Friday, April 23, 2010

The Passing of an Icon

Dr. Dorothy I. Height, in the words of Maya Angelou, was "one of the giants among mighty women." I join millions in mourning the passing of a giant, a woman who set the bar so high that we had to reach to the sky.

Below is one of many tributes written on Dorothy Height:

"Dr. Height worked tirelessly to open doors for people of every race, gender, culture and faith," Eleanor Hinton Hoytt, president and CEO of the Imperative, said. "Her vision was not for a Black America, it was for one America. She climbed over barriers of epic height to achieve equal rights and opportunities for all, particularly for Black children who she understood as being our future."

Many people who honor the life of Dr. Height will remember her as the godmother of the civil rights movement. She was the commanding force who stood on a platform overlooking millions when Dr. Martin Luther King delivered his historic "I Have a Dream" speech. She was the statuesque female figure who stood steadfast next to Lyndon Johnson when he signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964. She was a trusted counselor who advised every U.S. president from Dwight Eisenhower to Barack Obama on matters of social justice, racial and gender equality and human rights. Her contributions to the civil rights movement are undeniable.

But, to Hinton Hoytt and other Black women leaders, she was the mother of the Black feminist movement.

"When she stood next to Dr. King and President Johnson during those historic moments, she stood not only as an embodiment of civil rights but of women's rights too. I think when she realized early on that being Black and female put you in a special category; she took on another fight - one for the empowerment of Black women."

In a recent meeting on health care reform and immigration, Hinton Hoytt, who knew Dr. Height as her mentor, confidante and friend, witnessed a profound moment: "Dr. Height looked each of us in the eye and declared, 'Until all women have all of their rights, no one woman can have equal rights.' As the president of the National Council of Negro Women, Dr. Height pushed Black women to take advantage of every opportunity that showed America that they deserved better and were capable of achieving better."

Her wisdom, fearlessness to speak the unspeakable and courage to stand steadfast is what made Dr. Dorothy I. Height not only a legend but a crusader of civil and women's rights equally.

Dr. Height once said, "I want to be remembered as one who tried." On this day that marks the passing of one of the most resounding voices for gender and racial equality, social justice, and human rights, the Imperative wants to thank Dr. Height for doing more than trying. We thank her for uplifting and making the voices of Black women heard.

Q. What do you want to be remembered for?

Blessings! Rev. Qiyamah

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Rating Your Life's Satisfaction: Doing a Reality Check on Your Life

Question: On a scale of 1 to 10 what level are you living life at?

This provocative question was recently posed at a retreat I attended titled, Take Back Your Life. It is a pardoxical question because like pandora's box it potentially could unleash our real but repressed dreams and frustations. An honest response could on the other hand reveal places to pay attention to for the purpose of healing and liberation. So while one individual might react with frustration and dismay another might feel fortunate to be able to do a reality check with their life.

Why is it so hard to hold onto our lives and dreams? Why is it so hard to be ourselves and go for it? Perhaps it is the many distractions that keep us separated from our intended goals so that we wind up "off track". This morning I have spent the greater part of my free time working on my research before preparing to head off to work. It often feels like my life is not my own to schedule and claim. Even now I must cut this post short and head to work. Fortunately I like my work. When I have more time I will tell you more about what I do. But until then I am seriously thinking about this question and I invite you to do the same:

Question: On a scale of 1 to 10 what level are you living life at?

Blessings! Rev. Qiyamah

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing

This year I declared that I would work on some very deep seated issues such as trust and challenges with intimacy and love. I am currently working with a therapist that employs a psychotherapeutic technique called Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. The technique has provided some incredible breakthroughs and insights about childhood traumas that have created difficulties and obstacles in my ability to trust and experience love. Below is information that I pulled from a website that explains EMDR.

Q. What, if any healing do you need to allow you to become the whole and healthy individual you were born to be?
Blessings! Rev. Qiyamah

EMDR is a remarkable treatment method used to heal the symptoms of trauma, as well as other emotional conditions. EMDR is the most effective and rapid method for healing PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) as shown by extensive scientific research studies.

