In the Name of Life

August 27, 2018 @ 01:51 pm by Jacqui Lewis

I'm going to say their names. Elijah Clayton. Eli. Screen name Trueboy. 22-years old. Erin's boy. Easygoing. Fun. Cool. Full of Laughter. Calabasas High School football player from California.

Taylor Robertson. Screen name SpotMe. 27-years old. From Ballard, West Virginia. James Monroe High School football player. Quiet family man. Husband and father to a toddler, a son.

They are dead. Eleven more are injured. More names: Tony “GTech” Montagnino of Austin, Texas. Drini “Young Drini” Gjoka, from Washington, D.C. “InfamousGuru”. George “Fitzmagic13” Amadeo, a 17-year-old from Belford, N.J.

On a day violence was supposed to be confined to the screen, Sunday, August 26, a man with a gun opened fire in a crowd at a popular videogame tournament in Jacksonville, Florida.

The night before in the same city, after the Raines High School football game on Friday, August 25, 19 year-old Joerod Jamel Adams was killed and two students, one from Raines and one from Lee High School, were injured. First reports were that the two boys had criminal gang connections. Maybe that's why it's hard for me to find much on Joerod.

But I'm saying his name, too. Joerod Adams. Leroy Murphy's grandson. Somebody's baby, boyfriend, buddy. Shot dead. His grandfather insisting he's not in a gang, pleading for someone to come forward. Someone had to see, and with 57 police at the game how did this happen anyway?

Let's say their names and let's talk about the guns. If guns are easily obtained, mass shootings will continue to happen. If guns proliferate our streets and communities, disputes and conflicts will lead to death. Lives of children, teens, men and women will be lost. They will be killed by disgruntled employees, relatives, partners and spouses. They will be killed in turf wars, in retaliation, in acts of domestic violence and by accident.

People with guns kill people. Mothers, fathers. Sons, daughters. Children and Seniors. Lovers, spouses, partners, friends. People with stories, vulnerabilities; dreams and ambitions; fears and insecurities.

More than thoughts and prayers, we need to make common sense gun safety an election issue. Now. If our electeds can't stand up for human lives, we need to vote them out.

For God's sake, find your Gun Sense candidates at Everytown.

In the name of Las Vegas, Sandyhook, Orlando, Oak Creek, Charlotte, Chicago...In the name of Jacksonville. In the name of life.

Faith and Justice: Leading with Revolutionary Love

August 10, 2018 @ 10:58 am by Jacqui Lewis

By Rev. Dr. Jacqui J. Lewis
Host and Executive Editor, Faith and Justice
Originally published on Chapter & Verse

No matter how blue, red or purple your state, the polarization and injustice rampant in our nation is devastating to people of faith. These are hot-mess times!

From immigration issues, to the erosion of human rights; from economic disparity to prejudice against religious minorities and people of color; from the plight of families on the border to the unrelenting despair of poor families in our cities and towns—leaders of moral courage and imagination must set our nation on a path toward healing. Even with broken hearts, this call to lead is urgent.

What keeps me hopeful, even in the midst of tears, is my congregation in Manhattan’s East Village, Middle Collegiate Church. We are a multicultural, multiethnic, intergenerational movement of Spirit and justice, with room for all. We are a beautiful community that believes God is speaking many languages, and calling all people of faith to build a more just society.

Every April since 2007, we’ve convened thought leaders and movement builders—authors, activists, preachers, poets, attorneys, and artists—to create strategies and share best practices to, as Ruby Sales says, redeem the soul of our nation.

Most recently, Revolutionary Love has been the theme of our conference. Young activists chanted “Revolutionary Love, Love, Love” as they marched for justice in Ferguson, Missouri. For me, Revolutionary Love is shorthand for all of the teachings in the Hebrew Bible and the Christian New Testament. Quoting Deuteronomy 6.5, the Jewish Rabbi Jesus (who came to be known as the Christ) taught his followers to love God with heart, soul, mind, and strength. He also said to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. (Mark 12.28-34). To be faithful is to Love. Period; revolutionary love means acting for justice.

Middle Church and this convening give me hope that good people can make America whole, just, generous and equitable. I sat down for intimate conversations with seven inspirational leaders—movement colleagues—who will inspire you. They prove we can move mountains and do justice through our faith.

