Change and Faith

February 2, 2021

Change and Faith

First published December 19, 2016

The call is a mystery. It begins and ends with God, but it loops through a very human individual. It is personal, but bigger than the person. The call comes out of who we are as well as shaping who we are. It has both being and doing components…. Those who describe themselves as called mean that they have made a commitment of life into God’s service, to be at his disposal, to be in his employ for the efforts of accomplishing his agenda. – Reggie McNeal (A Work of Heart)

I’ve been thinking a lot about change and faith lately.

I’m sure it’s because I am transitioning from my vocation as a journalist to that of Co-Director of the Office of Associates of the Dominican Sisters of Peace.

I can’t begin to tell you how many people have said, “You must really have a lot of faith to leave the newspaper (after 24 years) and start something new.” My reply has been, “Not really. I believe God has called me to this mission.”

Then I started thinking about my response and discovered that what I was finding difficult to reconcile is the idea that it takes “a lot” of faith to move into a place where God is directing us. I believe that faith is very potent and only a small amount may be required for amazing things to happen.

But more reflection brought me to the conclusion that as the proverbial mustard seed is very small, but grows into a big tree (Luke 13:19), so must our faith in God and Christ grow and increase. Because my faith is still growing, I guess I find it difficult to characterize it as “a lot” because my hope and prayer is to have a little more faith each day of my life.

By God’s grace, I have been gifted with enough faith to move from my comfort zone as a journalist (where God placed me to give voice to the voiceless by telling the stories of others) to a place of service in our Dominican community. Just as I followed the guidance of the Holy Spirit from my work as a Juvenile Probation Officer into the field of journalism, I am answering the call of God to leave the newsroom to serve God’s people in a new way.

I admit that it is not easy to leave a place of familiarity and enter into the unknown. But I find peace and great joy in knowing that God’s plan is still in full effect in my life. In his book, A Work of Heart, Reggie McNeal recognizes that God uses culture, community, communion, conflict and the commonplace to shape every person’s heart and to define her/his calling – a unique, divine assignment given by God for divine purposes.

Colette Parker, top row, center, welcomes 16 new Associates of the Dominican Sisters of Peace at a ceremony on Sunday, September 29, 2019, in the Chapel at St. Agnes Academy-St. Dominic School in Memphis, TN.

But the call requires faithful and active obedience, unwavering commitment, and devotion from the one who is called. My hope is for us to allow faith to work mightily and powerfully as we seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit in discerning God’s purpose for our lives.

For me, life is a journey of discovery, development and alignment. As we journey God shows us more about our calling, and the Holy Spirit works to strengthen our heart as we are brought to a point of realignment.

Leaving what I was doing and accepting the call as Co-Director of Associates was a realignment of my life and I am compelled to follow the path to which the Lord has led me.

Each of us has been gifted with an aspect of the glory of God that we can offer to the world. God uses every strength, weakness, heartache, success, relationship and experience to shape our hearts, to draw us closer and to equip us to fulfill our life’s calling.

Lord, teach me to unselfishly serve humanity. – Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

 

Posted in Thought of the Day

What Manner of Love Does your God Prescribe?

February 4, 2021

What Manner of Love Does your God Prescribe?

First published June 18, 2018

I wonder how many people were as incensed as I was when hearing U.S. Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III use the Bible to defend ripping apart families — arresting parents and placing children in internment camps (oops, I mean “detention centers”).

I wonder if my exasperation is similar to that of my Muslim friends who are often frustrated by the misrepresentation of their sacred book.

I am sick and tired of, dare I say, Christian extremists, trying to justify their oppressive views with biblical scripture (taken out of context). I’m no theologian (and apparently neither is Jeff Sessions), but the last time I checked, Christians were commanded to love God and to love our neighbors as ourselves.

What manner of love abuses asylum seekers (who, by the way, have a right to come here), traumatizes children, and degrades human beings?

Everything within me rejects the attorney general’s spiritual arrogance and dangerously misguided and perverted interpretation of biblical scripture as justification for the inhuman treatment of immigrants.

I would like to draw attention to an alternative interpretation of Paul’s message via “Paul’s Letter to American Christians,” delivered by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1956 at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church. Rev. King described the basis of his sermon as what he imagined the Apostle Paul would write to Christians in America at that time:

Colette Parker, in the back of the photo, with other members of the Congregation’s NE Ohio Racial Justice Committee, which was awarded the Bishop Pilla Leadership Award in 2017.

“… American Christians, I must say to you as I said to the Roman Christians years ago, ‘Be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind.’ Or, as I said to the Philippian Christians, ‘Ye are a colony of heaven.’ This means that although you live in the colony of time, your ultimate allegiance is to the empire of eternity. You have a dual citizenry. You live both in time and eternity; both in heaven and earth. Therefore, your ultimate allegiance is not to the government, not to the state, not to nation, not to any man-made institution. The Christian owes his ultimate allegiance to God, and if any earthly institution conflicts with God’s will it is your Christian duty to take a stand against it. You must never allow the transitory evanescent demands of man-made institutions to take precedence over the eternal demands of the Almighty God.”

As a Christian, I adhere to a just and loving God. I stand against the inhuman and unjust treatment of any human being.

Posted in Thought of the Day

The Pandemic Can Empower Us to Demand Change

February 8, 2021

The Pandemic Can Empower Us to Demand Change

First published on April 6, 2020

I am a firm believer that every experience provides a lesson – or an affirmation of a lesson learned.

