I have a friend who was a college professor before she made the brave decision to leave the security of academia and strike out on her own as a writer. Once or twice a year she sends me two books and a nice note expressing her reluctance to add to the number of books I need to read—and her conviction that I will love these two. She is always right.
A friend heard I was writing about blind Bartimaeus and asked me a
question: “Where do call and healing meet? How do they intersect?” Since
I didn’t really know the answer, I preferred to think of her question
Americans love a good scandal. We’re mesmerized by the salacious details
of celebrities’ lives, by politicians trapped in webs of greed and
infidelity and by clergy gone astray. Maybe we’re drawn to the
titillating lapses and scurrilous misdeeds of the powerful because we
delight in seeing the mighty fall or the hypocrisies of the arrogant
The articles in this issue on funerals set me to thinking about my own experience and the changes I have witnessed in funerals. In my first two congregations I never conducted a funeral in the church itself. Every funeral was held in a funeral home, and every funeral was followed by a graveside interment and committal.
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).