The Courage of Bishop Curry: A Paradigm of Preaching

Bishop CurryIt seems that the world is a buzz with preaching fever. This weekend Bishop Michael Curry the Presiding Prelate and Primate of the Episcopal Church stood and captured the world’s attention for thirteen minutes as he delivered the Homily at the Royal Wedding. After the singing of the choir he did what centuries of preachers before him have done and boldly proclaimed the Gospel of Jesus Christ to a waiting congregation. What made this occasion so captivating was not just the grandeur of royal customs nor the Bishop’s Black embodiment. What has the world completely enraptured was the power of the message and the courage of the messenger. The Bishop Curry dared to show up authentically and invoke the prophetic preaching tradition of the historic Black Church.

The Black Church, like the communities it represents, is not a monolith. Just as there are multiple ways of constructing Blackness, there are multiple ways of being the Black Church (Touré 2011).  It is true that Bishop Curry presides over a church mostly made up of the dominant culture, however he has brought to his role the sensibilities connected to the Black preaching tradition. Preaching in itself is a liturgical act, a ritual the exercise of communal speech and Michael Curry brought the royal wedding the liberation speech of the community that gave him entrance into the world (Lathrup 1998). He showed up authentically. Black preaching belongs to a discursive formation of resistance. This resistance discourse denotes terms, phrases, figures of speech, concepts, poetry, and songs that are common to a group of subjugated persons, all of which calling them to resist in some way the oppression to which they are subjugated (Hendricks 2011). As he repeatedly lifted up the voice of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the lyrics of Spirituals right in the heart of Imperialist white supremacist heteropatriarchy Bishop Curry engaged both head and heart in an exercise of speaking truth to power.

 

Bishop CurryStanding on the continent which gave us such theologians as Bultmann, Bart, and Bonhoeffer, Bishop Curry reminded us that Christian theology is language about God’s liberating activity in the world on behalf of the freedom of the oppressed. As James Cone taught us, any talk about God that fails to make God’s liberation of the oppressed it’s starting point is not Christian (Cone 1999). Curry maximized the platform that time and chance graced to him, because he was prepared to be an oracle of truth. That preparation was not solely academic, however that part of preparation bares a large portion of responsibility, but a spiritual preparation that resist the global urge toward commercializing and commodifying every moment.  This is the preaching that comes from a pastoral heart of one who does not see them self as a CEO, rather a loving Shepard. In a time where religious cowardice is running rampant and preaching has been tainted by the tendency toward celebrity, Michael Curry delivered the heart of the Gospel with clarity and passion avoiding the obscene moral emptiness of modern preaching.

Prophetic preaching seeks to paint a new world with the toolkit of oral performance, imagination, and ken intellectual investigation so that the hearer is left with a picture of a preferable future (III 2015).  European and American preaching alike have a complex history of failing miserably to speak to the moral bankruptcy built into the systems of empire, however there is also a tradition for which the call to repentance is a core element. The homily at the Royal Wedding finds the true task of preaching to insist upon both this worldly liberation and otherworldly salvation as the proper loci for Christianity. Bishop Curry shows in his message that he understands to prophesy is not to predict an outcome, but rather to identify concrete evils. To prophesy deliverance is not to call for some otherworldly paradise, but to generate enough faith, hope, and love to sustain the human possibility for more freedom (West 2002).

As we begin our preparation for our next preaching assignments may we take seriously the paradigm offered to us by the excellent preaching of Bishop Curry. May we be aware that preaching makes available to the hearer the old things of the text and ritual as images and words that speak the truth of our world, our lives, and our deaths, our alienation and our need, more deeply than had occurred to them before (Lathrup 1998). Let’s ask ourselves if we have called people out of the complicity with evil and into an active resistance? Have we shown up as our authentic selves knowing that what comes from the heart reaches the heart? Have we been faithful to our vocation as we engage the prognostication of the Gospel?  In short is our preaching worth hearing?

