The Sustained Work of a Centennial: The Fellowship Of Reconciliation USA

Tomorrow begins the Centennial celebration, that’s right, the 100 year celebration of the sustained peace, nonviolence, and freedom work of the Fellowship of Reconciliation USA. Upon this Centennial’s advent, FOR is the oldest interfaith peace and justice organization in the United States. Since its inception in 1915, FOR has worked diligently for peace and justice through nonviolence; we have worked for alternative solutions to war, as well as worked on systemic institutional injustices which create conditions of marginalization and violence.

It is appropriate that this celebration begin on the heels of All Saints Day, as we remember the saints of many faiths who had callused hands and sore backs from the faithfulness with which they dedicated themselves to this work.

We celebrate them, we celebrate those currently working, and who are to come.

Regarding the Centennial, to quote from our FOR website,
“Now holds all the power of 100 years of hope, dreams, courage, sweat, toil, victories, joy, and tears; and it is the fusion of this century of memories, the strength and inspiration of our forbearers, and the fortitude of our convictions that will propel FOR’s mission into the future.”

So I invite you to join us in this celebration! Though the main events are in New York City this weekend, we will be celebrating on into 2016. Soon, our documentary will be finished and I will be hosting a viewing in Nashville. Details to follow.

Click here for a list of all of the events.

On: Death and Dying

I write on the heels of Halloween, of a day where the veil between the living and dead is especially thin. Halloween is not really about costumes for me, though I do not mean to negate how fun (though, at times, problematic) they can be. For me, Halloween is a time to dedicate to the honoring of that thin veil and to observe All Souls/ All Saints Day in remembrance of those who have passed on. It’s a communal memory of public losses in society to injustices, but it is also a personal memory of the folks whom you knew and loved who passed along through the veil this past year.

As a society, we do not talk about death very much, at least insofar as the act of death. Often the subject of death is immediately subsumed by conversations about Heaven or the afterlife. I am not immune to this as I will admit that death is not a topic that I am comfortable talking about over dinner. I mean, do we all want to be bequeathed with indigestion?

Because I don’t like talking about death, I forced myself to enroll in a class called, “Death and Dying” this semester. Go figure. (I often subject myself to these sorts of things when I know they especially address/poke/prod a weakness of mine).

I am positive, though, that I am not alone and that this is a communal/societal experience. I know this because I see how hard we try to avoid death –we separate ourselves from the animals that had to die so that we may eat them and we sanitize death in impersonal funeral homes rather than house wakes. Thinking about death generally brings anxiety, uncertainly, and fear to many folks, and this should not be denied or covered up by one’s view(s) of the afterlife. Uncertainty often brings natural anxiety for us. Let’s face it, if you are reading this, you have not died and know not what the experience of death feels/ sounds/ smells/ tastes/ looks like for you personally. One’s view of the afterlife does not negate the uncertainty of the experience of death.

The fact remains that we do not know what it is like to die. And in the un-knowing [the un-known] a space is created for fear, or anxiety, or hope, or maybe especially faith.

No matter how sure you are about the afterlife or lack thereof, faith always must be just that. Faith. The knowing amidst the un-knowing; the trust that even through the un-knowing about the experience/ process of death, there will be a way. Thanks be to God.

    Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1, NRSV)

A Whole New World of Greyhounds

This post begins a new series called: “Favorites of the Fall” and starts us off with post #1 on Greyhounds.

When I come home from the stresses, excitement, obligations, and due dates of the world, there are two wet noses atop each other waiting for me to push the door open a little further than a crack; I walk into wagging windshield wiper tails, half jumps, and chattering “excited” teeth. The face rubbing into my clothes commences and then we all rush to the door to see who can get out to the backyard-kingdom first.



This isn’t just any backyard, no, its got the perfect grass to chomp on when mom isn’t looking, a garden fence to pee on, and three whole compost bins to get good wiffs of rotting veggies.

The loyalty, love, and lavish attention I speak of here is just another day in the life of being a mom to greyhounds. When I worked in vet medicine, I met a few greyhounds who always caught my attention with their gentle demeanors and kind spirits. Though I wanted a dog for years, I kept saying, “I’ll wait till I am finished with school.” Nine years later, I am still in school; hence, I decided eight months ago that I would adopt a grey and that’s when Jack came into my life.He’s been so much fun and brought forth such joy that I began thinking about adopting a second retired racer.

In memory of Toby.

In memory of Toby.

