SSB Sunday Gathering – July 27, 2014

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Spiritual Sounding Board  – This is our place to gather and share in an open format.  Feel free to join in the discussion.

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Spiritual Sounding Board, SSB Gathering

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As many of you know, I’ve gone back to school and am currently taking classes over the summer. In my sociology class, we are reading Amazing Grace, by Jonathan Kozol. Mr. Kozol brings us right into the midst of the Bronx where we find prostitution, corrupt social services, poverty, AIDS, homelessness, people with drug addictions, rat-infested housing, etc. Just pick the most deplorable living conditions, and that is what this author describes.

For the past several years, my mind has been dissecting patterns and social systems as we explore abuse in church and church groups and I wanted to share this with you on Sunday – a day in which some of you (including me) might have some difficulty in going to traditional church. This is the day at SSB where we have open discussion: for encouragement, to ask for prayer, to share what’s on our hearts.

So, I thought I’d share a glimpse of this book which I have found to be meaningful. It comes from the third chapter in which the author, Mr. Kozol, is speaking with the pastor from Bright Temple AME, Reverend Gregory Groover. Reverend Groover lives in the heart of some of the most horrific living conditions in the United States and discusses his surroundings: prostitutes sometimes sleep in dumpsters to keep warm, a nearby hospital recently closed down leaving 10,000 people without even one private doctor, and he casually discusses a family in which the parents were murdered.  He wonders out loud what message he can give to the three mourning children.

Groover also talks about how his church feeds the hungry three times every week, some 600 meals:

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They do not stand on line. They sit down on our dining room. We serve them as our guests.

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What a beautiful picture of respect and kindness. He and the church give the poor their dignity back by their unselfish deeds.

Kobol questions Reverend Groover, “I ask him how he understands his mission as a pastor in this neighborhood.”

Groover responds:

We are not literal fundamentalists here at Bright Temple,” he replies. “We see God as a liberating force who calls us to deliver people from oppression. The apparent consensus of the powerful is that the ghetto is to be preserved as a perpetual catch-basin for the poor. It’s not about annihilating segregation or even about a transformation of the ghetto, but setting up ‘programs’ to teach people to ‘adjust’ to it, to show ‘functional’ adaptation to an evil institution. That is pretty much the good behavior that the segregator asks for in the segregated.

As a religious man, I see it as my obligation to speak out against this, not to bend the poor to be accommodated to injustice but to empower them to fight it and to try to tear it down. We are not about amelioration here. As a church, we speak prophetically. We speak not of ‘misfortune’ but ‘injustice.’ We also look at the unjust.

 

Later, Reverend Groover asks Kobol if he knows the hymn, Amazing Grace, and he responds that he does. Groover indicates that everyone, rich and poor, knows the first three verses of the song well, but about the fourth verse, he says: “This verse belongs to us:”

 

Through many dangers, toils, and snares
I have already come;
‘Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far
And grace will lead me home.

 

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Photo credit:  Hannah Smith

33 comments on “SSB Sunday Gathering – July 27, 2014

  1. Reverend Groover and his church “gets it” and are living out the path that Jesus walked. He is down in the trenches, not enabling, but showing dignity and love to the oppressed. Bless you Julie Anne on this Lord’s Day. I took a sociology class in college. It was all fundamentals and blah, blah, blah. Another book for the list of “to reads”. Time to get ready for church.

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  2. Thank you for sharing that beautiful song today. Two simple words – amazing grace. There are some “pastors” that just don’t understand those words. I think that was what got me so worked up last night on the FB page. Thanks for that by the way! 🙂

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  3. Thank you, Brenda. The book is a good one and is very eye opening. It shows a similar type of controlling the masses and keeping them in oppression just like some of us dealt with spiritual oppression.

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  4. There was an interesting thread on Internet Monk about how easy it is to insult someone online (i.e. call someone an idiot) and whether or not you would be willing to say those words to someone’s face. I can honestly say that I would have no problems saying to Miano’s face that he is vile and pathetic.

    Should I be saying that on a Sunday?

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  5. “Should I be saying that on a Sunday?”

    Strictly speaking pathetic does not seem to be biblical. I can’t find it. Vile seems to be O.K. So are terms like wolves, pigs, fools, unmarked graves, hypocrites, whitewashed tombs, serpents, vipers, Pharisees, nicolatians, and (my favorite) lawyers. Then again, maybe Pharisees and lawyers were not used as epithets, just as identifiers to whom the other terms applied.

    Actually, I’m just kidding about the lawyers bit.

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  6. I have a prayer request for our family of 6. We are out of money and there is another week till payday. hubby’s llast money went to buy cat litter for our 2 furry family. Prayer request is to walk in joy and not fear this week as there are many unmet needs. God knows them all and wants us to trust Him. I know I need this lesson and want to be a good student. No church so I ask you all to pray for my family in need. God IS good all the time! Thanks so much.