Please feel free to comment below:

Peace Is Possible,

+Donalson

Rt. Rev. Edward Donalson III, DMin | Director of Liturgy and Worship | Assistant Clinical Professor
SCHOOL OF THEOLOGY AND MINISTRY | SEATTLE UNIVERSITY

 

Works Cited

Cone, James H. 1999. Speaking The Truth: Ecumenism, Liberation, and Black Theology. Maryknoll: Orbis .

Hendricks, Obery. 2011. The Universe Bends Toward Justice . Maryknoll: Orbis Books.

III, Otis Moss. 2015. Blue Note Preaching in a post- Soul World. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press.

Lathrup, Gordon W. 1998. Holy Things: A Liturgical Theology. Minneapolis: Fortress Press.

Touré. 2011. Who’s Afraid of Post Blackness: What it Means to be Black Now. New York: Free press.

West, Cornel. 2002. Prophesy Deliverance: An Afro-American Revolutionary Christianity . Louiseville: John Knox Press.

Worship & Liturgy Announcements

The Televangelism Effect

Televangelism 2In a cultural moment when everything seems to be commodified and utilitarian the conversation about the role of religion has taken on a different tone than at other points in history.  Within ever widening Christian circles religious broadcasting has centered three distinct elements as core to any conversation about liturgy and worship. Those three elements being that liturgy has become increasingly personality driven, crowd dependent, and entertainment oriented (Walton 2009). Regardless of ecclesiastical, theological, or political perspectives of individual churches the impact of mass media and multimedia realities has reformed the way leaders engage the life of the church. These three elements that now ground our conversations and realities mean a new ethos has become normalized within many institutions. This ethos of commodification means that religion is not primarily concerned with being profitable, rather the focus for far too many is that religion has become profit driven! Ritual, broadly speaking, is a shared action expressive of common strivings rooted in common values (Fromm, Psychoanalysis & Religion 1950).  By this definition the rituals of the church have been hijacked and perverted by leaders who are using the church and her liturgies for fame rather than to spread the message of liberation found in the teachings of Jesus.

Culture is not simply an intruding power that one has to resist. It is a space in which one lives, the air one breathes (Volf 2011). Unfortunately, in too many instances, the church has forgotten it is a countercultural organism. Intoxicated with the unfiltered air of the present culture, the church is failing in its responsibility to speak out against the pollutants of culture which fight against humanity’s highest collective and individual self.   Without the ability to offer (and be) a cultural critique, the church has slipped into an insanity of sorts. Whenever one loses the capacity to perceive actuality, one has succumbed to dangerous mental health challenges. The psychotic person builds up an inner world of reality in which they seem to have full confidence. Living in their own world, common factors of reality as perceived by others are unreal to them (Fromm 1947). In this way, the church has become insane, having lost the ability to see the factors that have caused the church to take on the identity of the culture around her.Televangelism

The primary function of our spiritual gatherings is not personality-driven entertainment, designed to captivate crowds who are then motivated to feed the machine of the material success of that central personality. The primary task of our spiritual gatherings is to present people with truths which are their own reason and enjoin practices that are their own justification (Buell 2006). That is to say, we gather together to assist people in producing wholeness, through principles that are themselves whole. We speak that which is virtuous and leads to virtue. Any spirituality, especially that which is organized religion, liberal or conservative, must be not only emotionally satisfying, but intellectually credible, and morally worthy of respect (Maslow 1978).

While it is true that a viable religion is one that has a working reciprocity with the culture that produces it or with which it interacts, the culture alone cannot dictate the content, intent, or direction of the rituals of that religion (Townes 1995). The church must return to its task of probing the message of Jesus in meaningful ways that become life-giving rituals to the faithful and the questioning alike.  This may mean that the future church is less centered on personality, less entertainment oriented, and less crowd dependent.  It may call for the church to hold the tension between its role as countercultural and contextual. We may have to look at a less hierarchical structure while figuring out how to honor ancient ecclesial roles simultaneously.  Whatever it will mean, it is certain that we need to rethink the way we show up in the age of mass media!