This summer, the same week that my parents had to put down our beloved Pomeranian/ Shih Tzu mix “Toby,” another “Toby” appeared on the website of the amazing retired racer adoption group that I am a part of, Greyhound Pets of America – Nashville. “Toby” the grey was a senior who had been returned to the rescue and I couldn’t believe the timing. After meeting Toby, it was pretty clear that he should join the pack with Jack and he’s been the best addition to our home. He’s kind, delicate, cuddly, and just happy to be home.
Toby the Grey

Toby the Grey

If you are looking for a canine addition to your life, I would highly recommend considering adopting a retired racing hound from GPA-Nashville. They even have some hounds who currently need homes and you can check these fellas out here.

This is just another one of my fall favorites!

When I Can’t Hear the Land

Moving to the city brings about
the bustle and excitement of
lights that never go out.

The guitars and horns and
trains whistle to and from
forming a chiming cacophony.

Noises and voices surround,
encouraging, soliciting,
keeping loneliness away.

The proximity of city life
to the desired destinations
of work and play is sustainable.

The fields of grass have yielded
fields of concrete that assist
travelers to their destinations.

And in the midst of the convenience,
and the concrete, I find,
I can no longer hear the land.

I can’t hear the tree change
when the seasons call it,
or the frog’s nightly lullaby.

I can’t smell the change of seasons,
or see the constellations put on
their nightly brilliance.

I can’t spend an hour with the sunset,
over a field of wheat and chaff,
this I can do no longer.

I can’t taste the invasive honeysuckle,
I don’t have memory of this land,
I can’t walk it with closed eyes.

For all the sounds of the city,
I trust the land is talking,
but I can’t hear it anymore.

The Call of the South Pacific

I lived in Fiji for nearly seven weeks this summer. I am grateful for this opportunity and will be writing more about it in the weeks to come. For now, here’s a little bit of an introduction.

The program through which I was given this opportunity to travel is one which is designed to foster an international learning experience of accompaniment where seminary students from around the world come see what the forefront of climate change looks like in Oceania. This intense program requires students to re-imagine the term “mission” in the midst of climate change in an area of the world which still bears many effects of the colonialist gospel. Here, many moons ago, Christian missionaries, under the flag of “mission,” introduced western Christianity to indigenous tribes in an effort to Christianize their ways, which shifted a great deal of power into white hands.

The island of the Firewalkers, Beqa; photo taken from Fiji's Viti Levu's Coral Coast.

The island of the Firewalkers, Beqa; photo taken from Fiji’s Viti Levu’s Coral Coast.

It was into this context, that I began my almost seven week journey in Fiji. We spent nearly every waking moment first learning about climate change in the Pacific context and then experiencing Pacific life in villages. This was the best way in which to see the effects of climate change on the lives, homes, and work of Islanders who did very little to contribute to the anthropogenic causes of a warming climate. The program provided a great deal of excitement as well as challenges. The most exciting part of the program was the opportunity to be welcomed into the lives of Fijian people; we were met with a friendly “Bula Vinaka!” and great deal of hospitality, grace, and multifarious stories. The challenges of the trip came in the way of learning to navigate a new culture with respect and without appropriation and/or judgement. Further challenges came in the way of immigration, but that is a story that I will leave for another time. The biggest challenge, by far, was to deal with the grief that came from seeing receding shorelines, salinization of soil, extensive violent storm damage, decreased fishing, shallowing rivers, entire villages being relocated, and altered growing seasons. As a citizen of one of the culprit western nations, my challenge was to hold the shame, grief, and culpability in tension with the work that we all, including Fijians, have ahead of us. This is the point at which I felt most at home in the program: I was able to foster conversation and reflection with the other program participants, our seminary hosts, and Islanders what our roles of responsibility looked like in each of our respective theological, ecclesial, and familial communities.

While this program was difficult and intense, it was still a formative learning experience for me as I combine my biological background and current theological studies, and head into congregational ministry with a focus on creation care praxis. In light of the extensive climate misuse I saw, I plan to continue this climate justice conversation in future ministry as I navigate ecotheology and accountable creation care praxis in congregations.

As the Spirit Moves

I think my training in the ways of justice making sometimes leads me to enter a situation with skepticism instead of love. I enter and ask with immediacy, what is the problem/ injustice/sin here? I am on high alert to find that which is not equitable and I often do this at the expense of seeing that which is equitable.

I came to Fiji looking through this lens. Where are the effects of climate change and how can I think about God in the context of a changing climate?

Don’t get me wrong. This is a most necessary question. But when my question precludes my ability to laugh, to smile, to find the love, the laughter, the smiles here, then I am missing half of the picture. I am negating the work of the Spirit. In my pneumotological understanding, the Spirit, works in the world in powerful and mighty ways which resist the Empire. But the Spirit, in its round dance with the Creator and the Son, was, is, and always will be– Love. To forget the work of Love which the Spirit is always doing is to miss most of the picture. And the picture is a beautiful one. To miss it is a shame indeed.

