Now Let Us Sing!

By Johari Jabir, Juneteenth 2021, originally posted on University of Chicago Divinity School’s Sightings website (June 17, 2021)

Now let us sing
Sing til the power of the Lord come down
Lift up your heads, don’t be afraid
Now let us sing til the power of the Lord come down.
(Gospel Song)

June 19, 2021 marks the 156th anniversary of Juneteenth, the celebration enacted by formerly enslaved Africans who received official word of Emancipation on June 19, 1865 in Galveston, Texas.  Juneteenth combines June 19th, the empirical date of the announcement of emancipation with the “Day of Jubilee” from the Jewish Calendar. This significant reference to Jewish calendar has its roots in the ingenuity of enslaved Africans. Letting the soul journey into that sacred temporality where past, present, and future come together to form a Divine Diasporic sense of time, I connect this early history of how enslaved Africans drew inspiration from the children of Israel to the troubled but valuable Black/Jewish struggles of solidarity in the twentieth century.

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Of the Empire

A prose poem of Mary Oliver, passed along to us from movement elder Clancy Dunigan.

We will be known as a culture that feared death and adored power, that tried to vanquish insecurity for the few and cared little for the penury of the many. We will be known as a culture that taught and rewarded the amassing of things, that spoke little if at all about the quality of life for people (other people), for dogs, for rivers. All the world, in our eyes, they will say, was a commodity. And they will say that this structure was held together politically, which it was, and they will say also that our politics was no more than an apparatus to accommodate the feelings of the heart, and that the heart, in those days, was small, and hard, and full of meanness

An Eternal Quality

By Matthew Wheelock

At the beginning of March of 2020, just before the nation and the world began shutting down due to the pandemic, I was able to realize a long held desire to visit the Abbey of Gethsemani in Trappist, KY. My wife and I had planned to visit the Abbey one afternoon and the Thomas Merton Center at Bellarmine University the next day. While our visits to each were brief, they made a lasting impression and especially informed the direction I saw myself going with creative projects. 

My spiritual and creative journeys seem to have been closely intertwined throughout my life. I had gone from chanting with the devotees of the Hare Krishna movement as a teenager to sitting silently with the Quakers, as well as entering into the deep quiet of the Liturgy of the Eastern Orthodox church. I grew attached to certain images and themes in all of these paths: the two headed clay drum called a mridanga, used in the Krishna Bhatki tradition; the rhythms of the liturgical calendar, prayer ropes and the veneration of icons in the Orthodox church; from Quaker spirituality and later Centering Prayer, a love of silence in many forms. I began experimenting with drawing and touching on some of these themes, especially ideas of rhythm and repetition, back in 2015. Using a kind of spontaneous process, I connected lines on the page. Patterns emerged, but also nods to experience. More recently, I’ve committed to a series of ‘prayer rope’ drawings. While these pieces do have a visual beginning and end, I’ve also understood them to have an eternal quality. Seeing that kind of changed everything about how and what I do as an artist.

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Will You Pull Back The Veil With Me? Plunder the White Vaults Holding Ransom Our Spirits?

By Lindsay Airey (right, on the banks of Nandewine Sippy)

You say
I have a heart
so big
it needs its own moon
to orbit around.

I say
this heart of mine
feels weary
from carrying around
so
much
weight
it often feels like
it will drown me.

You say
what clarity you bring!
What love
and
joy
and
challenge…
How is it possible?
In one being.

I say
I am so tired…
from being one being:
feeling
fire-tending
raging
weeping
feeling it
seeing it
saying it
wiping your tears
building you up
holding you up
digging you out of the pit
with all these
hard-fought
tears, and knowing.

Continue reading “Will You Pull Back The Veil With Me? Plunder the White Vaults Holding Ransom Our Spirits?”

Lamentation to Adulation: Every Psalmist’s Perilous Journey

By Ken Sehested

“If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.” —Psalm 139:8

Blessed One, whose name we dare not speak, but of whose
Presence we dare not remain silent, we stand before you
with hearts in shreds and hands frozen.

We know that we creatures were made for praise and
thanksgiving. We recognize that gratitude is our natural
home.

But these are unnatural days. Instead of Heaven’s jubilation
at Creation’s unfolding, most of what we hear are the arias
of agony and the cornet’s sounding of retreat.

Sighs hover; cries haunt. And still your Face eludes.

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Seeing 2020

By Ric Hudgens (right)

This is the year that reveals every “new” year
for the empty symbol it is. Useful for keeping
records, filing documents or measuring our
annual rate of growth, twelve months merely
marks another planetary lap around the sun.
That is all it means. So make some whoopie
if you want, but something has to finish before
the new begins. It’s still not over. The lying
doesn’t end here, but neither does the truth.
Thousands more, someone you never expected,
will die, things hidden will be revealed, and,
dependably, we will learn of goodness abiding
despite. Hold your friends close (we know who
they are now), and keep your enemies
in view. Our tumult continues, and justice
requires a longer arc. I am stuck in the middle
with you. 2020 disappears in the small print.
Our vision may never be so clear again.

What I’m Learning About Grief

“If The Trees Can Keep Dancing, So Can I”
A crowd-sourced poem compiled by NPR’s poet-in-residence Kwame Alexander. Re-posted from npr.org.

What I’m learning about grief
is that it sits in the space between laughs
comes in the dark steals the warmth from the bed covers threads sleep with thin tendrils
is a hauntingly familiar song,
yet I can’t remember the words…

What I’m learning about grief
is that it rolls like a heavy mist settles into the crevices lingers on the skin.
Visits, then visits again
Lurking under my chair.
And, when I’m not watching
Reaches out her tiny claws
And bats my ankles —

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