Ask yourself, what are the countercultural elements of worship in your church that need to be magnified? How do you see the interaction of church and media, and its impact on worship? In what ways have your local church disremembered its call?

 

Feel free to comment below.

 

Peace Is Possible,

+Donalson

Rt. Rev. Edward Donalson III, DMin | Director of Liturgy and Worship | Assistant Clinical Professor 

SCHOOL OF THEOLOGY AND MINISTRY | SEATTLE UNIVERSITY

 

Works Cited

Buell, Lawrence, ed. 2006. The American Transcendentalists: Essential Writings. New York: The Modern Library .

Fromm, Erich. 1947. Man for Himself : AN Inquiry into the Psychology of Ethics. New York: Holt Paperbacks.

—. 1950. Psychoanalysis & Religion. New Haven & London: Yale University Press.

Maslow, Abraham H. 1978. Religions, Values, and Peak Experiences. New York: Pengiun Books.

Townes, Emilie M. 1995. In a Blaze of Glory: Womanist Spiriutality As Social Witness. Nashville: Abingdon Press.

Volf, Miroslav. 2011. A Public Faith. Grand Rapids: BrazosPress.

Walton, Jonathan L. 2009. Watch This! The Ethics and asthetics of Black Televangelism. NewYork: New York University Press.

 

Worship & Liturgy Announcements

Community

Fundamental to our humanity is the deep longing to belong and to be celebrated. There is within our core the desire to be loved, and to reflect that love back in authenticity.  We are hardwired to need vulnerability even though we live in a world that makes togethervulnerability an unpopular and many

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

times unsafe experience. At the depths of our soul we are communal beings and without faithful community it is impossible to be our highest selves. It is in community our commitments are made stronger, our doubts are soothed, we are validated, our intentions are confirmed, and our memories are more real (Flunder 2005).

Sitting on the plane after spending the weekend with six of the most amazing men preparing to usher our brother into marriage we began to rehearse the events of our excursion. The plane was filled with laughter and joy as we recounted the experiences of our time together, using names that could only be understood in context of the moments that gave birth to them.  Walking off the plan to the sounds of music that had become the soundtrack of our weekend I realized that if everyone could feel the feeling I was experiencing it would revolutionize the world. In a few short days my particularities as a Black, male, professional, and all the other things that make up my identity had been affirmed by the collective. Those intangibles I needed to feel supported and seen in the world and in my work, had been gifted to me by the experience of being with.  I knew in that moment that the weekend had been a sacred religious moment of transcendence that was nothing short of Liturgy. This was a liturgy born of true spirituality and nurtured by community.  In this particular case, it was a masculine spirituality giving birth to the liturgy and ritual known as a “Bachelor party weekend”.  Masculine spirituality among these brothers was a vision that seeks to explore and incarnate. It is not concerned with living in a world without women or with women as subordinates, rather it wants men to exist as co-creators with women in healthy relationships. It imagines a world where men and woman and indeed nonbinary siblings are experiencing their own fullness, vitality, and vision (James 1996).

 

What if we take seriously as liturgical theologians that Liturgy is first and foremost the work of the people? Church – in the Christian tradition –   in its most basic and constitutive sense refers to communal gathering around text, meal, and washing as these are interpreted as having to do with the person and work of Jesus (Lathrup 1998).  Let us not forget the church’s task is to assist its people in plumbing the depths of their own humanity, where transcendence, mystery, being, and even love are discovered, and to bring those qualities found in the center of life into the world (Spong 1998). Community is the birth place of liturgy, it is where we ritualize our common beliefs, passions, goals, and relationships.  Without understanding our community our liturgies become vain oblations to an unknown God.  They lose the functional integrity necessary to be relevant. People stop engaging liturgy when the liturgy fails to be in service of and a product of authentic community. The influential philosopher Josiah Royce spoke of Beloved community as a perfectly joined lived unity of individual men [sic] joined in one divine chorus and that is the birth place of liturgy (Marsh 2005).cry for help 1048377

