficult and anxious topics in congregational-type settings to promote courageous conversation and build confidence in the possibilities of peacemaking in an unpeaceful world.


"No passion so effectually robs the mind of all its powers of acting and reasoning as fear." -- Edmund Burke
"There is no passion more contagious than fear . . . or doth furiously possess all parts of a (person)." --Michel de Mongaigne

"Ultimately, we have just one moral duty: to reclaim large areas of peace in ourselves, more and more peace, and to reflect it toward others. And the more peace there is in us, the more peace there will also be in our troubled world."
Richard Rohr


Please consider supporting EPF's Peacebuilding Online Project. Contribute HERE today!

Join us on Sunday, August 1, 2021 at 4:00 pm for the first of our monthly Peacebuilding Online series. Video promotion, below.

Sermon for Sunday, June 13, 3rd Sunday after Pentecost, offered by NEC Treasurer Rob Burgess

The parable of the mustard seed which Mark tells in today’s gospel is one of the most memorable of Jesus’s parables.  Maybe because all three of the synoptic gospels, Mark, Matthew, and Luke retell very similar versions of the parable.   Maybe because Jesus frequently references the Kingdom of God in his teaching through parables.

Or maybe it is because of the image it provides:  that the Kingdom of God on earth starts with something very small, perhaps like a rag-tag group of disciples in a backwater region of the Roman Empire and can grow into something much bigger, the Jesus movement.

At my house, we have two large trees in our front yard.  They are of the locust family.  Unlike my neighbors’ majestic  maples or oaks, locust leaves are tiny.  I am grateful for the shade they provide in the summer.  At the same time their tiny leaves allow grass to grow underneath.  But certain times of year, like now, the locust trees are a nuisance. They shed their seed pods daily covering the lawn.  They attach to our shoes in the driveway and we track them into the house.  A nuisance.  I wonder is that what the Roman emperors thought of the nascent Jesus movement?  That it was a nuisance?

In those first centuries, the Jesus movement may have been considered a nuisance by the Roman Emperors nonetheless like the tiny mustard seed it sprouted and grew. 

As I was pondering this, I wondered how other social justice movements started out small and grew into something much bigger.

In looking for answers, I ended up looking outside the church where I found something that brought me right back to the church.  I am thankful for websites like the History Channel, the NAACP, and Wikipedia for some of the details in my words this morning.

Today, is June 13.  According to the Satucket calendar of Episcopal feast days, there is no one who is commemorated today.   So, I Googled “Today in History”.  That’s where I found a proverbial mustard seed, an inspiration for the Kingdom of God on Earth. 

June 13, 1967, 54 years ago today, arguably one of the most influential jurists in the 20th Century was nominated to the Supreme Court by President Lyndon Baines Johnson.  Thurgood Marshall would later that fall be appointed an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court.   Just so you know, the Episcopal Church celebrates a feast day for blessed Thurgood Marshall annually on May 17.

Marshall was an advocate for social justice and change.  He once said:

“When you see wrong or inequality or injustice, speak out, because this is your country.  This is your democracy.  Make it. Protect it. Pass it on.”  

Marshall also seemed to understand the mutuality of us all as he is quoted as saying:  

“In recognizing the humanity of our fellow beings, we pay ourselves the highest tribute.”

The first African American to be confirmed by the Senate to the highest court in the land.  Marshall grew from simple beginnings to a powerful voice for social and legal justice.

Like a mustard seed’s inconspicuous start, Marshall had humble beginnings.  His father had been a railroad porter and then a steward at a segregated, all-white country club in Baltimore.  His mother was an elementary teacher in the segregated Baltimore school system. Baltimore Schools were not integrated until 1954.

It seems very appropriate that Marshall graduated from a school named after another civil rights ikon:   Frederick Douglas High School.  I normally think of historically Black colleges and universities being in the south, I guess it is some of my northern hubris and denial that segregation and bigotry existed and still exists today in the north.  Unfortunately, the nearby metro areas of Detroit and Chicago are in the top 5 most segregated municipal areas in the country, per USA Today. 

Marshall did go on to attend an historically Black college, Lincoln College in Pennsylvania.  Lincoln College seems to be a place that nurtured mustard seeds to grow in to something, someone much more influential. 

Marshall’s classmates at Lincoln included the great American poet Langston Hughes. Arguably, one of the greatest American poets of the 20th Century. 

Hughes once wrote:

“At the feet o’ Jesus,

Sorrow like a sea.

Lordy, let yo’ mercy

Come driftin’ down on me.”


In addition to Hughes, the multi-talented jazz musician, dancer, and big band leader Cab Calloway was also a classmate at Lincoln.  Calloway was decades later re-introduced to younger generations in a movie called the Blues Brothers.

I am not sure if Marshall, Hughes, and Calloway ever enrolled in the same class together at Lincoln.  But I must admit, and I chuckle to myself, if there was a professor who had THAT diversity of genius in his classroom, he must have had his hands full.

