It was fitting that I received a copy of Absalom Jones: America’s First Black Priestwritten by Mark Francisco Bozzuti-Jones in early February, Black History Month. Exactly two years ago I wrote about Absalom Jones, sharing resources for learning about this man of faith, courage, and commitment. So it is fitting that I share a new resource for children (ages 8-12) close to his Feast Day – February 13 – that explores the history of this man and the context in which he lived and came from. The people of God are all people – all colors, all races, all languages – from all over the world.
One is immediately caught by the visually stunning cover of this book that shows what Absalom might have looked like today, surrounded by other people of faith who were instrumental in the Civil Rights Movement, including the first Black woman to be consecrated as a bishop in the Episcopal Church, Barbara C. Harris, who died in March 2020. Illustrator, Christopher Michael Taylor describes his image on the cover as “a modernized and unique interpretation,” while each black and white artwork that begins each of the eight 3-page chapters can be described as “comic book realism.” They pop next to the text, engaging the reader in wanting to read on to see how a man, born a slave in 1746, earned his freedom and was ordained a deacon in 1795 and a priest in 1802.
I spent the last few days of January in Houston, Texas attending Forma‘s 18th Annual Conference. It was a jam-packed few days filled with excellent workshops, outstanding speakers, and (most importantly for me) a chance to network and learn from colleagues from across the United States (and beyond) about new ideas, joys, and struggles in the world of lifelong Christian formation in the Episcopal Church.
There have been several Forma members who have shared their perspective of the event that you can read, including Kyle Oliver of the Center for the Ministry of Teaching at Virginia Seminary who wrote about keynoter Brene Brown’s keynote. For those of you who are not familiar with Dr. Brown, it’s best to view her TED Talk regarding vulnerability. The best summary I can give of her amazing talk was what I put out on Twitter during the presentation (@rowsofsharonp). All her quotes:
I wouldn’t be who I am today if it wasn’t for Christian formation.
If you want to form people with god you need to inspire them
fear + anxiety + shame = scarcity
The casualty of fear and scarcity is faith
We can be a place that doesn’t offer certainty but that offers love
Leading from scarcity moves people away.
How many of you have a gratitude practice?
how many of you incorporate gratitude practices into your ministry?
Knowledge is only rumor until you live it in your bones
Children need a place of belonging that is not school
It is our job – formation folk – is to accept ppl for who they are and offer a space to belong
I’ve never been asked to choose intellect over faith in the Episcopal Church
Shame only works when you feel you’re alone. Embrace empathy.
Our kids are desperate for boundaries.
Difference between entitlement and privilege is gratitude
Hopelessness + shame = violence. We need to cultivate hope and offer an alternative.