Faith & Social Justice: In the spirit of Richard Overton and the 17th C. Levellers

Al Staggs: Baptist Minister and “Actor for the Kingdom”

al-staggs.jpgAl Staggs began his ministry as a typical Baptist minister from Texas.  He sometimes used humor and dramatic monologues in his preaching.  Eventually, he found a calling from God to evolve these monologues into a ministry as a performance artist.  So, he left the pastorate and became a hospital chaplain, first in Texas, and now in New Mexico–where more regular hours leaves him freedom for his other calling as a performance artist.  See his website for more info. and for ordering DVDs of particular performances. 

I had suggested for 2-3 years that Al would be a good person to have at the Baptist Peace Fellowship’s Summer Conference, and this year they agreed with me and he gave several performances throughout the week.  The monologues he gave us this past week were:

  1. Oscar Romero:  A Martyr’s Homily in which Al dressed as the late Archbishop of El Salvador and delivered his final sermon before the U.S.-trained death squads assassinated him at mass in March 1980.
  2. Clarence Jordan and the God Movement.  Al looks nothing like Clarence Jordan, but I have heard many of Jordan’s sermons on audiotape and, if I closed my eyes, it sounded like Clarence was in the room with us.  For those who don’t know, Clarence Jordan (1912-1969) was a maverick white Baptist preacher from South Georgia who began working for racial justice in the 1930s(!!), was a pacifist and conscientious objector, founded an interracial farming community in South Georgia in the 1940s known as Koinonia (from the Greek for “community”), wrote Southern-style paraphrases called “Cotton Patch Gospels,” helped to start Habitat for Humanity, and much else.  Al brought Clarence’s humor and prophetic voice to life.
  3. The Sermon on the Mount  delivered in its entirety without commentary–as Jesus’ original hearers might have first heard it.
  4. A View from the Underside: The Legacy of Dietrich Bonhoeffer in which Al dressed as a prisoner and represented Bonhoeffer after the Nazis imprisoned him for his role in the conspiracy to overthrow Hitler. Al spoke to the audience as Bonhoeffer using passages taken from Bonhoeffer’s writings throughout his brief life.

Next time, I would like to see Al Staggs’ performance of The Gospel of Walter Rauschenbusch, but one can’t do everything in one week!

July 31, 2007 - Posted by | Baptists, peacemaking

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