BTSF in chronological order (most recent articles appear first):

Sunday, August 30, 2015

'Do all the good you can', even to yourself

What does it take to "always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else" (1 Thessalonians 5:15)?
"Do a little good today, do a little more tomorrow"
That could get exhausting...

Are we really supposed to
"Do all the good you can,
By all the means you can,
In all the ways you can,
In all the places you can,
At all the times you can,
To all the people you can,
As long as ever you can"?
How is that possible?

The road to justice is a long one. It is an huge task to help build the Kingdom of Heaven on earth, and to be the hands of feet of Christ while here. That's quite a charge.

On a notepad: "1: Do no harm, 2. Do good, 3. Stay in love with God"How do we maintain the energy to light one more candle in the darkness? What happens when we work hard, but feel like we're not getting anywhere?

Doing 'all the good you can' requires that we stay in love with God. It requires that we love ourselves as well. To sustainably push against the world's brokenness, we must also tend to our own.

It is essential that we care for ourselves and care for one another as we do the work together. We know that self-care for those in racial justice work is important. So why are so many of us so bad at it?

There are many ways practice good self care. Each of us know ourselves best, but sometimes we also need the help of those around us to put it into practice.

Feet propped up in front of a lake
My day at work with CD4AP
In an intentional effort to live into these principles, the staff of Community Development for All People (CD4AP) went on a two-day retreat this past week. Not a committee-filled, work-aholic, same-routine-but-more-intense retreat. But an actual enjoy nature, rest and rejuvenate, retreat.

The staff at CD4AP give it their daily all. The hours can be long and rigorous. The brokenness and pain of our encounters can be intense. The desire to see transformative change is great. So,to help promote the sustainable well-being of the staff, we  took time to breath in God's strength, and to rest in God's restorative power.

We went on walks, we kayaked, we napped, we played. Among the structured activities was an opportunity to participate in 'Urban Zen,' a guided meditation specifically created to help care for caregivers. It was designed to equip us "with the necessary tools to avoid the burnout that is care-giving communities." It helps practitioners of God's justice and reconciliation gain "techniques of grounding, relaxation and restoration in order to be present as they serve." Our staff relaxed into the sound of the leader's voice. They sprawled on and blankets. There were snores. It's was all good.
Picture of Audre Lorde: "Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation and that is an act of political warfare."
What tools can you equip yourself with to care for yourself in your own ministry? Check out Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes's great writing on self-love, as well as some other self-care ideas here.

Ultimately, we sustain our ongoing efforts by holding on to the God's vision for this world and to the hope of redemption that Christ brings. We humbly rejoice in the opportunity to be active co-laborer's in God's process, and rest in the knowledge God will sustain us in our efforts. We lift our eyes to the hill of God's promise, and rest in the assurance that God's plan will prevail.

Keep your eyes on the prize, friends. Hold on.

So let us not grow weary in doing what is right,
for we will reap at harvest-time, if we do not give up. 

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Multicultural Worship Collective [Review]

Album cover: Multicultural Worship CollectiveWhat does multicultural worship music sound like? Of course, there's no way to answer such a question. The beauty of multicultural worship is that it's different in every encounter and in every setting. It draws on the richness of the cultures that inform it and brings together the many hearts that may be participating. It is ever changing, highly responsive to the world around us.

The Multicultural Worship Leaders Network (MWLN) has embarked on a project to collect multicultural worship songs, in attempt to provide some resources and examples for others interested in expanding their worship repertoire. They have solicited submissions of songs that were 1) ethnically diverse, 2) musically, culturally, expressively diverse, 3) singable and/or teachable and 4) quality. The result was their new Multicultural Worship Collective CD.

One of my favorite techniques represented on the album is when languages are blended together within a song (eg. Eric Lige and Christine Lee's Surrender). It communicates the idea that we are diverse, but united. It gets away from 'separate but equal' worship and sends the message the we worship one God with one voice. When done well, it sends a powerful message about the Body of Christ.

Proskuneo logo
Josh Davis of Proskuneo does this often, weaving together langues, often even in mid-sentence. Rather than simply translating from one to another, this technique (which Josh calls 'interlingual' worship) sends the message that we belong together and that our difference actually compliment one another. These lyrics finish eachothers sentences like best friends on a playground.  I particularly liked the version of 'With One Heart,' presented on this CD by King's Region, because it blends Korean with Spanish, decentering English as the 'default' language (there's no song without any English lyrics on the album).

