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For all of us at Sojourners, there are no words to adequately express our gratitude for this fellow Sojourner. He walked with us, prayed with us, laughed with (and at) us, and generously supported our mission. He shared with us everything he had, especially the treasure of time. We thank God for granting us the privilege of sojourning alongside our brother in Christ. We also give gratitude for his partner and caring wife Barbara Besse. We surround her and her children with prayers of comfort, peace, celebration of a life well-lived, and space to grieve the loss of Alden’s presence on earth.
As one who enjoys the benefits of privilege in today's world, I felt it important to submit my own sense of what is just and right to other perspectives, especially other perspectives that are informed by biblical witness and the Christian gospel. The 2017 Summit represented that sort of challenge for me.
Gratitude, say religious leaders from many traditions, is one of the most important spiritual disciplines for a whole and healing life. And the discipline of remembering what and who you are most grateful for is especially important in difficult and even dangerous times like these. There are gratitude prayers, meditations, and walks, which focus our minds and hearts on the things and people we are most thankful for when we are most easily conscious of the things and people who make our times most difficult and even dangerous.
Editor’s Note: The Summit: World Change Through Faith and Justice is one of the powerful opportunities Sojourners has as an organization to bring together 300+ of our leaders together to deepen relationships and build more intersectional movements. The following series of posts offer reflections from participants to offer a glimpse of the experience. We are grateful for the ways you make this gathering possible. Our first reflection comes from JoAnn Flett, director of Eastern University's MBA in Economic Development and the facilitator the Summit’s 2017 Business Convening.
There is change for racial justice and equity in the air in Boston, to an extent that I previously only hoped for but could not heretofore have envisioned. And as I look ahead to attending Sojourners’ upcoming leadership Summit, which focuses on the intersections and implications of race across numerous justice issues, I expect and pray for change to be in the air in D.C., and that the same winds may fill our sails in June.
Editor’s Note: We’ve had the privilege of connecting with many members of the broader Sojourners community (including some of you reading this!) during Sojourners President Jim Wallis’ America’s Original Sin book and town hall tour. Our conversations in cities like New York, Baltimore, Chicago, Atlanta, Los Angeles, and Portland are serving as a tool to engage people – particularly people of faith and white people — more robustly on issues of white privilege, race relations, criminal justice reform, and inequalities work. The conversations have already been so rich and we wanted to capture a few reflections from those we see on the road to share with you all. The following reflection is from Alicia Philipp, CEO of the Community Foundation of Greater Atlanta, who we met up with at the Atlanta History Center gathering alongside 70 of CFGA’s donors and board members.
Hollywood star Denzel Washington, the son of a pastor, preached a sermon of gratefulness Nov. 7 to hundreds of members of the Church of God in Christ at their annual Holy Congregation in downtown St. Louis.
“I pray that you put your slippers way under your bed at night, so that when you wake in the morning you have to start on your knees to find them. And while you’re down there, say thank you,” he told the crowd at a $200-a-plate banquet at the Marriott St. Louis Grand Hotel to raise money for the denomination’s charity work.
“It is impossible to be grateful and hateful at the same time,” he said.
“We have to have an attitude of gratitude.”
Over 400 participants from all continents (barring Antarctica) gathered on Messiah College’s campus in Harrisburg, Pa., to further their understanding of Anabaptist teachings while exploring what it means to be a part of the global church during the 2015 Global Youth Summit, under the theme, “Called to Share: My Gifts, Our Gifts.” Participants engaged in deep learning through workshops led by professors and historians, connected to their history through historical Mennonite tours all over Pennsylvania where they visited museums and Mennonite churches and met Amish families, and tapped into their musical side with globally-infused worship.
My role as the North America representative for the summit (which coincided with the 2015 Mennonite World Conference) meant meeting with delegates on an individual basis — the delegates being representatives from global conferences. It meant hearing stories about home churches and struggles with governments, and discussions about theologically Anabaptist responses to violence and change in all four corners of the earth.
And, of course, it meant witnessing people randomly break out in song and dance. Both a boisterous drum circle and competitive games of Dutch Blitz lasted well into the night.
Influenced in her early 20s by the civil rights movement, Barbara learned about Sojourners during the time that she and her husband served in Tanzania with the Peace Corps. Experiences interacting with folks diverse in religious belief and race during this time profoundly influenced her understanding of faith and social justice. She shares that her life has been influenced by Catholics and Mennonites, pagans and Methodists, Anglicans, Quakers, Hindus, and Buddhists: “At the core, a lot of us on the planet are looking for the same thing: to get along with one another, to have enough to eat, [and] to be able to live with some measure of safety and security.”
I spoke with James Tufenkian, founder of Tufenkian Foundation which serves to promote social, economic, cultural and environment justice in Armenia as it recovers from its genocide. I asked him about his connection with Sojourners, and how his work and faith intersect.
Ariana Denardo (AD): How did you get connected with Sojourners, and why did you decide to become a donor?
James Tufenkian (JT): My brother, a retired pastor, and I were having a series of conversations about the involvement of the church in social issues. He mentioned Sojourners, so I visited the website, read the magazine, and got interested. I found Sojourners to be the best, maybe the only organization I know of that works on social justice as Christians living out Christ’s example. It was natural for me to want to support that in different ways, one of them being as a donor.
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