News, views, notes, and quotes

Signs of the Times  •  16 August 2018 •  No. 168

Special issue

and in commemoration of the life and legacy of Aretha Franklin, “Queen of Soul,” whose lineage
included being raised singing Gospel music in the New Bethel Baptist Church,
Detroit, Michigan, where her father, Rev. C. L. Franklin, was pastor

Processional. “O Happy Day,” Aretha Franklin & Mavis Staples.

Invocation. “…You can trust the promise of this opening; / Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning / That is at one with your life’s desire. / Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk; / Soon your will be at home in a new rhythm, / For your soul senses the world that awaits you.” —John O’Donohue

Call to worship. “No kind action ever stops with itself. One kind action leads to another. Good example is followed. A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions, and the roots spring up and make new trees. The greatest work that kindness does to others is that it makes them kind themselves.” —Amelia Earhart

Hymn of praise. “None shall sleep, / None shall sleep! . . . / Vanish, O night! / Set, stars! Set, stars! / At dawn, I will win! / I will win! / I will win!” (English translation)  —Aretha Franklin, who at the last minute substituted for famed tenor Luciana Pavarotti at the 1998 Grammy Award ceremony, performing “Nessum Dorma

Small-scale agriculture as spiritual practice

How people of faith and conscience are recognizing that growing food
and tending nutrition is far more than producing sufficient (and cheaper) calories.

Right: A rural farm and church in Vermont, photo by Sean Pavone/iStock

¶  “The Movement to Turn Church Land into Farmland. A nascent movement of faith leaders, conservation experts, and food advocates are joining forces to connect young farmers to the vast quantity of land owned by churches. . . . In March, 35 leaders from across the U.S. who are ‘working at the intersection of faith, ecological stewardship, and farming’ gathered for the inaugural FaithLands event at Paicenes Ranch in California’s Central Valley.” Leilani Clark, Civil Eats

Learn more about a new church start in North Carolina organized around farming. —Brooks Berndt, “Farm Church as Embodied Spirituality: An Interview with Sarah Horton-Campbell,” United Church of Christ

¶ “On a warm weekend in early May, Reverend Heber Brown of Pleasant Hope Baptist Church in Baltimore led a delegation of his members on a tour of Browntown Farms in Warfield, Virginia and the Coalition for Healthier Eating food hub in Bethel, North Carolina. For Brown, the founder of the Black Church Food Security Network (BCFSN), the day trip was a concrete step toward solidifying strong relationships between Black residents of East Coast cities and Black farmers in the rural south.” Leilani Clark, Civil Eats

Imagine a 2-acre farm that produces 300 kinds of vegetables. In the middle of Detroit. (See photo at left.) It’s called an “agrihood,” short for agricultural neighborhood, which puts food production at its center. And it’s a growing trend. (2:54 video. Thanks Lamar.)

Words of assurance.Blessed Assurance,” Aretha Franklin.

Confession. “I've spent a lot of time in gun-country, God-fearing America. There are a hell of a lot of nice people out there, who are doing what everyone else in this world is trying to do the best they can to get by, and take care of themselves and the people they love. When we deny them their basic humanity and legitimacy of their views, however different they may be than ours, when we mock them at every turn, and treat them with contempt, we do no one any good. . . . We should be breaking bread with each other, and finding common ground whenever possible. I fear that is not at all what we've done.” —for more see Tyler Durden, “Anthony Bourdain Slams 'Privileged' Liberals For Their 'Utter Contempt" Of Working-Class America,' ZeroHedge

Passing the Peace. One day, when the congregation is instructed to “greet each other with the Peace of Christ,” this is gonna break out. And the Book of Revelation’s concluding promise that one day “every tear will be dried” will also say “and every leg will know how to dance.” (2:00 video. Thanks Wendy.)

Hymn of supplication.Precious Lord Take My Hand,” Aretha Franklin

¶ “10 years ago Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church in Asheville [NC] turned their lawn into a garden. (See photo at right.) It was an early "food and faith" connection on my vocational path. Stopped by for a visit today. (BTW, I love that their garden is right next to McDonalds. I've always seen it as an act of defiance.)” —Leah McCullough, Facebook

Professing our faith. “When I think about the changes I want to see in the world, it's easier . . . to snipe from the edges than to enter the space between the comfort of home and the risks of the world.” —Gareth Higgins, The Porch magazine

Eliada Homes has been serving children since 1903, but is now recovering a significant part of its agricultural mission—not simply to save money on food but also as a means of enhancing emotional healing and building social skills for the 600 children it serves annually in its residential treatment programs, foster care services, and traditional childcare.

        Located on 320 acres on the edge of Asheville, NC, the renewed subsistence farming operation focuses on food as part of holistic therapy. Many of the children have been traumatized by some form of abuse. “It’s going to be dynamic in the sense that it involves the community, but also in the sense that it takes the children here and gives them a learning center where they can interact with mother nature,” according to Farms Manager Brook Sheffield. —for more see Mackensy Lunsford, “Eliada revives farming to help heal, feed children,” Asheville Citizen-Times

Hymn of resolution.Precious Memories,” Aretha Franklin, with Rev. James Cleveland & the California Community Choir.

Short story. “When the news reporter approached me, I was milling about in the grass, adjusting my pastoral stole, preparing to be present with some of our local teachers at a press conference.

