An Unbound Spirit

JESUIT FATHER DANIEL BERRIGANBy Bill Wylie-Kellermann. A review of Jim Forest’s At Play in the Lion’s Den: A Biography and Spiritual Memoir of Daniel Berrigan (Orbis books 2017). A shorter version of this was published in the November 2018 issue of Sojourners Magazine.

When Fa. Daniel Berrigan and his brother Philip, along with AJ Muste, John Howard Yoder, and a handful of budding Catholic radicals gathered in 1964 with Thomas Merton at Gethsemani Abbey for a retreat concerning the Spiritual Roots of Protest, the intercessions of that meeting, I am convinced, not only seeded a movement, but fell upon me, summoning my vocation.

Four years later when the Berrigan brothers with seven others entered the draft board in Catonsville, MD, removed the 1A files (of those eligible for sending to the Vietnam War) and burned them with homemade napalm, those ashes too would eventually anoint my life and pastoral calling. Daniel turned that action toward liturgy, toward poetry. He edited the transcript of their conviction in Federal Court into a play of international repute, refused induction into the prison system, and went notoriously underground for four months writing and speaking from the “most wanted list,” before being captured by the FBI at the Block Island home of his friend William Stringfellow. When he was released after two years in the Federal system, Berrigan came to New York City and taught a course on the Apocalypse of St. John when I was a student at Union Seminary. Full disclosure: Dan Berrigan became to me not merely teacher, but mentor and friend. Continue reading

Disobedience Here Below

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Alana Alpert, Bill Wylie-Kellermann, and others shut down the Department of Environmental Quality on June 4 as part of the Poor People’s Campaign.

Re-shared from Tikkun.

Ordained from Hebrew College of Boston in 2014, Rabbi Alana Alpert serves a dual position as rabbi of Congregation T’chiyah and as a community organizer with Detroit Jews for Justice. Because they have been working closely together on the Michigan Poor Peoples Campaign, she invited Rev. Bill Wylie-Kellermann to share the teaching for Rosh Hashanah. A graduate of Union Theological Seminary in NYC, Bill is a non-violent activist, author, and United Methodist pastor recently retired from St Peter’s Episcopal, Detroit. What follows are their remarks for the day.

Rabbi Alana Alpert: Shanah tovah!!!

I suppose you are used to most of my heresies by now, but I’ll admit a new one: vegan coneys. There is a new place in Brush Park. Just a few weeks ago, I sat around a long table of Detroit Jews for Justice leaders discussing the implications of our recent arrests as part of the Poor People’s Campaign, a national campaign uniting tens of thousands to challenge the evils of systemic racism, poverty, the war economy, ecological devastation & the nation’s distorted morality. Continue reading

The Dysfunction of Denial

BillFrom Bill Wylie-Kellermann’s newest release Dying Well: The Resurrected Life of Jeanie Wylie-Kellermann:

I don’t intend to use it as a frame, but I do want to say something about denial. I understand how healthy a survival mechanism denial can be in certain circumstances, a sane way to cope in the short term. So let me affirm it up front and in passing, but add that as a long-run tactic it is dysfunctional. As already stated, I also believe it is politically endemic to the culture. On societal scale, it hides the body bags, renders the tortured or the prisoners or mistreated workers invisible, obfuscates privilege, distances us technologically from the explosion, misdirects our gaze with media, deadens us to suffering (of others), and outsources the necessary violence of empire. Among other things.

Why is Grandpa in Jail?

33116241_10214353738810852_6880318968586829824_oBy Lydia Wylie-Kellermann

I wrote this as a children’s book for Isaac during the Poor People’s Campaign. He was very concerned about why Grandpa kept going to jail when we were also teaching about how we dont believe in jails and prisons. So, I wrote this to try to explain it to him. We printed it out and he and Cedar and Ira and their friend helped illustrate it as a birthday gift to my dad.

Why is Grandpa in jail?
We don’t like jails. We think they shouldn’t exist.

If people make bad choices, there are better ways to help them be better.
Talking.
Caring.
Paying attention to what they need.
Teaching.
Loving.

Locking people up for years of their life only….
Takes them away from their families.
Makes people feel lonely.
Takes them away from the sun and the trees.

It is a broken, sad system.

So, why is Grandpa in jail? Continue reading

Wedding Poem

crescent_moonBy Bill Wylie-Kellermann
For Joanna and Eitan, August 25, 2010

When the half-moon hangs
faint in the mid-day sky
and earth already turns toward dusk
make a wedding

When the city, faint and far, cracks and cries
and blood forgotten runs beneath the streets
make a wedding

When earth and sea gasp for air
when the heat is on
and dread would rise
make a wedding Continue reading

The Seminary, The Sanctuary & The Streets

Valerie Jean

PC: Valerie Jean

By Bill Wylie-Kellermann

There are a number of sweet connections between Word and World and the Poor Peoples Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival. As the campaign heats up in the midst of these 40 days of action and witness, it’s worth remembering a few of them.

In 2003, we did one off our Peoples’ Schools, a week-long institute in Philadelphia. It was framed around a close study of Dr. King’s Riverside Church speech, “Beyond Vietnam: Breaking the Silence” which focused his national call for a “revolution of values.” In addition to the Plowshares Movement, that school included attention to the Kensington Welfare Rights Union in Philly, specifically their homeless union tent city which subsequently, as winter approached, broke open and moved into a boarded up Catholic Church, St. Edwards. Continue reading