The EMDR therapy uses bilateral stimulation, right/left eye movement, or tactile stimulation, or sound, which repeatly activates the opposite sides of the brain releasing emotional experiences that are "trapped" in the nervous system. This assists the neurophysiological system, the basis of the mind/body connection, to free itself of blockages and reconnect itself.

EMDR allows a client to process an emotional experience that he/she cannot yet talk about, yet following a EMDR session find an ability to talk about it freely. Most importantly, it can eliminate stress surrounding the traumatic event, with the purpose of allowing new life in the once traumatized and emotionally difficult memory.

Who discovered EMDR?

In the late 80's, psychologist Francine Shapiro, Ph.D., observed that particular eye movements reduced the intensity of disturbing thoughts in some clients. Dr. Shapiro decided to study this effect scientifically. In 1989, she reported in the Journal of Traumatic Stress, her success using a method she called EMDR to treat victims of trauma. Since that time, other therapists around the world have contributed to its development. EMDR has evolved into a highly effective technique that incorporate elements from various other treatment modalities.

How does EMDR work?

When disturbing experiences happen, they are stored in the brain with all the sights, sounds, thoughts and feelings that accompany it. When a person is very upset, the brain seems to be unable to process the experience as it would normally. Therefore, the negative thoughts and feelings of the traumatic event are "trapped" in the nervous system. Since the brain cannot process these emotions, the experience and/or it's accompanying feelings are often suppressed from consciousness. However, the distress lives on in the nervous system where it causes disturbances in the emotional functioning of the person.

The EMDR Technique does two very important things. First, it "unlocks" the negative memories and emotions stored in the nervous system, and second, it helps the brain to successfully process the experience.

The therapist works gently with the client, guiding him or her to revisit the traumatic incident. When the memory is brought to mind, the feelings are re-experienced in a new way. EMDR makes it possible to gain the self-knowledge and perspective that will enable the client to choose their actions, rather than feeling powerless over their re-actions. This process can be complex if there are many experiences connected to the negative feelings. The EMDR therapy sessions continue until the traumatic memories and emotions are relieved.

What are the advantages of EMDR Therapy?

Research studies show that EMDR is very effective in helping people process emotionally painful and traumatic experiences. When used in conjunction with other therapy modalities, EMDR helps move the client quickly from emotional distress to peaceful resolution of the issues or events involved.

EMDR sessions work amazingly fast. Processing even the most difficult memories can be achieved in a fraction of the time it would have taken with traditional therapy.

Traditional therapies often focus on memories from the unconscious mind, and then analyze their meaning to gain insight into the problem. EMDR clients also acquire valuable insights during therapy, but EMDR can short-cut the process and go right to the releasing stage.

The positive, long-term results of EMDR therapy affect all levels of the client's well-being -- mental, emotional and physical, so that their responses return to normalcy and health.

Studies consistently show that treatment with EMDR result in elimination of the targeted emotion . The memory remains but the negative response is neutralized.

What problems are helped by EMDR?

The studies to date show a high degree of effectiveness with the following conditions:

loss of a loved one
injury of a loved one
car accident
work accident
natural disaster
witness to violence
childhood abuse
victims of violent crimes
performance anxiety
stage fright
anxiety or panic
childhood trauma
physical abuse
sexual abuse
post traumatic stress
bad temper
overwhelming fears
panic attacks
low self-esteem
relationship problems
brooding or worrying
trouble sleeping

The EMDR technique is most effective when used in conjunction with other traditional methods of therapy in treating these and many other emotional disorders.

EMDR therapy can help clients replace their anxiety and fear with positive images, emotions and thoughts.

Who can be helped by EMDR?

People who have experienced or witnessed violence, disasters, crimes, sexual assault and other traumas, victims of crime and professionals such as police, emergency workers and firefighters; accident victims and anyone who has experienced a serious loss (such as the death of a close friend of family member, divorce, etc.). EMDR is also very effective treatment for people suffering from phobias--fear of flying, water, spiders, etc.