Another powerful multilingual song is 'Father of Lights,' presented here by Nikki Lerner and Bridgeway Community Church. While predominantly in English, it also gives thanks to God in Arabic, Spanish, and Korean as well. It is helpful for congregations at the beginning stages of incorporating many languages into their worship, especially as intentional preparation for those cultures that might not yet be in attendance. Many new languages could be substituted in this song, making it particularly versatile.
Nikki Lerner

I also particularly enjoyed William Johnson Garcia's Gratefulness, an instrumental track featuring drums as the lead/solo. Percussion and drums are often overlooked as central instruments of western worship. When we do so, we further marginalize the many rhythm and percussion-centric cultures that make up the Body of Christ. I was glad then to hear this song featured.

Jelani Greenidge's track, We Belong, attempts to bring hip hop into a corporate worship setting. We often see rap artist used to 'spice up' more generic worship or as a token nod during big worship events. But Jelani works to bring it to the center as, not just as a solo act, but as a corporate worship experience.

The other great aspect of the CD is that its songs are all very 'doable'. By intentional design, it is meant to serve as a resource for worship leaders and other practitioners. As such, Josh Davis has graciously made the charts to the songs available to BTSF readers. Email him (, with your request and he will respond in short order. As an additional benefit, Josh has offered a bonus track to BTSF readers who purchase the CD. Just type "BTSF" in your order and you will also receive the Proskuneo song 'Alle' for download!

MWLN logoThe album is truly high quality, though sometimes feel too clean or sterile. This may counteract the accessibility and ease-of-use that the project is trying to convey, or belie the traditions from which some of the songs come. For this reason, I was glad to come across 'Witness' from Dawn and Billy Anthony, which features the vocal lead over solo base for a great feel that was powerful, but unpretentious.

A few final words for those beginning the journey of multicultural worship music. It is always important to enter with humility and in the context of relationship, honoring the many cultures being represented. One common pitfall in multicultural worship music is filtering cultures through a white lense, tilting over into appropriation for the sake of being trendy or 'exotic.' I'm also pretty cautious about songs described as having "Native American feel" or "African rhythms." These phrases paint many, many different nations and cultures with broad strokes, counteracting the goal of multicultural worship.

This album provides some solid 'first steps' for those wanting to get a feel for how different cultures can come together to worship with one voice. Take a listen to the Multicultural Worship Collective album. What do you think?

Friday, August 21, 2015

Friday Fruit (08/21/15)

Julio Salgado, via Visions From The Inside/Colorlines
On Fridays, BTSF offers links to other discussions about race & Christianity. It's an opportunity for you to read other perspectives, and for me to give props to the many voices leading the way...

Weekly Round Up:

These are some of BTSF's links of interest this week. What are yours?

Feel free to contribute your own links in the comments section, or submit items you feel should be included during the week. Self-promotion is encouraged.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Justice in the Hands of All People (Part 2)

St. Francis, not Pastor Henneman
This is part two of a sermon by Pastor Greg Henneman, who explains that today's work of prophetic justice is in all of our hands:

We might think of prophets as a category of people like Nathan and Elijah and Habakkuk and Jeremiah whose names are in the Bible. But God’s work in the world did not end with the sealing of scripture. God has continued to call prophets, especially prophets who speak against the trampling of the poor, afflicting the righteous and pushing aside the needy.

In the 13th century God called a man we know today as Francis of Assisi. Francis was born into a family of wealth and comfort, but he gave up all of that and placed himself among the poor and cared for the poor.

When Francis was called by God he heard the voice of Christ say to him, “Repair my church” and through his life Francis did that. He shifted the entire focus of the church so much, that today we often speak of God’s preferential option for the poor.

In the same way, in the 18th century, John Wesley, the founder of our Methodist movement, moved from a position of power to poverty. Wesley studied at the University of Oxford. He was an ordained priest in the Church of England. With that, he had position and status. But he stepped out from behind the pulpit and placed himself among the poor. He preached to farmers and coalminers and like Franics, he shifted the focus of the church. Because of Wesley’s focus, today the Methodist church retains its focus on ministry with the poor, on justice for the oppressed, the very things we do here at the Church for All People are a continuation of this Wesleyan heritage.

In the 20th century, Martin Luther King didn’t simply speak of having a dream, but called for economic justice. At the time of his assassination, King was organizing a poor people’s campaign and this was not popular. Talk about having a dream and they give you a Nobel Prize; talk about economic justice and you get assassinated.