        “He wanted to know why I was there. I answered with a simple affirmation of our public schools and the teachers that serve in them.

        “But he was asking a different question, and he persevered: but why? Why are you here, as a faith leader, in support of public education?

        “I stared at him for a moment, summoning all of those things that are true about public schools and God’s children, young and old, who gather there. As stories about community and brokenness, wealth and poverty, injustice and restoration, passion and exhaustion, the love of discovery and the lack of paper, and the provision of care for the least of these swarmed, fighting for the spot on the tip of my tongue, I wondered if I might ought to simply say: because of Jesus. 

        “Because of Jesus. . . .” —continue reading Mary Elizabeth Hanchey’s “Because of Jesus,” written after participating in a public school teachers’ rally in Raleigh, NC. Hanchey is Program Associate for Legislative Advocacy and Interfaith Outreach for the NC Council of Church.

Hymn of intercession.A Change Is Gonna Come,” Aretha Franklin.

¶ “Why Mister Rogers’ Message of Love Is Good for Your Health. Evidence has mounted that he was on to something—people who express love and kindness really do regularly lead healthier lives.”

        The “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” documentary on Fred Rogers and his “Mister Rogers Neighborhood” is now making it’s way to your local theatre. See this 2:55 trailer. Richard Gunderman, Yes! Magazine

This is a hopeful trend. “Candidates across the country and allied outside groups are seizing on the gun debate in advertising this election cycle, but with a twist: More spots now promote gun control than oppose it.” Nicole Gaudiano, USA Today

When only the blues will do.Ain’t No Way,” Aretha Franklin.

Short take: Remembering an unheralded saint. “Bob Fletcher, a former California agriculture inspector who, ignoring the resentment of neighbors, quit his job in the middle of World War II to manage the fruit farms of Japanese families forced to live in internment camps, died in 2003 in Sacramento at age 101.” William Yardley, New York Times

Good-but-overlooked electoral news. There was virtually no reporting on recent primary elections in the US that including this gem: Voters in Ohio approved a measure that will curtail gerrymandering in the state’s congressional districts—by 75%!

        In 2012 Republicans garnered only 52% of the vote in Ohio, but won 12 of 16 congressional races. Fran Korten, Yes! Magazine

        States where legislation or citizen initiatives to curb gerrymandering electoral districts may be on the ballot in November, including Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Utah, and Colorado, Pennsylvania, and Illinois. Alexis Farmer, Brennan Center for Justice

Preach it. “The best criticism of the bad is the practice of the better.” —Fr. Richard Rohr

Inspiring news. Watch this brief (1:00) video about 83-year-old Antonio Vicente (pictured at right), a Brazilian, who restored 76 acres of clear-cut forest to its previous condition. 60 Second Docs (Thanks Rachel.) 

Call to the table. “Be not dismayed whatever betide / God will take care of you / Beneath His wings of love abide / God will take care of you.” —Aretha Franklin, “God Will Take Care of You

Best one-liner. “There are three things that are real: God, human folly, and laughter; the first two things are beyond our comprehension, so we must do what we can with the third.” —former US President John F. Kennedy

For the beauty of the earth. This is wondrous: “The Most Detailed Map of the Universe to Date.” (3:40 video. Thanks Larry.)

Altar call. “When my soul was in the lost and found / You came along to claim it / I didn't know just what was wrong with me / Till your kiss helped me name it / Now I'm no longer doubtful, of what I'm living for / And if I make you happy I don't need to do more.” —Aretha Franklin, “Natural Woman

Benediction. “To be truly radical is to make hope possible, rather than despair convincing.” —Raymond Williams

Recessional. “I wanna wear a diamond gem / In the new Jerusalem / I wanna walk the street of gold / In the homeland of the old / I'm going to view the host in white / Who travel both day and night / Coming up from every nation / On the way to the great carnation.” —Aretha Franklin, “How I Got Over

Barack and Michelle Obama released a statement remembering Aretha Franklin, saying “For more than six decades since, every time she sang, we were all graced with a glimpse of the divine.” For more background on Aretha Franklin, watch this short (4:34) video recollection, “Remembering Aretha Franklin” and/or read Farah Jasmine Griffin’s “Aretha Franklin—Musical Genius, Truth Teller, Freedom Fighter,” The Nation

Lectionary for this Sunday. “. . . my heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God.” —Psalm 84:2

Lectionary for Sunday next. “By the Word of Truth we are nursed and nestled. We are cradled, caressed, and sanctified. . . . But know this: Doing the Truth may raise blisters on your feet, calluses on your hands, sweat running down from forehead to finger.” —“By the Word of Truth,” a litany for worship inspired by James 1:17-27

Just for fun. What brilliant engineers do in their spare time. (3:21 video. Thanks Wendy.)

More fun. When you need a hug from a furry friend who expects nothing in return. Animals Are Family (2:59 video. Thanks Lori.)

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Featured this week on prayer&politiks

By the Word of Truth,” a litany for worship inspired by James 1:17-27

• “We must be prepared: A brief meditation for the living of these days

• “Sweet surrender,” a litany for worship inspired by Psalm 15
Other features

• “The latest US-Iran dust-up: Reckless baiting . . . again,” an essay

• “Where do you put your anger? Anger and the animating presence of God,” an essay

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