Because EMDR has the power to relieve any type of emotional block or fear, It can also be used to enhance the performance of athletes, actors, musicians, students, public speakers and executives. Reduce performance anxiety and stage fright.

Are there studies that show that EMDR is effective?

EMDR is the most thoroughly researched method ever used in the treatment of PTSD & trauma. There are more controlled studies on EMDR than on any other method . A recent study of individuals who experienced rape, military combat, loss of loved ones, disasters and serious accidents, found that 84-90% had relief of their emotional distress after only three EMDR sessions. Another study showed that EMDR was twice as effective in half the amount of time of standard traditional psychotherapeutic care.

Another study of subjects with post traumatic stress revealed that the significant improvement they gained with the EMDR treatments were maintained for at least 15 months.

Although some people have dramatic responses in a short period of time, others will progress more slowly. However, the results will be equally effective and long lasting.

Since Dr. Shapiro's initial efficacy study in 1989 , world-wide research has helped develop and evolve EMDR. To date, more than half a million people have benefited from EMDR therapy.

What happens during a EMDR session?

Just as EMDR assists the brain with its natural processing of emotional information, the EMDR therapist assists the client in their healing process by becoming a partner on a journey to release past trauma from the client's nervous system.

A typical EMDR session begins with the therapist gently guiding the client to pinpoint a problem or event that will be the target of the treatment. As the thoughts and feelings come to the surface, the therapist and client work together to re-direct the eye movements that accompany the briefly recalled experience. As the eye movements are re-directed, the accompanying emotions are released.

The patterns of eye movements continue until the emotions are neutralized and the event is re-associated with positive thoughts and feelings about oneself, such as" I realize now that it wasn't my fault"

How often would I need EMDR Therapy?

Typically, an EMDR session lasts from 60 to 90 minutes. The length of the session depends upon a number of factors, including the nature and history of the problem, the degree of trauma, the specific circumstances on that particular day, etc.

The history and evaluations are usually done in a few sessions. Then, in some cases, where a single recent traumatic event is involved, a single session of EMDR may be all that is required. However, a more typical course of treatment is somewhere between 5 and 15 sessions usually on a weekly basis. For individuals with a history of multiple painful experiences and years of feeling bad about them, a number of EMDR sessions may be needed.

EMDR is most effective when used in conjunction with other modes of therapy. Your therapist will discuss a plan of treatment with you ahead of time so you will generally know what to expect. Usually, several sessions are necessary for the therapist to evaluate whether or not EMDR is the appropriate choice of therapy.

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Is there any discomfort involved in the EMDR process?

The EMDR treatment can evoke strong emotions or sensations during a session. This is perfectly normal and desirable, since the technique works on the negative feelings when they are brought into the client's awareness. However, the re-experiencing of these unpleasant feelings is brief and they will soon leave you when the process is completed.

If the client will persevere through the upsetting memories for a short time, he or she will likely be thrilled with the outcome of the therapy. Relief It occurs rapidly, and for many, permanently.

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What happens between EMDR sessions?

Between EMDR sessions, it is a good idea for the client to keep a daily log in which to record any unusual or noteworthy thoughts or feelings. He or she can then bring their notes to the next EMDR session. This log will help the therapist to know if any adjustments in therapy are warranted.

After an EMDR session, there may be a strong sense of relief, a feeling of openness or even euphoria. This is a normal reaction to the release that has, and is, taken place.

From time to time, some clients experience unusual thoughts or vivid dreams that may or may not have any meaning. This is part of the releasing process and should not cause undue concern. Actually, unusual experiences during the time period of the EMDR therapy indicates that it is working.

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Is EMDR Hypnosis?

