It’s been almost 20 years, but I can still recall the uneasy flutter in my gut as the sun went down and my first night as on-call chaplain began. A chaplain who was on her way home, and familiar with the look of panic that identifies a rookie, patted me on the shoulder. “You’ll be fine,” she said.
At a reception to launch a new collection of Lucille Clifton’s poems (The Collected Poems of Lucille Clifton 1965-2010), the editor of the volume, Kevin Young, described coming across a folder in Clifton’s archives at Emory University. The folder had been labeled “Unpublished Poems.” That label had been scratched out and replaced by something like, “Poems that really aren’t that good and should probably just be thrown away someday.” That label too had been scratched out and replaced with “Bad poems.”
Fleming Rutledge is the most interesting preacher today working the fault line between the mainline churches and evangelicalism. Throughout this remarkable collection of Old Testament sermons she calls for mainliners and evangelicals to realize their common identity in Christ for the sake of our mutual mission in the world.
Opening the book of Hebrews is a bit like stepping into Transporter Room on the starship Enterprise. A few verses are all it takes to beam us suddenly down into an alien world filled with angels, sacrificial purification rites and Melchizedek. There’s very little about Hebrews that looks, sounds or feels familiar to 21st-century people, all of which makes dealing with this letter a challenge (and explains why so many of us avoid it).
William Robeson, a former slave and father of civil rights leader and singer Paul Robeson, became pastor of the Witherspoon Presbyterian Church in Princeton, New Jersey, in 1879. After 21 years of service, white members of the presbytery forced him out because of his outspoken efforts to end racism and repeal Jim Crow laws in Princeton. The congregation had to sell the manse due to loss of funding. The church repurchased the manse in 2005 and turned it into the Paul Robeson House, a meeting place to advance human rights. In an act of racial reconciliation, the Synod of the Northeast is clearing the debt of $175,000 that remains on the mortgage held by the congregation (PCUSA, November 13).