My friend Otis Moss III and I laughed about our love of superheroes, and shared deeply on how myths and stories—whether in the Bible, in literature or on movie screens—help us know we can combat the powerful forces of discrimination and hatred. You are going to love listening to this compassionate man, as comfortable in the world of comic books as he is the Bible.

Simone Campbell is one of the most amazing people I know. She’s an attorney and poet who punctuates her lobbying with wisdom and wry humor. Speaking with her is a lesson in humility and the power of relationships to change the world. She cares about the poor, invites the wealthy into our movement, and can go toe-to-toe with Stephen Colbert!

To be with my sister Traci Blackmon and our Mama Ruby Sales in a conversation was to participate in the magic that happens when Black women get together. Whether at the kitchen table, on our front porch, or on the streets, sharing our stories is always a rich, soul healing experience. You’ll be inspired by the wisdom and warmth of these leaders.

Linda Sarsour calls me her big sister. There is no one I know who is more indefatigable, and committed to standing for every injustice towards women, Black and Brown people, and religious minorities. Listening to Linda describe her faith in God and how that undergirds her work will dispel any stereotypes about Muslims.

Brian McLaren and I work together to create curricular materials to renew progressive congregations. Whenever we speak, I marvel at his particular journey, his intention about growing, and his passion for racial justice. Though Brian, as a straight white man, could have had a path of privilege, he is instead a model for sharing power and surrendering self-interest to heal the world.

Valarie Kaur is one of the most exceptional young leaders on the planet. She’s a brilliant speaker, and a gifted filmmaker and story-teller whose commitment to justice is tireless. She believes Revolutionary Love is the call of our times. You’ll be moved by this woman warrior speaking so tenderly about her young son, and what we can birth together.

America is in a state of emergency. We can’t afford private and personal faith. Each of us is called to speak truth to power, and to build coalitions with folk who are not like us so we can move together toward healing our land. We must love each other toward a revolution of values, and use our moral imagination and courage to disrupt American racism and xenophobia. We must work tirelessly on behalf of the vulnerable, activating our superpowers to make America a loving, and safe place for all. Doing justice, loving kindness and walking humbly with our God: This is faith. (Micah 6.8)

Watch the interviews:

Otis Moss III
Linda Sarsour
Brian McLaren

Ruby Sales & Traci Blackmon
Valarie Kaur

Simone Campbell
MetroFocus Special

SCOTUS Bans Muslims: Grieve. Act. Make America Free

June 26, 2018 @ 05:10 pm by Jacqui Lewis

My rabbi, Jesus, once encouraged his crestfallen followers, “Blessed are they that mourn, for they will be comforted.” (Matthew 5:4) Jesus, who has come to be known as Christ, spoke these words to a grieving people, to an oppressed people, to a people occupied by the Roman Empire which maintained a so-called “peace” with violence and the blatant disregard for brown bodies that were not Roman citizens.

Jesus, a Jew himself, told his followers to welcome the strangers and the foreigners, because they were once foreigners in the land of Egypt. (Exodus 21:22) The God of Jesus is the God of Abraham and is the God of Muhammad, peace be upon him. Muslims, Christians, and Jews pray to the same God.

So many of us are deeply mourning today’s Supreme Court decision. And, as our Muslim brothers and sisters suffer soul-death at the hands of the highest court in our land, as the racist and xenophobic policies of this administration are upheld, and therefore sanctioned, I also feel grief and outrage. I feel as though the Supreme Court has kicked us in the stomach. And so, I can only imagine the waves of grief washing over Muslim Americans today. Faithful. Gifted. Citizens. Our neighbors. Our colleagues. Our teachers, police, veterans, physicians.

We must be clear; these policies are part of a systematic, unrelenting, pernicious campaign to strive to make America white. Cruelty at our southern borders; caging human beings in urban jails and in detention centers; the state-sanctioned murders of Black and Brown men, women, and children; and banning Muslims—all of this, filled with hate and derision, must be named for what it is, and fought with all of the revolutionary love we can mobilize.

As my beloved friend Ruby Sales says, "we must name this evil programme, religious and ethnic cleansing."

We have been here before; we know what this hatred looks and smells like. We know the deep pathology of the haters. We know their hatred brings soul death to our friends and families. And we know this hatred also rots the heart of the perpetrator.

What, then, do we do to bless the mourning ones, to comfort them?

We must comfort our Muslim and Sikh friends and colleagues today, as they mourn. Gather with them in solidarity.