No. During the EMDR session, the client is awake and alert and in control at all times. The healing that takes place with EMDR is much faster than with hypnotherapy. Like hypnosis, EMDR seems to work with the unconscious mind, bringing into consciousness the repressed thoughts and feelings that must be experienced again in order to release their energetic hold on the person.

What type of training does a therapist need to use EMDR?

The EMDR Institute offers two levels of training:
Level I is an Introductory Training
Level II is the Advanced Training

EMDR Level II Therapists can now go for more advanced skills and training and become EMDRIA Certified Therapists.

Only practicing, licensed psychotherapists, psychiatrists, social workers and counselors may receive EMDR training. These are the only mental health professionals qualified to use EMDR therapy with clients. A clinical background is necessary for proper application of the EMDR technique. This is a highly specialized method that requires supervised training for therapeutic effectiveness and client safety. In the words of the Behavior Therapist Journal, "Clients are at risk if untrained clinicians attempt to use EMDR".

It may be advisable to request the therapist to provide you with their EMDR certificate of training. For a Therapist with advanced training, ask if they are EMDRIA Certified in EMDR.

How do I know if EMDR is right for me?

There are a number factors to consider when evaluating the appropriateness of EMDR therapy for a client's particular situation and history. During your initial consultation with a trained EMDR therapist, all the relevant factors will be discussed in full to help you both come to a decision to move forward with EMDR.

In general though, you are a good candidate for the EMDR technique if you have...

...difficulty trusting people
...fear of being alone
...lack of motivation
...anxiety or panic
...frequent feelings of guilt or shame
...poor concentration or memory
...explosive or irrational anger
...trouble sleeping
...worrying or brooding
...poor self-image
...serious relationship problems
...stage fright or performance anxiety
...obsessive or compulsive behavior
...chronic feelings of detachment
...extreme, unexplainable fears
...bad temper
...depression or disturbing thoughts
...a history of abuse, or sexual abuse
...been the victim of a crime or serious accident
...witnessed a crime or serious accident
...been through a natural disaster
...ever experienced a traumatic event

Some Objectives of EMDR Therapy.

Thanks to the on-going success of EMDR therapy for hundreds of thousands of people, it is not difficult to have high expectations for a therapy program that includes the EMDR technique.

The short-term benefits of EMDR is simple and straightforward -- the immediate relief of emotional distress and the elimination of the debilitating effect of unresolved past trauma.

The longer-term benefits of EMDR therapy includes the restoration of each client's natural state of emotional functioning. This return to normalcy brings with it a greater sense of personal power, more rewarding relationships and a more peaceful life.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Fela Anikulapo-Kuti

(a glorious sunset)

If you have not seen the musical, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, you will want to. Having no expectations except that it was recommended by my friend Stephanie Berry, an actor and playwright, I arrived at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre to see the Musical. We were met by a line of ticket holders that ran a block long. Well, the wait was worth it! The musical was excellent, high energy and fast paced. The writer, Bill T. Jones, captured the story of an extraordinary activist musician, Fela and flung him onto the stage in living color with the rhythms, beats, style, colors and sounds of Fela. The cast is everywhere, including on stage, in the aisles, above us and around us. The stage was set continuously for the Shrine, Fela's club where he holds court and treats the audience to dance, song, music and the culture of his world infused music as he talks the audience through the play. Interspersed throughout the musical and the beautiful beats and sounds Fela introduces us to his mother, Funmilayo Anikulapo-Kuti. Funmilayo, an activist, was killed six months before Fela performed his last concert in 1987. He died August 2, 1997 due to a heart attack and complications of Aids. His mother was tragically killed when she was thrown off the 2nd floor of a building during a raid on his compound by the Nigerian government. This was one of over 200 incidents in which Fela was harassed by the Nigerian government for his outspoken opinions and opposition to the corrupt government.

Fela is visited by the spirit of his deceased mother who refuses to grant him permission to leave Nigeria or to use the excuse of her death to withdraw from his opposition to the Nigerian government.

The musical achieves what most art should aspire to, it entertains and educates its audience about a great musician and activist.

