From Thich Nhat Hanh’s Good Citizens: Creating Enlightened Society: ‘We need to abolish poverty and social injustice, and to deal with the problems of global warming and economic recession. But we need to begin with the painful feelings we carry inside us. We have to deal with these things first. If they’re not dealt with, we may inadvertently cause more suffering when we’re trying to relieve it. The Buddha didn’t begin his first teaching with the suffering of social injustice, poverty, and hunger, although he cared very much about these things. He began with the lack of peace within our own bodies and minds. We want to deal with suffering realistically and at the roots.”




From Wendy Farley’s The Wounding and Healing of Desire: Weaving Heaven and Earth: “If we do not first practice patience with ourselves, we leave the seeds of hostility in place and are slower to generate the spontaneous compassion that establishes intimacy between ourselves and others. The courage that allows us to be gentle enough with ourselves that we can see our foibles without condemnation is the same courage that opens us to the beauty of others-complete with their foibles and difficulties.”




From Ruben Habito’s Zen and the Spiritual Exercises: “I am reminded of something I read in one of our required spiritual books as a Jesuit novice, recounting incidents in the life of a monk who later became a canonized saint. In one of these, this monk was playing pelota (a kind of ball game) with fellow monks during their afternoon recreation time, when he was asked, “Brother, if you were told that you were to die one hour from now, what would you do?” This saintly monk replied, “Why, I would continue playing pelota, what else? And then, after we finish with the game, I would take my bath and change, and then go and help in the kitchen, as that is my assignment for this afternoon.” In short, this monk was at peace with himself, the world, and God. He was living his life in this way, ready to meet his death at any point along the way.”


Soul Justice and Social Justice: Where Do We Go From Here?

From a talk by Rev. Joe Daniels of Emory Fellowship, a United Methodist Church in Washington, DC.

The McClendon Scholar in Residence Program concluded its four-part series, Spirit and Action: Learning from Howard Thurman, on May 20 with a talk by Rev. Joe Daniels of Emory Fellowship, a United Methodist congregation in Washington, DC. Rev. Daniels took the title of his talk from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s book, Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community? Howard Thurman’s work substantially influenced Dr. King’s thinking.

Daniels emphasized the need for deep spirituality in fighting injustice. Citing a long list of economic and employment statistics that illustrate the divide between rich and poor, between whites and black and brown people, Daniels said, “If there’s not a deep involvement in our lives with those who are cut off, then our faith means nothing.”

Sadducees, Pharisees and Zealots
“I want to be a follower of Jesus,” said Daniels, but not necessarily a “Christian”—that word has been used by too many who don’t seem to follow Jesus. He pointed to Howard Thurman, who asks: Are we Sadducees, Pharisees or Zealots?

  • Sadducees imitate the status quo, becoming like the Romans for security.
  • Pharisees stay on the sidelines, reducing contact with the enemy, keeping their resentment under rigid control.
  • Zealots resist, but with a violence that it the end “doesn’t get us anywhere.”

Instead, said Daniels, “the answer is to go deeper into our faith … through really understanding what salvation is.” Salvation comes from a Greek word meaning “to make complete or whole.” This wholeness isn’t only spiritual: It’s physical, mental, relational, emotional and financial.

Going Deep
Traditionally, the right has focused on what Daniels called soul justice, the left on social justice, but we all need both: “We need to go deep,” he said, holding his hand low across his belly. “So that how we’re living is in line with the God who is living in us.” We need to confront our own racism, sexism, fear, deceit—“to have that purged” in soul work. This is “a daily walk,” he said. Without it, “we cannot begin to go forward in a way that transforms reality.”

We must “read the gospel with those whose backs are against the wall every day.” Daniels urged prayer, silence, meditation, fellowship, scripture reading, and study. “Until we do that, we are part of the problem, not the solution.” We should ask ourselves “Is my life having influence on the lives of others in a God-transforming way?” We must “step outside our privilege” and cross boundaries. We must act “informed by the fact that Jesus served me … and by the God that’s working inside us.”

For information about upcoming McClendon Scholar in Residence Programs, go to your website.

The Spiritual Work of Prophetic People

A Talk by Rev. Bill Lamar, Metropolitan AME Church, May 6, 2017

How do we gain the strength we need to take “prophetic” action in today’s world? Rev. Bill Lamar of Metropolitan AME Church addressed this question in his May 6 talk, the third in the McClendon Scholar in Residence Program’s four-part series, Spirit and Action: Learning from Howard Thurman. The series focuses on Thurman’s book, Jesus and the Disinherited, which had a profound influence on Martin Luther King, Jr.,

In his talk Rev. Bill Lamar of Metropolitan AME Church pointed to insights from Howard Thurman that can help us gain the strength we need to take action in today’s world. In particular, he talked about two spiritual resources that are available to all of us:

  • special places that renew us and give us a sense of the sacred, and
  • the strength of our ancestors—both our direct relatives and others who have come before us.

He gave examples of ways that Thurman drew on these resources and urged us all to do the same.

The McClendon Scholar-in-Residence Program brings scholars to Washington to speak on their most recent research and to share their learning and their vision. Established through the insight and generosity of the late Rev. Dr. Jack E. McClendon, associate minister from 1957 to 1991, the program is one fruit of Dr. McClendon’s vision that justice, service, and action can only be sustained when a community of faith grapples with profound issues and is equipped to engage in a deepening of faith. To this end, he wished to bring to the church and the larger Washington community noted scholars whose unique gifts, knowledge, and lives would inspire both ongoing reflection and action.

For more information, including our schedule of future programs, go to our website.



From Roberta Bondi’s To Love as God Loves: “Our early monastic friends …believed… fervently that, working with the overwhelming whelming gift of God’s grace, not only could an individual come to be fully loving in a way that significantly changes the world but also that, in the continuation of the work of God begun in Christ in the incarnation, crucifixion, and resurrection, the whole human race and the cosmos itself would one day be transformed in love.”


Growing Love

IMG_0711From Roberta Bondi’s To Love as God Loves: “Our growing love is a continuous movement into God’s love, as the ancient Christian writers say. But because God’s love is without limit, and because being human means sharing in the image of God, we can never in our human loving reach the limit of our ability to love. This means that though we may love fully at any one moment, it is not perfect love unless that love continues to grow….That we can never “arrive,” then, is cause for celebration, not despair, because it grows out of our likeness to God.”