My friend Linda Sarsour, a co-founder of the Women’s March and a Muslim, shared that she was “sitting in her daughter's high school graduation this morning when she got the news that SCOTUS has moved to uphold the racist, immoral Muslim Ban. History repeats itself and the Supreme Court was wrong today like they were wrong in Korematsu when the court permitted incarceration of thousands of people based on their Japanese ancestry. Just because the Supreme decides something is legal, does not make it just or moral. WE CANNOT BE SILENT.” Don't be silent. Speak up!

We must allow our own hearts to feel the sorrow and disappointment in a nation governed by fear and hatred; let our grief propel us into action. We must support Muslim grassroots organizations, like MPower Change and Cair Michigan.

We must also connect the dots between these SCOTUS decisions, and the ways the decisions are eroding human rights. We must take our dissatisfaction to the polls, voting out the haters, and electing officials who share the ways we value each human life. Our grief is prophetic; we know that even as we mourn, even in our frustration, we must never forget the unbelievable power we have when good people of moral courage bind our hearts and wills together to make America free, really free, at last.

Blessings to you, my Muslim friends, colleagues, and family. Peace to you. Assalamu ‘Alaikum.

And to all of us, let’s DO this! Let’s grieve, let’s act, let’s make America free.

The Rev. Dr. Jacqui J. Lewis is Senior Minister at Middle Collegiate Church in Manhattan and is an Auburn Senior Fellow.

#FamilesBelongTogether: They Are the Body of God

June 22, 2018 @ 05:00 pm by Jacqui Lewis

There once was a little boy named Yeshua. He was born to a woman named Miriam and a man named Yusef. When the child was young, the man who was king, Herod, decided he needed to kill all of the male children under the age of two. Miriam and Yusef took their child, and helped by strangers along the way, traveled from Judea to Egypt. When this refugee family arrived, they were welcomed. They found shelter and food; they were able to stay together. Miriam could nurse her baby; Yusef could protect his wife.

That baby grew up, and learned the trade of his father. As an adult, he became an itinerant rabbi, and went around the countryside preaching, healing and feeding people. He tried to explain to them what the Kingdom of God was like. He said if they wanted to understand this Kingdom, they would have to become like a child. In fact, he invited the children to come and be with him, and chastised those who would keep them away.

That’s Jesus, people. That’s the one who we Christians say is our mentor, our leader, our rabbi. That is the one we say is our Christ, anointed to bring good news to the poor, to preach liberty to the captives, to bring sight to the blind. Jesus taught his followers that when we feed the hungry, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked, and visit those in prison, we are visiting Jesus himself. (Matthew 25) "When you've done it to the least of these, my brothers and sisters, you've done it unto me," he said. When we serve the “least of these,” we are serving God.

Donald Trump, Jeff Sessions, Kristjen Nielsen, and all you government leaders who claim to be Christian: Shame on you for terrorizing families this way. Shame on you, immigrants that you are, for treating Black and Brown bodies as though they are less than human. Shame on you for your manifest destiny, white nationalist, border-closing, poverty-increasing policies that you enact while simultaneously claiming allegiance to the poor, itinerant preacher who was once a homeless baby, and then a refugee in a strange land.

I call on you to repent. I call on you to ask forgiveness, and to cease and desist from these abominable policies. I call on you to open your blind eyes and your too-small hearts to the lives of the human beings—children, mothers, fathers, aunties and uncles—who happen to be immigrants, who you are treating like scum. I call on you to stop lying and to acknowledge that neither your behavior or these policies are blessed by God.

And you, fellow Americans of all faiths and no faith, I am calling on you to have a zero-tolerance personal policy on hatred and bigotry. I am calling on you to have the moral courage to insist on #RevolutionaryLove as action to repudiate these wrongs. Those families belong to God. Those crying children? They are the voices of God. Those anguished parents? They are the body of God. Suffering, weeping, needing liberation. We must do something about this, and we must do it now.

It is our moral responsibility to tell our elected officials that Families Belong Together. Join me in following these steps offered by the NAACP to make a phone call, send an email, or write a letter to both of your senators. We need to foster a nation where strangers are welcomed and the most vulnerable—all children—are able to stay with their families.