Ritual is an integral part of life. It provides actions and forms through which people meet, carry out social activities, celebrate, and commemorate. Rituals born from community become the glue that holds our hum

 

anity in mutual responsibility and accountability. Liturgy is ritual which addresses the urge to comprehend human existence; the search for marked pathways as one moves from one stage of life to the next; and the longing to know one’s part in the vast wonder and mystery of the cosmos (S.J. 2002).  This week I invite you to ask yourself what is the ethos of your community? How is your community expressed in the liturgy? What is missing from the liturgy that your community needs? How do you as a theologian define community and what role does that definition play in the way do your work?

Feel free to comment below!

 

Peace Is Possible,

+Donalson

 

Rt. Rev. Edward Donalson III, DMin | Director of Liturgy and Worship | Assistant Clinical Professor 

 

SCHOOL OF THEOLOGY AND MINISTRY | SEATTLE UNIVERSITY

 

 

Flunder, Yvette A. 2005. Where The Edge Gathers: Building a Community of Radical Inclusion. Cleveland: The Pilgram Press.

James, David C. 1996. What Are They Saying About Masculine Spirituality. New York: Paulist Press.

Lathrup, Gordon W. 1998. Holy Things: A Liturgical Theology. Minneapolis: Fortress Press.

Marsh, Charles. 2005. The Beloved Community: How Faith Shapes Social Justice From the Civil Rights Movement to Today. New York: Basic Books .

S.J., James L. Empereur. 2002. Spiritual Direction and the Gay Person. New York: Continuum.

Spong, John Shelby. 1998. Why Christianity Must Change or Die. New York: Harper Collins.

Worship & Liturgy Announcements

An Homage to James Cone: A Call to Action

James ConeThis weekend the world experienced the transition of one of the great theologians of the 20th century. James. H. Cone was the father of Black Liberation Theology and a major influence on all subsequent liberation theologies. While all liberation theology engages a hermeneutic of suspicion, the work of James Cone taught us a hermeneutic of hunger. A hermeneutic of suspicion begins by suspecting every text, every tradition, in terms of its legitimizing role in promoting the domination of the particular tradition. The hermeneutic of hunger suggests that the Bible is read as the answer to what oppression, illness, lack of education, and apathy inflict on human beings (Soelle 2001). The experience of being oppressed by gender, race, or poverty does not limit the theology that emerges to women, people of color, or the poor. Rather, the particular experience of oppression(s)  brings into sharper focus what one asserts the heart of the gospel truly to be for one’s own time (McFague 1987).  All liberation theology belongs to a branch of religious thought that claims that theology should be done from the purview of the poor and oppressed (Perez 2007). Dr. Cone not only taught us that the Gospel is Universal, but that it is also particular and those particularities matter.

Black Liberation Theology analyzes the condition of Blackness in light of God’s revelation in Jesus Christ both to create a new understanding of Black dignity among Black people and to provide the necessary soul in that people to destroy racism (Cone 1997).  Black theology recognizes that God, through Jesus Christ and the presence of the Holy Spirit, works with the poor as they learn to love themselves enough to practice their total freedom and create full humanity on earth as it is in heaven (Hopkins 1999). In the larger history of Christian theological reflection, Black Liberation theology has endeavored to give substance and systemic expression to a theological perspective that sees the work of salvation in the broadest of terms (Warnock 2014). Built largely on the Hebrew scriptures narrative of the Exodus and the Gospel’s account of the person and work of Jesus, Black Liberation theology establishes a theological foundation for the complete emancipation of Black people from white oppression by whatever means Black people deem necessary (Cone 1997).