As COVID-19 takes the world by storm and has changed life as we knew it, what have we learned or affirmed?

Many of us have affirmed that our mothers were right when they said:  wash your hands; cover your cough or sneeze; stay home when you’re not feeling well; avoid close contact with people who are sick; clean and disinfect.

We have learned that grocery and convenience store workers, custodians and housekeepers, fast food workers, gas station workers, home care and child care workers, etc. are considered “essential” workforce.

I find it not only disgraceful, but immoral, that these workers don’t make a living wage.

There is something terribly wrong when we expect “valuable” workers to stand on the front line during this pandemic but fail to pay them wages that support the dignity of a decent lifestyle. Sure, some of the large corporations who employ some of these workers have committed to a TEMPORARY hourly increase of a few dollars (still not enough to qualify as a living wage) that will disappear soon – outrageous!

(They can manage to pay their CEOs astounding sums while still recording multi-billion-dollar profits; but they continue to elbow their underpaid workers toward government assistance offices and food banks and clinics for food and health care, rather than pay them a living wage).

Even the $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus package will not provide the “relief” that is needed for underpaid essential workers. While the boost from a relief check or an additional unemployment insurance benefit is welcome, let’s be honest: It’s temporary and insufficient!

Colette Parker addresses the Congregation’s Tenth Anniversary Assembly to present the Promoter of Peace Award.

The promised (lest we forget many are struggling to get state unemployment benefits) $600 extra weekly unemployment benefit  is equivalent to a $15 hourly wage minimum — but to collect it, you have to be laid off.

And the stimulus package doesn’t mandate a comparable wage floor for workers who are still on the job – still on the front line (does this even make sense?).

Policymakers have always been slow to address an unjust economic system that increasingly widens the gap between the “haves” and the “have nots”.

The truth is that the federal minimum wage stands at $7.25 and hasn’t been increased since 2009 and policymakers never seem to be interested in what is best for the neediest Americans. News flash: Times of economic hardship have always increased the unequal standing of the most vulnerable Americans.

If we can learn to rapidly and drastically transform the way we live, work, and travel amid this pandemic, we surely can create a system of requiring a fair wage for all American workers – especially our underpaid “essential” workers — so that they have the freedom to live decent, independent, dignified lives.

As we experience shelter in place, lockdown, and quarantine and rediscover the absolute importance of underpaid essential workers, take time to put into perspective their value, related to hedge funders, investment bankers, and billionaire owners of multinational corporations (who have escaped to their bunkers).

Could it be that this pandemic is an occasion to revise the economic reward that each gets from society and to revisit issues like the distribution of wealth, fair taxation, and increased welfare (a social effort to promote the physical and material well-being of people in need)?

Could it be that this pandemic can empower us to demand a much-needed transformation of systems that are in crisis?

Posted in Thought of the Day

Holding Up The Light of Truth

February 10, 2021

Holding Up The Light of Truth

First published on April 23, 2018

The National Memorial for Peace and Justice is scheduled to open this week and I’m wondering if America will ever own her racial terrorism.

I am afraid that if we, as a nation, don’t confront our history, we will never be free to experience peace and justice. After all, our past – no matter how ugly — informs our present and guides our future.

For me, the Starbucks fiasco that resulted in two black men being handcuffed and arrested for what appears to be “making a white woman feel uncomfortable” is yet another symptom of our inability to even acknowledge that we have a problem with race in America.

I applaud Starbucks for trying to get out in front of the issue. But please excuse me for skeptically believing the effort is more about the bottom line and protecting the brand than about impacting our culture of systemic racism. I’m just not sure how much “training” it will take before we resolve that black and brown people should be treated like human beings.

I’m not blaming Starbucks, but I do want people to understand that what happened in Philly is indicative of what black folk experience on a daily basis. Let’s not fool ourselves into believing this was a one-time atrocity perpetrated by one bad manager.

It’s not about one bad store. It’s not about one bad employee at a store. It’s about systems. It’s about our culture in America.

Unfortunately, white folks’ “uncomfortableness” with black and brown folks has resulted in the arrests, incarcerations, beatings, and killings of multitudes of innocent brown and black people.

I am encouraged by the Equal Justice Initiative – a group dedicated “to challenging racial and economic injustice and to protecting basic human rights for the most vulnerable people in American society” – for making The Legacy Museum: From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration and the National Memorial of Peace and Justice a reality.

When the memorial opens on Thursday in Montgomery, Ala., it will become the nation’s first memorial dedicated to the legacy of enslaved black people, people terrorized by lynching, blacks humiliated by racial segregation and Jim Crow, and people of color burdened with contemporary presumptions of guilt and police violence.

The memorial, which commemorates the lives of thousands of black people who were lynched in the United States, sits on the site of a former slave warehouse. The museum is near one of the most prominent slave auction spaces in America.

The hope of EJI is that by honestly confronting the truth about our legacy (of slavery, lynching, segregation, and injustice), we will take steps toward recovery and reconciliation.

EJI Director Bryan Stevenson puts it this way: “Our nation’s history of racial injustice casts a shadow across the American landscape. This shadow cannot be lifted until we shine the light of truth on the destructive violence that shaped our nation, traumatized people of color, and compromised our commitment to the rule of law and to equal justice.”

My hope is that we are not too uncomfortable or too tired to help hold up the light of truth.

Posted in Thought of the Day