Q. Who provides inspiration in your life? Why?

Blessings! Rev. Qiyamah

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Last Fall

Stephanie Berry winner of the coveted OBIE (2001) awarded for her one-woman show, The Shaneequa Chronicles: the Making of a Black Woman

This weekend I had the pleasure to travel to New York City to witness an important milestone in a friends career. On April 17 the world, well a small corner of it, witnessed the transition of Stephanie Berry's craft from actor to include playwright. The world premiere production of the Last Fall, her play about a love story between two individuals in the senior years of their life. Watching the play I realized an irony, that is, many of the same dynamics and challenges in love attachments are present across generations. Issues of trust, commitment, adjustments to one another and clarity about the relationship and common agreement about same are all similar across generations. The unique factors that aging partners appear to face is the recognition that one might have to settle because advance age may preclude other options. Also, partners, usually the woman having to compete with much younger rivals for love interests is another unique dynamic associated with aging romance. Sexually active seniors also face more health concerns as they seek sexual pleasures with aging bodies and all the accompanying challenges.

The two protagonists, Lizan Mitchell (Rhea) and Roscoe Orman (Neville) meet and become enmeshed in a verbally combative relationship that is sometimes as toxic as it is loving. The couple treat the audience to their unique blend of intimacy moving back and forth between loving reminising of shared moments of playfulness and lusty sex to sharp and biting verbal exchanges punctuated by Neville's silences or ominous warnings, "you don't want to go there."

The play put me in touch with my own reflections and vulnerabilities about growing old and attempts to claim love and romance. How that process changes is not as obvious as how I have changed and what it means to seek a mature love in a changing world. Rhea and Neville overcome the biggest obstacle, how to meet potential partners, through their accidental meeting one night when Rhea is attempting to catch a cab. They are not going in the same direction. This might very well be the theme of the relationship. Rhea wants commitment and Neville is not sure whether he wants it although iot is obsious he craved love as much as Rhea. Rhea was more willing to take risks to secure it than Neville was. An ironic twist, Neville is an "emotional coward" and Rhea the warrior. Some of the basic differences between men and women are explored in this complex play. Differences about how men and women pursue love interests differently and how men often equate it as more about sex than romance. Rhea defies all those stereotypes and is at times portrayed as a card waving feminist/womanist who clearly will not let any man take advantage of her. She is quick witted and intelligent and feisty!

The actors did not portray the smooth and polished performances on opening night one would expect two seasoned actors to portray, the play is running until May 2 and they still have time to get a really great play to look and sound as fine as it deserves to.

My regards to the playwright Stephanie Berry for a job well done! I suspect we will be hearing from her in the future and her career as a playwright looks more than a little promising!

Question: What are you doing to push yourself to greatness and to hone your talents and skills?

Blessings! Rev. Qiyamah

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Having Hope, Finding Forgiveness, and Making Miracles

Marianne Williamson is one of the many powerful spiritual teachers in this country. She is an accomplished author with 9 published books, four of them -- including A Return to Love - were #1 New York Times Bestsellers. A Return to Love is considered a must-read of The New Spirituality. A paragraph from that book, beginning "Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure" - is often misattributed to Nelson Mandela's Inaugural address (see below for her full poem).

Marianne also founded The Department of Peace Campaign, a grass roots campaign supporting legislation to establish a U. S. Department of Peace.

I lift Marianne Williamson up this Easter weekend as we move forward into our lives having immersed ourselves in a spirit of rebirth during Easter weekend. I believe that Hope,Forgiveness and Reconciliation are relevant themes that we must pursue.

Marianne Williamson's' words:

Our greatest fear is not that we are inadequate,
but that we are powerful beyond measure.

It is our light, not our darkness, that frightens us.
We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant,
gorgeous, handsome, talented and fabulous?

Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.

Your playing small does not serve the world.
There is nothing enlightened about shrinking
so that other people won't feel insecure around you.

