In his Peace Blogger Interview, Patrik Hagman told us some about St. Isaac of Ninevah, who is the subject of his doctoral dissertation. For a brief biographical sketch of St. Isaac, click here and see the profile at the Catholic Peace Fellowship’s “Saint Archive.”
Roger Thomas jamming with Chiayim Burney. Chiayim, one of our youth, goes to the School of the Arts in Louisville. He plays drums and has an incredible singing voice–which he uses to praise God. This fine young man is salt and light in a very neglected part of our city–and usually has plenty of time for younger kids at the church, too.
The bearded dude on the left prematurely losing his hair is Roger Thomas. Roger, a missionary kid who spent part of his childhood in Kenya, is the youth minister at Jeff Street Baptist Community and also teaches social studies and history at Highland Middle School in Louisville, KY–the school my oldest daughter attends.
The Korean-American dude with glasses on the right is Brian Choi, who worked with our youth as a seminary intern. He has now made his way to Claremont Graduate School in Claremont, CA for further theological study.
Our small church has been so richly blessed by God with dedicated saints who minister with and among us. I hope never to take them for granted.
01 November of each year is “All Saints Day” in the traditional Christian calendar of the Western Church. A “saint” or “holy one” in Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Anglican/Episcopal circles refers to very special Christian heroes and heroines whose lives and witness are special examples of the Christian life. Some traditions even believe these “official saints” are able to intercede for believers with God and devotion to such saints enables special grace for common believers. (I’m summarizing without much nuance and, therefore, inevitably distorting, for which I apologize.)
Like most Protestants, I do not hold to most of these traditions, although I do believe that some Christian lives have a heroic witness to them. I admire many “official saints,” such as Francis of Assissi, Benedict of Nursia, Ignatius Loyala, Teresa of Avila, & Hildegard of Bingen.
But when I celebrate All Saints Day, I do so with the Pauline use of the term “saint,” as a reference to any Christian. Here is a picture of some of my favorite saints at Jeff Street Baptist Community during one of our Easter celebrations (The Resurrection is proclaimed with balloons, streamers, noisemakers, much dancing and music–and quite a bit of lunacy. After 40 days of focus on Christ’s Passion through Lent, Resurrection joy is a little bit giddy with us.) The ordinary, unofficial saints grace my lives daily. I celebrate them with joy.
My congregation, Jeff Street Baptist Community at Liberty is a small church with a big name. (I twice lost a vote to get us a smaller name, like Anastasis. We did have one joker who wanted to call us Liberation Anabaptist Fellowship–LAF.) We only have about 80 adults and maybe 50 children and youth, crammed in a re-furbished machine shop that, from the outside, looks nothing like a church building.
But the saints of this particular part of the Body of Christ continue to enrich and edify me no end. This is Diane Moten. Currently, she is our Minister to the Homeless (a position my wife, Kate, once had). But she has served as a deacon; cooked for Wednesday night dinner; represented us as a delegate to the convocation of the Alliance of Baptists. Di loves children and all the children of the church love her. I was, at first, uneasy with the way white kids, including mine, called her “Auntie Di” because of the history during segregation of white folks calling African Americans such terms of endearment–while all the while keeping them in positions of servitude. Fortunately, my political correctness has been ignored by all concerned and Di has treated my daughters as she does all the children–as her dearly beloved.
Thank-you, God, for Diane Moten and all the “ordinary saints” you use to extraordinarily bless our lives.
On Saturday, 15 July 2006, I noted in this blog that, unlike some aging peace & justice organizations, the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America was in good shape because of the extraordinarily high quality of leadership from youth and twentysomethings who have been involved in “peace camp” since their childhood. In fact, one amazing aspect of our yearly gatherings (as well as other regional events, friendship tours to global places of conflict, etc.) is their intergenerational character with ages from infancy to old age distributed roughly equally.
http://anabaptist418.blogspot.com/2006/07/were-in-good-hands-young-leaders-of.html for that earlier article.
The picture above is of one of these young leaders, Rachel (“Rae”) Hunter, an experienced teacher (in subjects as varied as high school theatre and middle school science) and published author and poet. Having literally grown up in the BPFNA and herself a long-time member, Rae has often led worship and workshops at “peace camp.” She currently serves as pastor to the BPFNA Board. Deeply rooted in her Baptist heritage, she has also had considerably more ecumenical and interfaith experience than many do at twice her age. A product of an interracial marriage, Rae’s whole life has been one of “border crossings” in pursuit of the in-breaking Rule of God.
As I pass kicking and fighting firmly into the land of Middle Age (when I turn 45 next April, I will no longer be able even to say I am in my EARLY ’40s!!), I am tempted sometimes to despair at the world my generation has left for the next–despite all the best efforts of many. But when I see the quality of young leadership in the next generation of Christian peacemakers and justice seekers like Rae Hunter, my hope revives. There appear to be dark days ahead, but our many Rae Hunters will carry the Light into those dark days.
P.S. Call the White House Comment line again today and explain that an immediate ceasefire in Lebanon is not a contrast to a longterm peace. Press for a ceasefire now for the sake of innocent lives, especially those of children. 202-456-6213
In the Baptist Peace Fellowship (and similar groups) I always meet the most incredible people of faith who are willing to suffer to follow the leading of God in their lives. Here is Linda Mashburn who was arrested and sentenced to several months in federal prison for nonviolent civil disobedience. She “crossed the line” (criminal trespass) with many others at Ft. Benning, GA as part of the movement to close the notorious “School of the Americas” (renamed WHINSEC in a vain attempt to keep critics from calling it the “School of Assassins”) where U.S. tax dollars are used to train most of the leaders of human rights abuses in Latin America.
Wearing prison gray in solidarity with her former fellow inmates, Linda shared with us the plight of the growing population of women in prison–many innocent through a misapplication of conspiracy laws, and all but a tiny fraction of whom were convicted of nonviolent offenses that would have drawn probation or fines for wealthy white males accused of the same crimes. Prisons are the new slave labor as more and more industries, especially clothing, use prison labor for new sweatshops. Despite Matt. 25’s parable of Sheep and Goats, very few U.S. Christians know anyone in prison, nor have we made much of an effort to investigate and challenge the injustices of the prison system–now the fasted growing industry in the U.S. When we are involved in prison ministries, these tend to be restricted to evangelistic efforts. Those are noble and should be continued–but our ministry should also include investigation and addressing of the injustices of the prison system. Jesus is in prison waiting for us.