James Cone 2An ethic of liberation arises out of love for ourselves and for humanity. This is the essential ingredient of liberation without which the struggle turns into a denial of what Divine liberation means (Williams 1993).  For the Black Liberation theologian, the fundamental act of God, the doing and ethics of God, is Divine liberation for all humanity. Earthly emancipation for those in bondage, both spiritual and material bondage, must operate in a co-constitutive fashion (Kornegay 2013).

While Cone’s work lifts the Exodus motif in ways I personally find troubling, without a doubt his contribution to the world brings a fuller understanding to the nature of the Divine, and the person and work of Jesus. As a constructive theologian with a liberative lens I see the contemporary moment as calling us to move beyond the Exodus motif to the Exile motif. The exodus motif brings with it the idea of a chosen people. This is problematic in that for Black people in America that would mean one group is chosen over another.  For white America that means God leaves them for the Black slave community. The chosen people narrative has failed this nation miserably. The exile motif, on the other hand, promises a God who is with and gives Black people the freedom to claim and name God differently than the Eurocentric God given during the ravages of slavery.  God’s response to the Hagar story in the Hebrew scriptures is not liberation. God participates in Hagar’s and her child’s survival (Williams 1993). The exile motif demands that both the robes of academe and the pulpit work together to frame a theology that accounts for the identity of all the Kindom (intentionally used, as per womanist terminology) of God.

What will your theological voice call for in this moment? As we consider this moment when the baton is passing and one of our luminaries has joined the great cloud of witnesses, what will be your contribution to this generation? Have you said anything that will help light the path of those around you or behind you?

The task of theology is to critique and revise the language of the church. This includes not only the language of uttered speech but also the language of radical involvement in the world (Cone 1997).

 

Please feel free to post a comment below.

 

Peace Is Possible,

 

Rt. Rev. Edward Donalson III, DMin | Director of Liturgy and Worship | Assistant Clinical Professor 

SCHOOL OF THEOLOGY AND MINISTRY | SEATTLE UNIVERSITY

 

Works Cited

Cone, James. 1997. Black Theology and Black Power. Maryknoll: Orbis Books.

Hopkins, Dwight N. 1999. Introducing Black theology of Liberaton . Maryknoll: Orbis Books.

Kornegay, El. 2013. A Queering of Black Theology: James Baldwin’s Blues Project and Gospel Prose. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

McFague, Sallie. 1987. Models of God: Theology for an Ecological, Nuclear Age. Philadelphia: Fortress Press.

Perez, Joe. 2007. Soulfully Gay: How Harvard, Sex, Drugs, and Integral Philosophy Drove Me Crazy and Brought Me Back to God. Boston & London: Integral Books.

Soelle, Dorothee. 2001. The Silent Cry: Mysticism and Resistance. Minneapolis: Fortress Press.

Warnock, Raphael G. 2014. The Divided Mind of the Black Church:Theology, Piety, and Public Witness. New York: New York University Press.

Williams, Delores S. 1993. Sisters in the Wilderness: The Challenge of Womanist God- Talk. MaryKnoll: Orbis Books.

Worship & Liturgy Announcements

Spirituality Transforming Religion

prayingheadsReligion is one of the most polarizing topics in the world. Not just in the commons but in particular religious spaces that claim the same spiritual origins, people are constantly divided and dividing over matters of religion. Religion essentially involves the institutionalization of rites, rituals, and dogmas, and this institutionalization is precisely what makes unity difficult (Bridges 2001). Institutions, and in some cases, individuals, begin to see themselves as guardians of unchanging spiritual realities codified in certain, often creedal, language that is itself immutable and inerrant. This language and these creeds become sacrosanct and any more thought on a particular matter is then deemed heretical and anyone who dares to challenge them a heretic. Religion forces people to play the dangerous game of who is in and who is out. Creeds by definition are always barrier-building vehicles. They are ecclesiastical attempts to draw the theological lines of division (Spong, The Fourth Gospel: Tales of a Jewish Mystic 2013).  No religious creed is a full statement of faith as they are all communal responses to particular arguments. Anything that is undebated in a community has no creedal response and thus the totality of spiritual understanding cannot be addressed in any one creed or even in several creeds (Spong, A New Christianity For A New World 2001).

