Today, we present five snapshots of saints startled into the radical discipleship Movement, shared at the Festival of Radical Discipleship last February in Oak View, CA.
Decades ago, Tensie Hernandez heard about nuns getting arrested. It was a Good Friday vigil in downtown LA. These sisters gathered around a huge banner: “Today Jesus Dies in Central America.” Tensie wondered, “What does that have to do with Good Friday?” She answered herself: “Here was a group of people who were living it and a group of people who were inviting me in.” One of her mentors, the late Ladon Sheets, was fond of saying, “You become like that which you are habitually with.” Tensie’s work at the Guadelupe Catholic Worker is compelling proof that it is incumbent for us to choose what and whom we are habitually with…and be transformed by this.
Back in the 70s, Steve Clemons went to Bible Study with Phil Berrigan and Liz McAlister at Jonah House in Baltimore, and was then arrested at the White House in the last major demonstration against the Vietnam War. During his stint in jail, Ladon, the former IBM exec living at Koinonia Farms, invited Clemons down South to “the God Movement” of Clarence Jordan, committed to community, cooperation, compassionate living and nonviolence. Koinonia has never been a resistance community, per se, but an alternative, a demonstration plot for racial reconciliation, alternative lifestyle and sustainability.
Myra Brown grew up the daughter of migrant farmers in the South who then moved North to escape Jim Crow. Myra heard stories of oppression, exploitation and racism most of her life. She joined the black Catholic church at 16 and at 25, lost her mother, grandmother and fiancé in the same year. In Rochester, she discovered the holy rebels at Corpus Christi, the first time she ever met a group of people who were genuinely and seriously dealing with issues of oppression. They wanted to bring everyone to the table. Corpus Christi ordained women, welcomed gays and lesbians and served mass to non-Catholics. Of course, they got the institutional boot from the Catholic Church and changed their name to Spiritus Christi. Myra became the “hospitality minister” and got to write her own job description.
Shady Hakim was a young Evangelical college student quickly losing faith in American Christianity. He spent a year abroad in the Middle East, studying the Israel-Palestine conflict. He was shocked by the injustice. In 1996, while on a Christian Peacemaker Teams tour in Hebron, he saw people living the Gospel in a way that he simply could not imagine. He witnessed people living in a conflict zone putting their bodies on the line for peace. Then, in 1998 at Joyfield Farms, he met Ched Myers and Elaine Enns. Shady is now the Board Chair for Bartimaeus Cooperative Ministries.
As a 4 year old, Rose Berger dreamt about the saints coming and, then, waking up, she saw angels knocking at the door to talk with her. Her real conversion, though, was when she presented herself to be arrested at a federal building when US went to war in Nicaragua. Then, randomly, she picked up a copy of Sojourners Magazine at a church in Davis, CA and applied for an internship. Since January 1986, when she started working at Sojo, she wakes up every day and asks God if there’s truth to be found there, and as long as she hears a “Yes!” she will stay.