And shame is not something I choose to live in any longer.

Because when we see this work of love, it changes us. Brings forth courage and creativity. It is Spirit work and it connects us to each other and to all of creation.

It is through this lens that I am attempting to write a bit about my experience thus far. It has been filled with love and simultaneous aching because I love. Because I have so much love in Tennessee, I am aching every second I am away from it. And, at the same time, I have come to know my team here of Mimi from N. India, Palesh from Calcutta, Andrew from S. India, Silpa from India, Wesley from the Philippines, Hashan from Sri Lanka, Tamera from Zambia, Vawvawni from Taiwan, and Shalom from S. Korea as Love. They are family. We have had to become family because families care for each other and it takes a lot of care to navigate this intense program. They open me up and remind me that the Spirit works in us and through us as we love each other.

The Spirit moves resisting the Empire and I have seen the Spirit in the fresh fish I have been served as the honored guest of village tables (which are mats); I have seen the Spirit in the children who have graciously and patiently taught the Westerner phrases in Fijian; I have seen the Spirit in the concerned taxi driver who rushed me to the hospital after I was bitten by a dog; I have seen the Spirit as we served each other the milk of the coconut; I have seen the Spirit in the peace-building team working for restorative justice here in Fiji; I have seen the Spirit in the lei I was given at the welcoming ceremony; I have seen Her in the rest that I took; I have heard Her in the choir’s singing and the lolly (drum) ringing; I have seen the Spirit here in the incredible hospitality that I have been extended. I have seen the Spirit here.

The Spirit is here and I would be remiss if I did not take off my lens of skepticism so that I can actually see Her moving.

She’s moving; she’s resisting through Her love in Her mysterious way, calling us to join the work of caring for the creation that the Creator lives in, through, and with.

Can I lean into the work of the Spirit? I am not sure. I know that I need to try though because when I do, I am my best self, the Kate who welcomes love instead of skepticism, the Kate who listens before she analyzes, the Kate who asks Love to be her guide instead of judgement or fear.

Thanks be to God for many chances to get it wrong and a few chances to maybe get it right.

Coconuts and Papaya

Tonight I am writing as I am completing my 13th day of this South Pacific journey to study theology in the midst of climate change. I hear the wind gently causing sway in the palm branches and coaxing the waves to move with the earth’s gravitational pull. The stars are more clear here than I have ever seen because the light pollution is negligible. The smell of salt greets my nostrils as if I was spending time with an old familiar friend. The taste of coconut and papaya linger on my tongue as I sit at the table of bountiful fish and citrus.

I am in Oceania. The Pacific. Melanesia. Fiji.

It may sound like I have had a tourist experience from my brief paragraph above, but it is not so. I have been immersed in indigenous Fijian culture, living in a rural Fijian village, fishing for livelihood, eating the fruit of the ocean, drinking the ceremonial drink of kava, and living on dirt floors and mats of dry leaves.

It’s a hard journey to come so far, be away from my loved ones, and acclimate to an entirely new culture. My western mindset has, at times, blockaded my openness to the new wonder of this Pacific culture. My health has, at times, been compromised. My sleep patterns are as awry as the deep, wild ocean. My sense of home is grounded in people now and not place. Any prayers arising would be most welcome and more appreciated than you know.

I am in Oceania. The Pacific. Melanesia. Fiji.

I listen in solidarity to the struggles that the changing climate is bringing to the people here. What do we understand about God, the Holy of Holies, given the challenge of climate change? Our thoughts about God must be informed by the receding shorelines, flooding of villages, increase of violent tsunamis/ hurricanes, the acidifying ocean, and so on. Creation care is not really a choice here. It is a must.

Here we understand God from looking at the Moana (Ocean). Just as the waves are fluidly interconnected, so too are we interconnected with God, with each other and with all of creation.

Here we understand Eucharist as the meat and milk of the coconut instead of bread and wine.

Here we understand a grassroots theology, which realizes that we can only see God through our context. So in a context of suffering, we can understand well a suffering Christ on the cross.

Here we understand decolonization as the lifeline to retain and reclaim indigenous cultures. We see Christ through the context of a fishing community much like the disciples fished for their livelihoods.

Here we understand communitarian living through the perichoresis (round dance) of the Triune God. As the Triune leans into each other, working in creation, so too do we lean into each other as we live within God.

This is Oceania. The Pacific. Melanesia. Fiji.

Thanks be to God.