National Poetry Month Wrap-up: Setting My Inner Compass
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National Poetry Month Wrap-up: Setting My Inner Compass

April is National Poetry Month. This year on the first Monday of National Poetry Month I shared a poem with the readers of Unbound. It was a joy to do and I thank Lee Catoe and Christian Iosso for the opportunity. Poetry is an important part of my spiritual and professional life. Professionally, I use poems in presentations, sermons and in worship services. They reflect the blessings of having led five pilgrimages to Iona (with two more are in the planning stages!). I’ve also been a co-leader on four Habitat for Humanity Global Village builds to Guatemala and Columbia. On all of these journeys, I prepare a collection of poems for the participants. The poetry then becomes part of our shared experience. I would be happy to share these collections. If anyone would like to know more about Habitat for Humanity Global Village or Iona pilgrimages, I can be contacted by email at: dbrown7086@aol.com.
Poetry is also part of my spiritual life. It is, using a phrase Chris offered, one way I set ..

Voter Suppression and COVID-19
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Voter Suppression and COVID-19

As the 2020 Presidential election quickly approaches, it is more critical than ever that we take action to reclaim the values and promise of our electoral process. Since a 2013 Supreme Court ruling gutted the Voting Rights Act, voter suppression has been on the rise and has denied voting rights to millions, people of color in particular. The impacts of COVID-19 will further exacerbate voter suppression. The election in November is one of the most important elections in U.S. history. We must address historic issues of voter suppression and systemic racism so that all people are able to exercise their right to vote.
The 15th amendment of the United States Constitution prohibits federal, state, and local governments from denying someone the right to vote based on race, color, or previous condition of servitude.[i] This amendment, passed in 1870, sought to grant African American men the right to vote and paved the way for the 19th Amendment, passed in 1920. However, states found a way ar..

National Poetry Month: Denise Levertov
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National Poetry Month: Denise Levertov

In light of April being National Poetry Month, every Monday in April, Unbound will publish a poem. I will select poems by nationally recognized poets because they speak in one way or another to what we are all facing in light of pandemic. This is the last in this ‘National Poetry Month’ series. On May 4, I’ll share one approach to reading poems and recommend some poetry anthologies.
In the first column, I shared my background and experience with poetry. I don’t need to do that again. Poetry is an important part of my spiritual life and a resource in the various dimensions of my ministry. As I share the poems in this series, I remember what I learned many years ago as an undergraduate in my first poetry class: a good poem should be able to speak for itself and does not elaborate introduction before being read. In light of that wisdom, I will keep my introductions brief.
The fourth selection in this series is two poems by Denise Levertov. Levertov was born in 1923, in Essex, United Ki..

An Interview with Fern Cloud: Part 2
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An Interview with Fern Cloud: Part 2

Lee:
Unbound curated a series of articles and interviews on the doctrine of discovery and it got a lot of interest and people wanted to know more and to hear the perspectives of Native people. Because I feel like people don’t know how to connect issues. We have kind of conditioned ourselves to compartmentalize things.
Fern:
Oh absolutely. The average citizen is not going to know about this but tribal people who were born into this relationship with the government, this is part of who we are. And we listen to our elders talking about these issues. I’ve listened to that all my life and experiencing my relationship with the Indian Health Service or the Bureau of Indian Affairs and how the bureaucracy is overwhelming. And this has been my concern since I was a teenager. Because I listened to this a lot.
Lee:
Yeah. And if you were taught it correctly. I grew up in the South and we might’ve mentioned Native American history maybe once that I can remember. And even then, it probably wasn’t ..

An Interview with Fern Cloud: Part 1
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An Interview with Fern Cloud: Part 1

Lee:
So Fern tell us about yourself and the work you’re doing.
Fern:
My name is Fern Cloud. I am a member of the Sisseton-Wahpeton Dakota Tribe on the Lake Traverse Reservation located in northeastern South Dakota. And I was called to a ministry in 2004 with the Presbyterian church here at Granite Falls, Minnesota. It’s on the Upper Sioux Dakota reservation near Granite Falls, Minnesota. Over the years, I’ve also been a member of the Native American Consulting Committee. And I’ve been re-upped another two years as moderator of the Native American Consulting Committee. In 2016, I helped write an overture that responded to the Doctrine of Discovery. So in that response to the overture the General Assembly wanted to form the committee. I’ve also been the commissioner to the Synod of Lakes and Prairies for two terms. And during those terms, I was a moderator for the Senate of Lakes and Prairies. So, I have a long journey of being involved on all levels within the PCUSA. I’m very active ..