We were born to make manifest the glory of God within us.
It is not just in some; it is in everyone.

And, as we let our own light shine, we consciously give
other people permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our fear,
our presence automatically liberates others
Marianne Williamson

One of the things that I love about Marianne Williamson is her willingness to step out with a vision regardless to how unorthodox it is.Her letter below to Sarah Palin is such a act - a sister to sister connection. Her ability to go beyond the stereotypes that stop most of us.

You go girl!
Blessings! Rev. Qiyamah

Themes of Love, Rebirth and Reconciliation
Those of us that have devoted our lives to love, healing and liberation I have captured numerous quotes from Marianne Williamson's book, Everyday Grace: Having Hope, Finding Forgiveness, and Making Miracles:

quotes Marianne Williamson
... We meet the monsters in order to slay them. The only way to rid ourselves of darkness is by bringing it to light. . . For all darkness in the world stems from darkness in the heart. And it is there that we must do our work. . .as we address the shadow within us, we are addressing the shadow of the world. The mystic does not deny the darkness, in ourselves or in the world, but affirms a light that lies beyond it. And we have faith that light is our true identity. Our task is to remember that. . . We are moving now toward a universal compassion because, if we do not, we will cause our own extinction. . . Only by finding the love within us can we provide the love that will save the world. . . all thought leads to love or to its absence. . . Our task is to harness the energies of love. . .

"One day, after we have mastered the winds and the waves, gravity and the tides, we will harness for God the energies of love. And then, for the second time in human history, mankind will have discovered fire." Teilhard de Chardin, French Philosopher.

. . . In choosing love, we are choosing to be healed from the forces that would hold us back. Love heals the world by healing our minds, for that which is healed on the level of consciousness is healed on the level of ultimate Cause. . . There is a power beyond the mortal mind, which can do for us what we cannot do for ourselves. . .

. . . Our greatest power to change our world lies in our power to see beyond the veil. For we will invoke the world we choose to see. This may mean we repudiate the testimony of our physical senses, or even of our logical minds. This repudiation is a positive denial of the so-called realities of a darkened world. As we stand firmly within a point of light - though darkness might be all around us - the darkness begins to dissolve into the nothingness from whence it came. . .

Reading Marianne Williamson's open letter to Sarah Palin provides some glimpses into Marianne Williamson's willingness to extend love and compassion beyond her circles of like minded friends and allies:

An Open Letter To Sarah Palin from Williamson's website (

Dear Sarah Palin,

I don't share your politics but I do share your country. I am writing to you now as a fellow American and also as a woman who, like you, puts my spiritual journey above all else.

When your book first came out, I knew I had to read it because I felt judgment in my heart that was not in keeping with my religious convictions. I was tempted to think about you in prejudiced stereotypes, and I know that this doesn't jive with "Love one another" or "Judge not lest ye be judged." So I bought your book.

And I liked it. I admire you as a self-made woman who has achieved a lot in your life, and I can see how some unfair criticisms that have been leveled against you could have hurt terribly. I am sorry for that. As a woman from Texas, I recognized your refusal to "sit down and shut up" as the attitude of a kick-ass woman from a kick-ass state. Although I am pro-choice, I felt your spiritual process regarding coming to acceptance and obedience in relation to giving birth to a Down Syndrome child was both inspiring and profound.

When I read your descriptions of liberals in the book -- not just critical, but simply false -- my jaw did drop a couple of times, like I almost thought you must be joking... you couldn't really think that. But I knew my job in reading the book was to beware my own judgments, so I simply read on and tried to ignore your jibes.

I have defended you since reading the book, particularly when others would make fun of your comments about looking to God's Will to guide you. But something is happening now that is so critical to this country, with such genuinely significant repercussions, that I implore you to hear me -- not just as a fellow American, but as a sister who I know prays to the same God that I do: Words have power. Please modify your words.

