Black History Month

This is a reprint of my column from the February 2019 Carillon Notes.

It’s no secret that we’re a pretty white church in a pretty white town, in a pretty white county, in a pretty white state. DeWitt, Clinton county, and Iowa are about 97%, 92%, and 86% white, respectively. While everyone’s experience is a little different, that it’s easy for most of us to go through our days without being in a predominantly Black space… or even having a face-to-face conversation with someone who is Black. And what’s true in our daily lives is also true in our media consumption: I know that a lot of the books and websites I read, podcasts I listen to, and tv and movies I watch are predominantly white.

And that’s a problem. It means that there are stories I’m not hearing; an entire part of the world that I’m not engaging with. That impoverishes my understanding… and means that we’re a little farther from the kingdom of God than we could be.

February is Black History Month. Usually, this is the time when we hear stories about Martin Luther King, Jr., Sojourner Truth, and maybe even the Amistad (or, if you want to be a little edgier, Henrietta Lacks, Kwame Ture, and W.E.B. Du Bois). But I’m going to spend this month doing something a little bit different: I’m going to try to change my present and my future. And I’m going to do that by investing some time and energy in predominantly (or entirely) Black media.

If you want to join me, I’ll be posting what I’m reading and listening to on this website. And, of course, if you have any recommendations, please let me know!


This is a reprint of my column from the January 2019 Carillon Notes.

Happy new year! It’s that wonderful time of year when people are making plans. We’re going to learn new skills. We’re going to try new things. And I am definitely going to start going to the gym (but not today… maybe next week… certainly by Easter).

And it can be hard to talk about, but sometimes plans fall apart.

In the church, the first Sunday after the 12 days of Christmas is Epiphany. We take that Sunday to celebrate the time when the Magi came from the East and offered gifts to the Christ-child. In that moment, I imagine that Mary and Joseph had so many plans… plans about how they would watch their son grow up, liberate Israel, reestablish the throne of their ancestor David, and become a just and righteous king.

But those plans fell apart. King Herod was taking extreme measures to stop a new king from threatening his power. So, instead of starting a peaceful and cozy life as a family, the holy family had to take whatever they could carry and run away to Egypt in order to escape the violence. They became refugees.

There’s another side to that. If Joseph and Mary and Jesus had to run away to Egypt, and were able to live in Egypt until the violence was over, that means that someone in Egypt welcomed them. Someone let them into a house for the first time. Someone helped they find a way to make a living. Someone probably even gave them the ancient equivalent of casseroles. Someone—probably a lot of someones—said, “Let us help you feel at home.”

One of the most amazing things we can do is help someone feel at home. And one of the most important times we can do that is when plans fall apart. Being there when things fall apart is good and holy work. It is something that Christ does for us… and it is something that we can do for each other in imitation of him.

The new year is beginning and we’re all making plans. Maybe those plans will come together. Maybe they’ll fall apart. Please know that whether or not those plans—or any plans—work out, your church is here for you. And please know that whether or not someone else’s plans work out, you have the power to be there for them. Thanks be to God!

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