Oscar Romero: "A church that doesn't provoke any crises, a gospel that doesn't unsettle, a word of God that doesn't get under anyone's skin, a word of God that doesn't touch the real sin of the society in which it is being proclaimed--what gospel is that?"
That is what happened to Archbishop Oscar Romero. Romero served in El Salvador in the late 1970s and identified with the poor and became an advocate for the poor. Like Francis and Wesley and King, he was a prophet. He called on the government and military powers of his country to stop brutalizing their own people. Whenever he preached, radios across El Salvador clicked on among the common people, but those same broadcasts angered people in power. So much so, that one morning in 1980, literally as he was praying over the communion table, he was assassinated.

Serving as a prophet is not a popular or easy thing. Amos words ring true today that “they abhor the one who speaks the truth.” But, it is at the heart of God’s will and call for us to live lives where we give our voice to righteousness and justice.

It is work that Michael Reed has helped us begin to live in to here at Church for All People. A couple of months ago we hosted a forum in this room where state legislators and the media came and heard our stories. And then, a few weeks later, we moved outside these walls and went to the State House. Your presence put a human face to the proposed budget and you made change happen.

UM Church for All People at the Ohio State House
As we prepared to go the State House, budget proposals included cutting all funding for food banks, cutting and redistributing money for housing, and reducing Medicaid benefits, including benefits to pregnant mothers. These proposals would have undercut everything we are doing in feeding people, housing people, and celebrating First Birthdays.

What happened after we showed up? All three of those proposals were defeated. Money for food pantries, housing, and Medicaid were secured. Your presence changed the policies of our state.  In the words of Amos, "justice roll[ed] down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream".

This is something to be proud of and we need to be greatly thankful to Michael Reed for starting us on this work.

But the call in Amos to justice and righteousness is not simply about responding to the injustices of the world, but creating an entirely different type of community, where all are welcomed at the gates of power, instead of being pushed away.

What if our work towards justice wasn’t simply showing up when someone proposes something that is harmful to our community, but having a continual presence?

A seat at the table
What if, instead of fighting for scraps at the bottom of someone else’s table, we were to have a seat at the table?

What if, instead of responding to the injustice of our world, we advocated and created our world? What if our work of justice was to create the kingdom of God, here on the South Side of Columbus, as it is in heaven.

I believe it is possible.

I believe it is possible not out of naïve hope or optimism, but because I believe it is God’s will.

It is God’s will for justice [to] roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.

It is God, working through you, the beloved community, that our world can be transformed.

I believe it is possible, because despite popular opinion, The Man is not in control of our world. The Man does not determine our fate, you do. God, working through you, is much more powerful than The Man.

Pope Francis
Last week, Pope Francis, who took his name and his mission from Francis of Assisi, who has called
for a church of the poor and for the poor, toured Latin America.  As he prepared to leave Bolivia, he shared these words that are appropriate to this message and to our community. Pope Francis said:
“In conclusion, I would like to repeat: the future of humanity does not lie solely in the hands of great leaders, the great powers and the elites. It is fundamentally in the hands of peoples and in their ability to organize. It is in their hands, which can guide with humility and conviction this process of change. I am with you. Let us together say from the heart: no family without lodging, no rural worker without land, no laborer without rights, no people without sovereignty, no individual without dignity, no child without childhood, no young person without a future, no elderly person without a venerable old age.”
To paraphrase the Pope, let me re-phrase these words for our community:

The future of the South Side does not lie in the hands of The Man, it is fundamentally in our hands and our ability to organize. It is our hands that can guide with humility and conviction this process of change. Let us together say from the heart: no family without housing, no unemployed without work, no people without food, no life without health, no neighborhood without safety, no person without dignity, no child without a first birthday, no youth without a future, no senior without a blessed old age, no stranger without acceptance, and no community without your voice.

Let this be our vision, let this be the kingdom of God among us, let us make it happen. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Friday Fruit (08/14/15)

Black man in a 'Black Lives Matter March' in his wheelchair
'Able to Resist'
Colorlines/Bryan MacCormack with Left In Focus
On Fridays, BTSF offers links to other discussions about race & Christianity. It's an opportunity for you to read other perspectives, and for me to give props to the many voices leading the way...

Weekly Round Up:

These are some of BTSF's links of interest this week. What are yours?

Feel free to contribute your own links in the comments section, or submit items you feel should be included during the week. Self-promotion is encouraged.
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By Their Strange Fruit by Katelin H is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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