National Seminar 2011 [Part 2]

National Seminar 2011 [Part 2]

Tuesday, August 16, 2011
Birmingham, AL

It’s late. We’ve had a full day. So full that some of us had to skip out on dinner and take a cab out to just decompress and leave this space for a moment. Note to organizers: pleeeease give us a wee bit more free time to take a walk, think and process what we’re experiencing both individually and as a group. Apologies if this post isn’t so finessed. What I mainly wanted to share were photos from the past few days–at least the days that I experienced–a few reflections/reactions while they’re fresh, and resources that I heard about.

Day 2: Birmingham Civil Rights Institute

Our second evening provided an opportunity to visit the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute [though it’s both a museum and institute, they consider it a living institution]. Our after-hours access to the museum was a treat. After all, it’s not often that you get a museum all to yourself. Despite there being about 40 of us traveling through the museum, there were times I felt myself alone, progressing through the exhibits and reflecting on each of the pieces in silence and prayer. Artifacts that chronicled the civil rights movement felt raw and the quotes painted on the walls lept up and out:

They can outlaw an organization, but they can’t outlaw the movement of a people determined to be free. -Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth

Image after image begged us to remember a movement that could not be stopped by force, by verbal abuse or threat of death. As I made my way through the institute, I tried to enter the story, treating the images and artifacts as a sort of visio divina

Across from the CRI is the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church. Brief history: 16th Street Baptist was the first black church in Birmingham and also the site where on Sunday, September 15, 1963, four girls were killed when sticks of dynamite were placed underneath a stairwell on the northeast corner of the building by members of the United Klans of America [a KKK group]. So much rich and painful history contained on these city blocks.

Day 3: Issue Group Site Visits

We spent the third day with our issue groups [human trafficking, climate change, domestic violence, immigration]. My group on human trafficking visited two different sites [see below]. Other resources I heard of from the other groups, I’ve listed below. I’m sure I will add more as I hear and ask around.

Takeaways from these visits and conversations? Everything’s related. These social concerns and many others are connected in a much larger web: economics, power structures, access, community. The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” said,

We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.

This is why we cannot convince ourselves that our actions do not impact our neighbor, our community, our world or that we are not mandated as Christ-followers to seek justice, welcome the stranger, feed the hungry, parent the orphan, care for the widow, visit the imprisoned and tend to the sick in whatever arena of society it needs to be addressed. It all matters. It’s all connected. It’s all our responsibility.


Woman’s Missionary Union

Project Help: Exploring the unethical, selfish use of human beings for the satisfaction of personal desires and/or profitable advantage. WMU provides age-level appropriate audience content in their materials.

The Women’s Fund of Greater Alabama

Invisibility: Executive Summary [a study of commercial sexual exploitation of children in Jefferson County, AL]


I don’t have anything here, so anyone who heard of any, tweet or email them and I’ll update.


In Her ShoesA revolutionary community education tool, In Her Shoes is designed for learning about domestic violence. Participants move, do, think and experience the lives of battered women. This version is the original simulation which is great for educating a broad range of community and professional groups.

Circle Reflection Groups

I am blessed to end the day in reflection and prayer with these women. We’ve laughed, cried and shared how the site visits and conversations have recalled experiences in our own lives that need reconciliation. Praise God for the blessing of community.

Day 4: Will you come and follow me?

The morning began with an amazing Bible study as always, with Dr. Ada Maria Isasi-Diaz, Professor of Christian Social Ethics and Theology Emerita at the Theological School of Drew University. This woman can preach and teach. If you’re interested in accessing the study materials, go here.

We closed this morning’s study with worship, anointing one another with ashes and oil, singing the hymn below. When I sing this, it’s a continuous and conscious call to discipleship–not to merely be a fan boy/girl of Jesus, but to be a follower as Dr. Isasi-Diaz has been asking us to differentiate. What a rich and soul-full time this has been.

The Summons
by John Bell (b. 1949)

1. Will you come and follow me
If I but call your name?
Will you go where you don’t know
And never be the same?
Will you let my love be shown,
Will you let my name be known,
Will you let my life be grown
In you and you in me?

2. Will you leave yourself behind
If I but call your name?
Will you care for cruel and kind
And never be the same?
Will you risk the hostile stare
Should your life attract or scare?
Will you let me answer pray’r
In you and you in me?

3. Will you let the blinded see
If I but call your name?
Will you set the pris’ners free
And never be the same?
Will you kiss the leper clean,
And do such as this unseen,
And admit to what I mean
In you and you in me?

4. Will you love the ‘you’ you hide
If I but call your name?
Will you quell the fear inside
And never be the same?
Will you use the faith you’ve found
To reshape the world around,
Through my sight and touch and sound
In you and you in me?

5. Lord, your summons echoes true
When you but call my name.
Let me turn and follow you
And never be the same.
In your company I’ll go
Where your love and footsteps show.
Thus I’ll move and live and grow
In you and you in me.