Spirituality is, in its broadest sense, the understanding of how life should be lived and our attempts to live it that way (Gottlieb 2013).  Unlike religion, spirituality is centered on the questions, the journey, and the process, not checking the boxes of repeating the prescribed answers. In this way, our spirituality is the fount and source of life.  Spirituality is the method and manner by which the ultimately real actually touches the depth of being of the human personality, transforms it, and causes it to long for true community (Bridges 2001).  Our spirituality enlarges us by allowing us to sit with the big questions of life and journey alongside others who are sitting with those questions in effort to live authentically and faithfully in response to their understanding of God and their place in the cosmos.  Authentic spirituality sanctifies, as it is the soul’s journey.  While religion helps to inform the journey, spirituality is the journey. Religion refers to any organized, structured, traditional religion, whereas spirituality embraces the freedom of the human spirit to encounter the Divine in surprisingly unexpected ways (Hartin 2010). Truly spiritual people become inspired (in spirited) to be, while religion is the doing or response to that being. Spirituality exists both inside and outside of the impenetrable boundaries created by the dogma and creeds of religion. Spirituality is fluid, because it is faith seeking understanding.

rainThe task of the liturgist is to craft and lead religious rites and rituals that lift the spirituality of a community. To find in a community’s dogma the transformative life-giving substance that brings practitioners of the faith to an experience with the Divine that promotes the well-being of the individual so that the individual can transform the collective.  The true liturgist is both a technician of the sacred and a practitioner of spirit. On one hand, the liturgist knows the technical functions of ritual and understands how to navigate them, while on the other hand is fully connected to the Wellspring of Life. Much of the division and polarization we see in the world comes from the hubris of religion that is unmitigated by the humility of spirituality. When our creeds and customs are not in conversation with ongoing redemptive reforming encounters with the Divine, unchecked egos will always look for a way to dominate and subjugate others.

Internal alertness to the critique of our institutions as bastions of orthodoxy verses living communities of transformation is the call of day. The task of defining faith in each generation is a difficult one. The liturgist is constantly defining faith in the structures and execution of communal worship. Heresies are beliefs said to be in opposition to the teachings of the religion. By this definition anything we hold as orthodox was in some historical context considered heretical, because the teachings of the church have changed over time. In our time heresy may be a virtue and not a liability if we begin to search for the places where our religion has both portrayed and betrayed the true Gospel.

I invite you to ask yourself where has your religion been in opposition of true spirituality?  How can you bring a corrective lens to your community of faith?  How do we revitalize our collective religious practices with fresh invigorating spirituality?

 

Please feel free to comment below.

 

 

Peace Is Possible,

+Donalson

Rt. Rev. Edward Donalson III, DMin | Director of Liturgy and Worship | Assistant Clinical Professor 

SCHOOL OF THEOLOGY AND MINISTRY | SEATTLE UNIVERSITY

 

Works Cited

Bridges, Flora Wilson. 2001. Resurrection Song: African American Spirituality. Maryknoll: Orbis.

Gottlieb, Roger S. 2013. Spirituality: What it is and Why is Matters. New York: Oxford University Press.

Hartin, Patrick J. 2010. Exploring the Spirituality of the Gospels. Collegeville: Liturgical Press.

Spong, John Shelby. 2001. A New Christianity For A New World. New York: Harper Collins.

—. 2013. The Fourth Gospel: Tales of a Jewish Mystic. New York New York: HarperOne.