People are heading to the streets this Saturday, June 23 in Washington DC to protest; I’ll be there to join the culmination of the Poor People’s Campaign at the National Mall as we come together to demand #FamiliesBelongTogether. Find a rideshare here to join us in DC. You can also watch the livestream online at the Poor People's Campaign website.

It is our moral call to treat each person at the border as though they are the body of God.

Ready to March this June!

June 8, 2018 @ 03:45 pm by Jacqui Lewis

Dear Revolutionary Lovers:

I always look forward to the invitation I get from Rob Stephens to march for justice. Check out this email, that let's you know all of the things we are doing to make the world a better place. And there are some great pictures of things we have done.

If you want to stay connected to the ways we are moving for justice, or if you want to join our community of radical welcome and love, click here! We'd love to have you.

Toward the Revolution,

P.S. Here is a video I made with GLAAD about what I am calling "Cake-Gate." We must be vigilant as our civil rights erode right before our eyes.

What Will We Do? A Faithful Response to Poverty in Advent

November 27, 2017 @ 04:00 pm by Jacqui Lewis

This entry was originally posted on Huffington Post.

Did you ever have one of those bracelets that said “What Would Jesus Do?” Maybe a bumper sticker? Did you get the T-shirt — WWJD? This was all the rage in the 1990s.

In His Steps: What Would Jesus Do?, a novel written by Charles Sheldon in 1896, grew out of sermons he preached about imitating Christ. In His Steps was not about personal redemption but about making the moral choice when encountering the poor and marginalized. Sheldon believed all people — including Blacks, women, Jews, and Catholics — were equal and should be treated as such.

In the novel, a pastor named Rev. Henry Maxwell encounters a homeless man who challenges his faith. The homeless man expresses his difficulty understanding why so many Christians ignore the poor:

“I heard some people singing at a church prayer meeting the other night,

‘All for Jesus, all for Jesus, All my being’s ransomed powers, All my thoughts, and all my doings, All my days, and all my hours.’ and I kept wondering as I sat on the steps outside just what they meant by it. It seems to me there’s an awful lot of trouble in the world that somehow wouldn’t exist if all the people who sing such songs went and lived them out. I suppose I don’t understand.”

We understand, don’t we? There is often a deep conflict between what the people of God say we believe and how we live our lives. We get it. And we wonder what to do about it.

Matthew 25:31–46 is one of those texts that speaks for itself. Here is The Messageversion of the core verses:

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Enter, you who are blessed by my Father! Take what’s coming to you in this kingdom. It’s been ready for you since the world’s foundation. And here’s why:

I was hungry and you fed me, I was thirsty and you gave me a drink, I was homeless and you gave me a room, I was shivering and you gave me clothes, I was sick and you stopped to visit, I was in prison and you came to me.’

“Then those ‘sheep’ are going to say, ‘Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?’ Then the King will say, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.’

This text does not ask us to believe in any particular way. It doesn’t demand orthodoxy. It calls us into action. Because Jesus would do it. BUT, more radical than that: When we act on behalf of the least of those among us, we act for Jesus himself.

That’s Jesus in the soup kitchen. That’s Jesus on the cardboard on the street; Jesus sleeping in the train station. That is Jesus on the corner, lost and confused. Jesus’ drinking unclean water from a stream in Puerto Rico. Jesus languishing behind bars, in isolation, desperate for safety and light.

That’s Jesus living on a reservation in Oklahoma, on a tiny remnant of land belonging to her people, an embarrassing concession for the way her land was stolen from her. That’s Jesus struggling to keep her culture alive in the midst of American cultural holidays that ignore her truth.

That’s Jesus whose baby has been snatched out of her arms, while she is being deported. Jesus is crossing the desert, thirsty for water and for freedom. That’s Jesus deciding whether to pay rent or buy medication. That’s Jesus living in a tenement, working three jobs to feed his children.

In response to those on the margins, we might ask ourselves, “What would Jesus do?” But an even better question is, “What Will We Do?”

I think we must do two really important things right now.

1) Join the Advent Conspiracy, and make your holiday money count.

  • $450 billion is spent in this country during the month of December, much of it on holiday shopping. 2.2 million people die every year due to lack of access to clean drinking water. According to number crunchers at the World Bank and United Nations Development Program, it’s estimated that it would cost somewhere around $20 billion to solve the global water crisis. That’s less than 5% of what’s spent in this country during one holiday shopping period in December.
  • SO, give one or two less presents, and give what you can to the charity of your choice, a place that provides clean water to the world, to Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands in particular. ( is a great place to start!) Give to an organization that feeds the poor, provides housing or bail money; a place that works for prison reform, or helps returning citizens or veterans find jobs.