In 2021, I find it challenges me greatly that a Big Ten university was a segregated institution decades ago.  But as an undergraduate, the mustard seed that was planted by Thurgood Marshall was just beginning to sprout into someone bigger than the little kid who grew up in Baltimore.  For law school, Marshall wanted to become a Maryland Terrapin and desired to attend that university’s law school near his home.  But he was denied enrollment into Maryland which was a segregated university in those days.  So, instead he enrolled in another historically Black school:  Howard University.  He graduated Howard first in his class.  

Marshall went on to found the NAACP’s legal defense fund.  In his capacity as an attorney, Marshall represented clients 32 times in front of the Supreme Court.  No other attorney has argued or presented as many cases before that court.  A truly gifted advocate, Marshall’s clients won their cases an astonishing 29 of those 32 times. 

In my graduate school of Educational Leadership, we learned about Marshall’s most famous case.  Legal scholars often suggest that it is the most important and influential Supreme Court decision of the 20th century.  The church celebrates Thurgood Marshall annually on May 17 because that is the day the Supreme Court announced its unanimous decision in the case Brown vs. the Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas.  In that case, a group of Black parents filed a class action suit because their children were forced to attend a segregated school.

Some 90 years earlier, the Supreme Court in Plessy v. Ferguson had ruled that segregation could be the law of the land.  In Plessy vs. Ferguson, the court ruled that separate could be equal which put a stamp of legality on decades of segregation.

Marshall argued in Brown vs. the Board of Education that Separate was inherently unequal and the court agreed.  Nine justices agreed in a unanimous decision.  It certainly was not the end of segregation, but now civil rights leaders had the rule of law on their side.  As a result, a few years later President Eisenhower sent federal troops to Little Rock when the Little Rock Board of Education refused to allow the Little Rock 9 to attend Little Rock Central High School.  

Brown vs. the Board of Education was a mustard seed that helped to sprout the civil rights movement.  Obviously, a Supreme Court case by itself could not end decades, perhaps centuries, of racial bigotry and institutional racism.  Certainly, images of the Little Rock 9 who were protected by federal troops as they entered Little Rock Central High School while being ringed by white students and parents screaming and spitting obscenities, proved that racial hatred runs much deeper than a single Supreme Court decision could overcome. 

Marshall was also a consistent foe of the death penalty.  Having voted and argued forcefully with former Chief Justice Warren to permanently abolish it.  

I don’t recall Jesus ever saying: “It’s easy.  Just do this and the Kingdom of God on earth will be immediate.”   What Jesus did say was that the Kingdom of God was like a mustard seed which when planted becomes rooted in the soil and grows into something bigger.  “Blessed are the poor for theirs is the Kingdom” and we hope on earth as it is in heaven.

There is only one Thurgood Marshall.  One individual whose jurisprudence branched out in many directions and helped bend the arc of the universe toward justice.   Marshall who faithfully attended services even as a Supreme Court Justice and was simply called “the Judge” by his fellow parishioners at his church, St Augustine’s Episcopal in the District of Columbia. 

Marshall once said:

“A child born to a Black mother in a state like Mississippi has exactly the same rights as a white baby born to the wealthiest person in the United States. It's not true, but I challenge anyone to say it is not a goal worth working for.”

Let us always remember those words of Thurgood Marshall as we too are called to a goal of bending the arc of our universe toward racial justice, if only a little, and bring the Kingdom of God just a tad closer to THIS present reality. 

Amen.

By Rev. Dr. Yolanda Pierce

(Thanks to Natalie Devine for making us aware of this litany)

Let us not rush to the language of healing, before understanding the fullness of the injury and the depth of the wound.

Let us not rush to offer a band-aid, when the gaping wound requires surgery and complete reconstruction.

Let us not offer false equivalencies, thereby diminishing the particular pain being felt in a particular circumstance in a particular historical moment.

Let us not speak of reconciliation without speaking of reparations and restoration, or how we can repair the breach and how we can restore the loss.

Let us not rush past the loss of this mother’s child, this father’s child…someone’s beloved son.

Let us not value property over people; let us not protect material objects while human lives hang in the balance.

Let us not value a false peace over a righteous justice.

Let us not be afraid to sit with the ugliness, the messiness, and the pain that is life in community together.

Let us not offer clichés to the grieving, those whose hearts are being torn asunder.

Instead…

Let us mourn black and brown men and women, those killed extrajudicially every 28 hours.

Let us lament the loss of a man, dead at the hands of a police officer who described him as a demon.

Let us weep at a criminal justice system, which is neither blind nor just.

Let us call for the mourning men and the wailing women, those willing to rend their garments of privilege and ease, and sit in the ashes of this nation’s original sin.

Let us be silent when we don’t know what to say.

Let us be humble and listen to the pain, rage, and grief pouring from the lips of our neighbors and friends.

Let us decrease, so that our brothers and sisters who live on the underside of history may increase.

Let us pray with our eyes open and our feet firmly planted on the ground

Let us listen to the shattering glass and let us smell the purifying fires, for it is the language of the unheard.

God, in your mercy…

Show me my own complicity in injustice.

Convict me for my indifference.

Forgive me when I have remained silent.

Equip me with a zeal for righteousness.

Never let me grow accustomed or acclimated to unrighteousness.

Originally posted on Kinetics Live, November 28, 2014.
 

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