Worship & Liturgy Announcements

Toward a More Just and Humane World

peace-waterThe liturgist is one who takes the voice of the people and lifts it to the Divine, while bringing the heart of God to the people. This task is challenging in a world where it would seem that the people are so fragmented and fractured by the polarity of us and them.  Places of worship which should be characterized by withness lose their witness when unity succumbs to the ugly realities of othering as a community norm.  The church must be a community of people bound together by their willingness to journey as one into the meaning and mystery of the sacred. The role of spiritual communities on this journey is to be the place where the disparate parts of our humanity can be bound together and then kept from being separated again. The journey engaged must take everyone away from that place where preservation of the institution determines our ultimate values and witness, and our norms become more important than the welcoming of others. In fact, life giving love is manifested in the human willingness to venture beyond the boundaries of safety, to risk losing ourselves, and even in the desire to explore the crevices of the unknown (Spong 2002).

If you are unsure if you are really working toward a more loving, just, and humane world in your spiritual context or as an individual, ask yourself what have we/I given up to include this person or these persons?  If it has not cost you anything to embrace the other, you have not embraced them at all, they have merely assimilated to the dominant culture, and left a part of their personhood and full humanity behind. This is antithetical to the mission of spirituality that we engage as communities of faith. Rather than asking people to be bifurcated we are tasked with calling people to be integrated, whole, and holy. The church’s task is to assist its people in plumbing the depths of their own humanity in light of sacred text. earth_sky_main This plumbing of our humanity with the light of Gospel leads to the discovery of transcendence, mystery, being, and love. This is the love that whole and holy humans extend to the world (Spong, Why Christianity Must Change or Die 1998).

One of the greatest hindrances to building environments of Justice is the inability of dominant cultures to take responsibility for shameless privilege and arrogant elitism of being in power. The successful liturgist crafts moments of corporate worship in a way where all are confronted and accept culpability for the inexorable price people on the margins are forced to pay to ensure the primacy of dominant cultures.  A true liturgist must always engage a sociopolitical analysis of wholeness. This analysis makes the faithful community able to confront racism, sexism, classism, heterosexism, and any other privilege visited upon members of the non-dominant culture (Douglas, The Black Christ 1994).  Through creative engagement of prayer, praise, prayer, sermon, sacrament, or spiritual ecstasy the liturgist helps guide the community toward a place of freedom for each to be their highest self. In the individual highest self is the ability to discover the collective highest self.

When spiritual communities are invited to be their highest collective self (whether it be a church, university, or nonprofit) they become that people called into being by the power and love of God to share in God’s revolutionary activity for the liberation of man. This work of liberation toward a more just and humane world cannot be thwarted by the culture of our institutions being owned by dominating groups who continually marginalize and disenfranchise those who institution considers other. Since culture is the basis of all ideas, images, and actions whatever mythology, history, social organization, creative motif, and ethos that governs the institution, the liturgist undertakes the task of cultural production at every corporate gathering (Cone 1997). This task is not easy, but it is necessary. I invite you to think about where your spiritual community is portraying the gospel narrative in building a just and humane world and where you have a growing edge. Remember what you think about you bring about because you are the thinker that thinks the thought, that creates the thing!

 

Please feel welcomed to comment below!

Peace is possible,

+Donalson

Rt. Rev. Edward Donalson III, DMin | Director of Liturgy and Worship | Assistant Clinical Professor 

SCHOOL OF THEOLOGY AND MINISTRY | SEATTLE UNIVERSITY

Works Cited

Cone, James H. 1997. Black Theology and Black power. MaryKnoll: Orbis.

Douglas, Kelly Brown. 1999. Sexuality and the Black Church:A Womanist Perspective . Maryknoll: Orbis .

—. 1994. The Black Christ. Maryknoll: Orbis.

Spong, John Shelby. 2002. A New Christianity for a New World. New York: Harper SanFransico.

—. 1998. Why Christianity Must Change or Die. New York: Harper Collins.

