The Mothers of Our Faith

Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, Jochebed, Miriam, Rahab, Deborah, Ruth, Hannah, Bathesheba, Jehosheba, Hulda, Esther, Mary, Elizabeth, Anna, Mary of Magdala, Mary of Bethany, Priscilla, Lydia, Phoebe. These are the names of just a few powerful women the Jewish and Christian tradition highlights as powerful leading women in our sacred book—the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures.

Thecla, Perpetua, Felicitas, Amma Syncletica of Alexandria, Marcella, Macrina the Younger, Proba, Paula, Melania the Elder, Eudocia, Egeria. These are just some of the (mostly unknown) women who sparked significant movements or modeled great faith within the first 500 years of the Christian faith.

My faith is built on the shoulders of women from Asia and Africa, the motherlands of my faith. I am a welcomed guest to their faith and have been claimed as their adopted son. They have become my spiritual mothers.

I think of them often, despite being raised in a Christian tradition that made women out to be nothing more than the supporting cast in a story starring men.

The story of my faith, past and present, tells a different story. I am grateful.

Image: A woman is depicted at prayer in an ancient Christian mosaic seen in the Vatican’s Pio Cristiano Museum. (Wikimedia Commons/Miguel Hermoso Cuesta)

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Enough

When the darkness encircles me and eyes cannot see, the Voice of love calls out to me, “Christ is present in the darkness.”

May that be enough.

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Alexander Crummell (1819-1898)

Alexander Crummell was born free in New York. He received a good education. Although racial injustice denied him entrance to General Theological Seminary, he was eventually ordained in the Episcopal Church. He went on to accomplish extraordinary things and served as a notable scholar. His influence reached the likes of W. E. B. DuBois all the way to Dr. King. I encourage you to read more about him here and here. The following is a prayer he wrote toward the end of his life. I invite you to receive it keeping his context, the world in which he lived, in mind.

“We bless God for all the favors and the mercies of the year! for health, comfort, prosperity, the means of grace and for the hope of glory. We bless Him for even the tribulations of our lot in this land, which is, without doubt, a schooling for future greatness. We bless Him for the promise, discovered to sight by signal providences, of usefulness and exalted service, for Him, in this nation, in coming times. And we beseech Him, for the Redeemer’s sake to make us faithful men and women, in our families, with our children, in the church. In the entire Race: for the glory of His great name, for the succor and safety of the nation and for the good of man.”

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A Word on Trauma and Listening, Pt. 2

“When people begin to talk about their story, assume it, and reflect on it, [they] find meaning and significance in what they have lived through….This is what allows us to go forward in life.”

~ Martha Cabrera, Living and Surviving in a Multiply-wounded Country

This is just one movement in the cycle of healing from trauma and building resilience. It is how we begin the process of making meaning. It is a series of fluid movements that include spaces and practices that help us mourn and grieve, name fears, learn how to accept losses, memorialize what we must (through rituals, ceremonies, and artifacts), reflect together on any root causes of the trauma (traumatic events, various systems of violence, historical harms, injustices, etc), and acknowledging the multiple stories present in our community. Some will understand and embrace these movements, some will not. But it is important to press on and create space for these movements to unfold within each community.

This is something I’ve been able to experience with WCC the past ten years. It has been life-giving and shaped who we are, even in all the tension it has sometimes created. It is a messy and bumpy process, but one I believe the Spirit wants to guide. I think it is critical if we are to become a community where hospitality and compassion is present and human flourishing possible.

More on this later.

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Clara Ann Thompson (1869–1949)

Clara Ann Thompson (1869–1949) was born in Rossmoyne Ohio. She was the daughter of parents, both born in Virginia, who escaped slavery. Thompson was a poet and lecturer who drew her strength from her Christian faith. She was member of the Baptist church, the NAACP, and the YWCA, and devoted most of her time to her literary work, giving public readings of what came to be known by some as “race-related poetry.” She gave voice to the freedom struggle and its intersection with every day faith. I encourage you to learn more about her life here.

Here is a beautiful prayer she wrote in 1908 called, “Storm-Beaten.”

Weary, worn, and sorrow-laden
Jesus, I have come to Thee;
Shield me from the darts of Satan;
Set my fettered spirit free.

Hearken to my plea for guidance,
As I kneel before Thy throne;
Cheer me with Thy Holy Presence,
When I feel I’m all alone.

Struggling with the cares that press me,
Falling, when I fain would stand,
Thou alone, canst guide and keep me,
Take, oh take my trembling hand!

Pity Thou my many failings!
Strengthen Thou my falt’ring trust;
Keep me, ‘mid the wind’s loud wailing
Thou, the Pitiful and Just!

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