In my lifetime, we have lost a President, a Civil Rights leader and a Presidential candidate -- all to gun violence. Another President was shot and survived the ordeal, while his press secretary was paralyzed for life. These are not left-right issues; they are not political correctness issues; they are human issues concerning life and death. I am not suggesting you would pick up a gun and shoot anyone; I am suggesting that there are other people who would, however, and in your position as a leading political figure you are stoking fires -- regardless of your intention -- that are simply too dangerous to be safely stoked.

This is not the stuff of media bias. It is the stuff of history -- in the United States and elsewhere. From Hitler's Germany to the arousal of genocidal fervor in Rwanda, there are more than enough examples of how a group psychosis can emerge within a nation. I beg you to join with me -- even though I am not your political ally -- in praying for blessing and protection on all our politicians and their families, and looking deeply within our own hearts for where violence lurks so we can cast it out.

I am speaking from genuine concern for our country -- a concern no more or less meaningful or legal or freedom-loving than your own. I have a pretty tough edge myself, and I don't mince words when it comes to politics. But no one needs to be "re-loading" now, and our political opponents are not "enemy territory." In a free society, we do not have to agree; in fact, that's the point of freedom. "Shoot with accuracy; aim high and remember it takes blood, sweat and tears to win" is a frightening statement, Sarah. It is not funny; it is threatening. There are some crazy people in this country on both sides of the political aisle, and saying such things could incite them to violence that is very real.

Please join with me in turning to a God of Love and not fear, that our country and our world -- and perhaps most importantly, our own hearts -- might be purified of hate. It is love and love alone that will heal our country and heal our world.

Marianne Williamson
Posted: April 1, 2010

Hope and Rebirth

Individuals that identify as Unitarian Universalists (UUs) reflect diverse theologies and ideologies, ranging from Christianity, Humanists, Buddhists, Muslims, Agnostics, Mystics, Atheists, Pagans as well as those Questioning and others with no labels and those who define themselves as Way Farers on the Journey (just to name a few). We gather each Sunday in community as people of vastly different faith expressions in and under the common tradition of Unitarian Universalism to lift up our joys and sorrows, our gifts and needs, to raise our collective voices in prayer, meditation, reflection, and song - not at home or in our yards - but here in commonly shared space and in community. The mighty canopy that holds us and embraces us is UUism and within that tradition are a continuum of beliefs. As a clergy person during the Easter season I seek to lift Easter up in a number of ways to glean the fullness of this powerful story that has survived over 2,000 years. For Christians, clearly it is about a defining moment of salvation where God's son in the person of Jesus took on the ultimate act that cleansed humans of their sins and "washed them white as snow." It is for many a time of redication and renewal in remembrance of the love of the Living God through the sacrifice of His Son. The story of the Cross, the pain and suffering that by all accounts had to have been horrendous. But as we know it does not end at Calvary. For the bonds of death did not hold Jesus. And the story tells us that he arose on the third day. For non Christians and liberals that do not interpret the story literally it is nevertheless a story of significance. It is a story about the painful dying to ones old self and old ways and rebirthing into a newness. It is about breaking the chains of ennui and addictions that can be physical, spiritual, emotional, financial and experiencing a rebirth. That rebirth is symbolized in the resurrection of Jesus.

So whether you believe the account of Jesus' extraordinary life is completely accurate or you believe it is a parable there is much to be derived from this rich story.

May you search your heart and your beliefs for the gems that await you this Easter Weekend. For church and religion, more than any other places and things ought to be a source where we can hear about and then practice what it means to be human - to tell and retell our stories and others; to make meaning of them and our purpose and their larger meanings. Jesus, may be one of those models in your life. Buddha may be one of those models. Muhammad may be one. Nelson Mandela, Albert Einstein, Caesar Chavez, Alice Walker, Gloria E. Anzaldua, Kwok Pui-lan, Mother Teresa, Sojourner Truth, Rosa Parks . . . (insert some names of your own here). These are individuals that have offered truths for living to us.

Blessings! Rev. Qiyamah

to loving authentic relationships.