Extinction
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Extinction

I have been asked to reflect upon extinction. First, perhaps because I write during a terrifying global pandemic, my thoughts turn to the massive explosions triggered as comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 broke up and slammed into Jupiter in 1994. Jupiter is but a speck in space…but so massive 1300 Earths would fit inside. The spectacular collisions made palpable the extraordinarily slim but shockingly real chance life on Earth might be suddenly, unexpectedly extinguished. By 1998 Hollywood had released Deep Impact and Armageddon and NASA had initiated a Near Earth Object Search program.
Considering creation’s ferocious impulse to life—in acidic hot springs at Yellowstone, in deep ocean vents, in acid baths—and two trillion galaxies, I expect life flourishes throughout the cosmos. So, even if life on Earth is obliterated by a massive comet or a nuclear winter, we are probably not talking about the end of all life in the cosmos. Moreover, myriad building blocks of life would likely survive most ea..

COVID-19 Pandemic Opens Possibilities for Positive Change: Turning Pain into Progress
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COVID-19 Pandemic Opens Possibilities for Positive Change: Turning Pain into Progress

When COVID-19 had Americans scrambling to stores and searching online for hard to find facial masks, I simply went to my bedroom where I already had half a box. I have the masks because I live in Detroit 48217, the most polluted ZIP code in Michigan. Oftentimes, I must cover my face in the middle of the night to block horrific odors and chemicals emitted by nearby industrial facilities that seep into my home. It is an unfathomable way to live.
As people living away from factories experience the COVID pandemic, they are getting a glimpse of what it feels like to be trapped in one’s home with a harmful, unseen element that can damage your health or take your life. The coronavirus pandemic mirrors the impact pollution overwhelmingly has on Black people trapped in urban communities across America.
Photo of polluted house by Emma Lockridge My community is within a four-mile radius of more than 29 mega polluting facilities that are regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency and our..

THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY IN TIME AND (cyber) SPACE
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THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY IN TIME AND (cyber) SPACE

The Committee on the General Assembly (COGA) has a very weighty set of decisions in front of it. The General Assembly, currently scheduled for June 20-27, 2020 in Baltimore, MD, likely cannot be held physically during that time frame. Yet the church is mandated to have one in 2020, and there are legal and financial decisions that need to be made by a representative group of commissioners in order to renew the rotations of leadership and membership of national agencies. Further, many of the reports to this central decision-making body are time sensitive.
So the logical decision, if you have limited resources and capacity, is to pick the most essential or critical items for the institution and have a process to vote on them. Yes? No.
Staff of the Office of the General Assembly made the initial narrowing of the business and the COGA—who are elected volunteers—rightly opened the process a bit, partly as required by the church’s “open meetings” policy. They also effectively conducted a ..

ONE BODY WITH EARTH: A Wake Up Call
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ONE BODY WITH EARTH: A Wake Up Call

Many people are experiencing our most recent days as if we were in the movie “Groundhog Day”, where the main character finds himself living the same day, over and over again, with no clear end in sight; that is, until he begins to acknowledge his faults, makes efforts to better himself and helps others, and in the process, his suffering ends, his future opens, and he discovers true love.
As with the movie itself, so with the Pandemic outbreak — we find ourselves with an opportunity to learn the reality of our interconnections, and the threat of suffering repeated crises, be they a pandemic or the climate crisis, if we don’t understand our moment and its lessons.
The proof that we can overcome, albeit with sacrifice, has never been clearer. We have a great opportunity in our hands.
Our generation is witnessing how intimately related we are, to be part of the one body, called planet Earth, and how easily we can affect each other. This is our time to harvest wisdom, to act and change..

National Poetry Month: Billy Collins
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National Poetry Month: Billy Collins

April is National Poetry Month. Every Monday in April Unbound will celebrate National Poetry month by publishing a poem by a nationally recognized poet that speaks in one way or another to what we are all facing in this time of pandemic.
In the first column, I shared my background and experience with poetry. I don’t need to do that again. As I share these poems, I remember what I learned many years ago in my first poetry class as an undergraduate: a good poem should, usually, be able to speak for itself and does not elaborate introduction before being read. In light of that wisdom I will keep my introductions brief.
The third selection in this series is by Billy Collins. Billy Collins has received numerous awards and was appointed Poet Laureate for the United States 2001-2002. The poem “Days”celebrates the fragility and preciousness of life, of each day. On occasion, I’ve used the first verse of this poem in worship as part of the “Call to Worship”. You may want to check out these o..