 

 

 

 

Worship & Liturgy Announcements

Microagressions and Microinvalidations In Religious Institutions

chaliceMicroaggressions and microinvalidations are inclusive of, but not limited to issues of race.  They also appear in religious institutions where people of a dominant culture or ideologies are unable to own their privilege and unwilling to divest themselves of said privilege in dealing with those who’s personhood is marginalized within any context.  The egregious effects of these marginalizing and dismissive moments are multiplied when a person experiences the intersectionality of multiple burdens. When a person is Black, from a non-dominant religious tradition, female, and maybe, in the case of higher education, non-tenured, these lived realities add up to creating environments that are at best difficult to navigate.

Religious institutions such as churches, universities, and hospitals are often centers of ideological hegemony. Those systems of practices, meanings, and value which provide legitimacy to the dominant society’s institutional arrangements and interest are covertly communicated through microaggressions which serve to validate and make legitimate oppressive beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors. This is often carried out in religious institutions under the false pretense of progressive liberalism or the cover of conservativism. Microagressions are brief, everyday exchanges, that send denigrating messages to certain individuals because of their group affiliation, while microinvalidations invalidate, negate, or exclude thoughts, feelings, and experiential realities of targeted parties (Yarber 2015). Such is the experience of minoritized people in world; but the emotional and mental toll of these experienced is magnified when the safety of a religious space is diminished because of these experiences.

Culture is the totality of any given groups way of life and comprises a people’s total social heritage, including language, ideas, habits, beliefs, customs, social organization and traditions (Douglas 1999). Whether or not an organization claims to be religious in its aim, expression, or beliefs, that organization is still a repository of culture. Far too often the culture of the organization takes on the complexion of the dominant power group of that culture.  This cultural identity serves as a barrier to the success of non-dominant people within that organization or community. Most people within a dominant culture fail to understand this phenomenon as privilege because privilege and supremacy are far too often valorized and encoded in justice or faithfulness language. For those who have had marginality thrust upon them the experience is often a painful burden. It is of great emotional and mental anguish to be tolerated, but not fully recognized, particularly in a religious context (Laurent A. Parks Daloz 1996).

As a Protestant Black Pentecostal Bishop, working in a Catholic institution dedicated to ecumenism and interreligious dialogue, I understand clearly the effects of microaggressions and microinvalidations. I also see the impact of these interactions on my colleagues who are woman. I am aware of and mourn with those who encounter the realities of being openly LBGTQ+ membersLords-Supper-Church-Stock-Photos of communities who do not affirm their sacred worth. As a liturgist, I am committed to finding pathways of healing for all people when we as community gather in worship.  The music, the gathering, the shared meal, and the story is our best opportunity to welcome everyone to the table.

A welcome table is not a place for erasure of our contradictory personhoods; it is the place where ALL of who we are is welcome to the table. We are never in worship asked to be less of our authentic selves, instead we are invited to express our whole self wholly and as Holy!  Finding common ethical and behavioral ground is as important to the survival of the community as the theology of the welcoming table is to the creation of a community (Flunder 2005). It is not enough to say everyone is welcome; we must commit to allowing each person to maintain their full authentic voice at the table without fear of aggression or invalidation if there is to be any hope for our religious communities to survive.

Peace Is Possible,

+Donalson

Rt. Rev. Edward Donalson III, DMin | Director of Liturgy and Worship | Assistant Clinical Professor 

SCHOOL OF THEOLOGY AND MINISTRY | SEATTLE UNIVERSITY

Works Cited

Douglas, Kelly Brown. 1999. Sexuality and the Black Church:A Womanist Perspective . Maryknoll: Orbis .

Flunder, Yvette A. 2005. Where The Edge Gathers: Building a Community of Radical Inclusion. Cleveland: The Pilgram Press.

Laurent A. Parks Daloz, Cheryl H. Keen, James P. Keen, Sharon Daloz Parks. 1996. Common Fire. Boston: Beacon Press.

Yarber, Cody J Sanders & Angela. 2015. Microagressions in Ministry . Louisville : Westminster John knox Press.

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