"He died for You"
These words are powerfully symbolic and resonate across faith traditions. We know what it evokes for Christians that embrace the crucifixtion. There are many other richly descriptive sources that the reader can access to be reminded of the "Greatest Love Story Ever Told." The story has prevailed over 2,000 years and will be the center point of worship at Christian churches around the world on Easter Sunday, April 4.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Boundary Crossing

(students and faculty at Meadville Lombard Theological School attending a presentation on the now not so new educational model that emphasizes the integration of theory and practice and moves our students out into the community.)

Who would have thought that a vision/mission to transition from a four year Masters of Divinity program to a three year program would be so controversial. And yet in the approximately 2-3 years since its inception we have accomplished the following: increased our admissions rate and Full Time Enrollment (FTE) by inadvertently tapping a constituency previously denied access to theological education and pushed and challenged our imaginations including: board, faculty, staff, students and ministers. There have been some casualties but primarily we are approaching the shores of this new world and vision of theological education and its bright with possibilities.

It is April 2 and the faculty at our small seminary where I am employed as the Director of Contextual Ministry is preparing to meet with the faculty of another seminary to determine if what we currently mutually excel at what (theological education and preparing ministers for our respective denominations) can be done in a mutually compatible partnership that would allow us to move to the next level. The world of theological education has become fiercely competitive. One must excel in the production of knowledge, the preparation and shaping of ministers all while maintaining fiscal viability. And then in the midst of all this become adept at boundary crossing. Boundary crossing for those of you that may have missed the phenomenon is the ability to move between paradigms; between communities; between cultures. While some individuals have acquired the skill sets by virtue of their lived experiences, those of us in theological education have to cast our pastoral imagination upon the waters of life and contrive curricula that simulate learning experiences that allow our seminarians to become border crossers.

Our seminary believes that it is and can do this. While we have come late to multiracial competence and curricula driven by the integration of theory and practice we have demonstrated an amazing agility and mastery in a very short time. The corporate world better understands profit margins and downsizing in times of economic leanness and the need to respond quickly to conditions and circumstances on a dime. However, in the world of non profits and particularly theological education we tend to be less savvy and attuned to such needs. Instead we pride ourselves on tradition, devotion to values of collaboration and authenticity and justice making. Meanwhile, corporations continue to exploit globalization, making the big bucks and relocating its sweat shops when public outcry demands justice in developing nations.

Here in Chicago, Illinois it is Friday, April 2 and much of the Christian world here and around the world is preparing for Easter, the event that symbolizes Christianity's greatest love story. The cruxifiction and resurrection of Jesus is the ultimate sacrifice of a loving Father dedicating the only Son for the forgiveness and completion of the Children. For a sacrifice is required to wash the sins of humanity and the world away.

Regardless of our faith traditions may we recognize that the only power that springs forth sufficiently strong to free all is that which springs from the love and compassion that we have for the weakest among us; the oppressed and marginalized and that the forces of humanity working to heal itself and bring itself into right relations must examine itself in these times. There are some things in our lies that we have to kill and something that we have to to heal. If church is the place James Luther Adams, a Unitarian Universalist theologian, contends where we get to practice what it means to be human - may we take this most holy of Christian traditions to reflect on what it means to be human as boundary crossers in a world sorely in need of individuals not constrained by denominational affiliation; not constrained by what we call or do not name the Holy and Sacred.

I close with excerpts from the Covenant of my Housing Coop:

God, having covenanted with us to be a people for all people and for all life

We covenant together to be such a people... to see a way to be free to care
for each other
for the life of the community
for the larger immediate community
for the resources of the land
and for the beauty of nature

We covenant all this in such a way that we are at once bound together and free to be our own deepest selves.

May it be so and blessed be!

Q. What is your passion? How can you apply your authenticity and push your godness/goodness/your humanity and grow your soul to meet the demands of a world in pain and looking for hope and the good news of rebirth and resurrection?

Blessings on this Good Friday! Rev. Qiyamah