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  7. Often when people refer to “the ghetto”, they picture poor black people who smoke crack, live off welfare and promiscuously sleep around. First, the definition of ghetto is: to restrict to an isolated area or group. Any group who are geographically cut off from others by virtue of race, economics, ethnicity or belief system is ghettoized. Some groups choose to live in a severely restricted and protected ghetto called “church”. Only certain families and individuals are allowed to join and fully participate in this ghetto. Often this church ghetto has an elitist us-them mentality which excludes many people loved by God. By stopping by JA’s blog on Sundays, I feel I have left the ghetto and begun to rest in a place of love. This is a start for me. Happy Sunday!

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  8. Kathi,
    Should I be saying that on a Sunday?

    I think truth should be told and sin should be called sin everyday of the week. : )

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  9. Ann – Great observation!

    Deb – Thank you for sharing your family’s struggles with us. You and your family will definitely be in my thoughts and prayers this week.

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  10. Kathi,
    Thank you and Praise the Lord. Without Him who knows what I’d be thinking. (right here should be a emoticon that looks like a crazed person with lots of question marks coming out of the brain. lol)

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  11. Thank you all for your prayers. With no church home, I tend to feel very alone, as in the past we would have activated the prayer chain. I know God will answer the prayers in His perfect way and perfect timing. I do not want to give way to fear and that is my confession, as I know FAITH is the answer not Fear! How’s that for a thanks and slipping in another prayer request :0

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  12. I know it’s a huge long-shot, but I’m desperate. I need a low-cost divorce attorney, and have about exhausted all my options. One local clinic gave me a quote and told me to call when I was ready; when I called last week, I was rudely told they don’t have any attorneys available.

    I filled out a form for another group, only to be told I don’t have *enough* income! I tried Legal Aid, but they won’t help because there is no violence involved (emotions and spiritual abuse doesn’t count). I’m getting very desperate and trying not to despair. I can’t file without a lawyer because my husband is not trustworthy – I need legal representation.

    I’m in the greater Portland, OR area, if anyone has any ideas.

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  13. Persephone, I am sorry that I have no lawyer information to share, but I will pray that God will give you peace as He works out all these details.

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  14. Persephone – I’m going to ask around for you. In the meantime, please look up Domestic Violence resources in the PDX area and see if they have recommendations.

    Ok, I just tweeted this and you can follow this (click on the date of the tweet to see if there are responses). I have other resources I will check, too. I’m from PDX, so I have some people to ask.

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  15. Did you know that you can file yourself without going through an attorney? There is a website where you download and print out all the papers you need to fill out and take it to the courthouse yourself and file. The cost is so much cheaper doing it yourself. I helped my daughter get her divorce that way.

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  16. Persephone, be sure to click on the date in that tweet above. I got some helpful responses – not an attorney referral, but important information and advice. ~ja

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  17. Persephone:

    Not knowing what or where you have already looked, here are some resources I found:

    Oregon State Bar: http://www.osbar.org/public/ris/

    Oregon State Bar – Legal Aid: http://www.osbar.org/public/ris/lowcostlegalhelp/legalaid.html

    Oregon State Bar – Lawyer Referral Service & Modest Means Program: http://www.osbar.org/public/legalinfo/1171_lrs.htm

    Oregon Advocates: http://www.oregonadvocates.org/

    Multnomah County Legal Assistance: https://multco.us/dv/legal-assistance

    OregonLawHelp.org: http://oregonlawhelp.org/

    St. Andrew Legal Clinic (sliding scale fee) – I know nothing about this group to recommend them or not: http://www.salcgroup.org/

    Multnomah County Family Resource List (dated 6-19-13): http://oregonchildsupport.gov/resources/legal/multnomah.pdf

    I hope this is a good start for you. Please let me know if these are not helpful and I’ll see what else I can find.

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  18. While it’s been quiet on the blog, there’s been church happening behind the scenes for the 2 requests with real people helping real people. Man, I love this place.

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  19. Wow…hallelujah!! This is amazing grace… 🙂 I’m so thankful that no one here said, “Be warm and well fed” to these dear people. ❤ This truly is a wonderful community.

    You all were praying for my husband and family (also a family of 6) and yesterday he just got the news that he was hired for a part time 2nd job. This means that our family will have, for the first time, enough money to cover our expenses **year round**, instead of either 1) no income over the summer, or 2) a deficit of ~600-800 each month. My husband only recently was treated for ADHD, and it's amazing to see the difference in how he processes information since he began meds. Yes, he's a PhD, with ADHD. They exist. ❤

    We're still praying about two job opportunities outside of academia that came up. However, they're both with the government. The motto here is "Hurry up and wait," so we're praying for patience and trust.

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