2) Pressure our elected officials to say “NO!” to the tax plan moving through Congress, TODAY!

  • Sister Simone Campbell and Network say it plainly, “This tax plan fails a basic moral test. This bill takes from people in poverty to give to the wealthiest in our nation, and it goes against everything we as people of faith believe.”
  • Call your Senators now: 1-888-885-1748. Call twice to reach both Senators. Tell them: “Hi, my name is [NAME] and I am a constituent from [CITY/TOWN]. As a person of faith, I’m calling you to OPPOSE the Senate tax bill because it is inconsistent with my faith teaching. This plan gives the wealthy and large corporations trillions of dollars in tax cuts and will have devastating effects on programs that I care about, like the Child Tax Credit, Medicare, and more. I urge you to oppose such a reckless tax plan.”
  • Share this with your friends, especially those in Tennessee, Arizona, Oklahoma, and Maine to call their Senators and say “Vote NO!”

Do these things because Jesus is right there in the poor, needing our care. And because our actions help complete God’s dream of a healed and whole world. Stay in touch with actions toward God’s Dream at

One Year Later... 10 More Things to Do

November 7, 2017 @ 02:00 pm by Jacqui Lewis

We just got an invitation to re-connect with our friends at Lab Shul in a Primal Prayer event. We attended it at Washington Square last year the day after the election. Before we screamed, we sang, we prayed, we cried, we hugged. The scream bubbled up out of our bodies, our grief, our surprise. It felt good, to let it out, let those feelings rise on the winds, rustle browning leaves, reach the heavens.

More than screaming, what healed me was being together in the beautiful diversity that is Manhattan. Jews, Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, people of no faith and people who had lost faith. Students, older people, clergy and lay leaders; a rainbow of ethnic, gender and sexual orientation diversity. One woman held her toddler close to her bosom, like she was a life raft. Maybe our children will save us from these swirling waters.

In the midst of more and more revelations of sexual misconduct by powerful men in the arts and in the media, one such man was elected to the highest office in our land. This shocks me to my core, still. A liar, a cheat, a sexual predator—our president. How desperate must so many have been for a change for this to happen. I feel like we are cast in a horrific reality show, and the premise of the show is: How far can POTUS push the envelope on decency and have our nation’s most vulnerable citizens survive?

While I was grieving last year, I posted an article on HuffPost’s religion page—“10 Spiritual Responses to the Election.” You can still find it there. Brokenhearted, still, and more resolute than ever that we must persistently resist this administration with everything we have; I am calling us once again to ask, what would love demand of us? In these precarious times, what does Revolutionary Love and Resistance look like as an organizing principle? We need answers, and here are 10 NEW things to help us get there:

1. Get with some people you love and hug them, and cry with them, and let them love you back.

2. Make Revolutionary Love a spiritual practice. Antiracism, LGBTQ advocacy, caring for the poor and marginalized, supporting women’s gifts, mentoring children, supporting common sense gun control, and demanding that everyone have enough healthcare and resources to thrive—this is the spiritual practice of Revolutionary Love.

3. Have some honest conversations with your friends and family members who voted for Trump. Ask them about how they see this administration now. Can we recruit some people to a worldview based in love and justice? We need to do that now!

5. Watch news from many perspectives; follow many viewpoints on social media. Let’s learn what we need to do on the way to 2018. The political is personal AND spiritual. Jesus was political, never forget.

6. Come to church often, and bring friends. Join a Bible study. Let’s learn about Revolutionary Love from the experts. Register for the Revolutionary Love Conference 2018.

7. Pray, eat, love, breathe, exercise, sleep, laugh, play, take sabbath. We need to re-create in order to survive.

8. Donate to Middle Church, your one-stop hub for love and justice.

9. Invite your friends into a book and/or movie group. Watch 13th or Crash. Read Ta-Nehisi Coates and Kelly Brown Douglas. Learn. Make strategies. Invite them to join our movement.

10. Call Congress, write your senators. Demand commonsense gun control laws, needed now more than ever in the wake of recent horrific shootings.

You give me such hope, Middle Family. You are resilient, loving, powerful, generous. You are revolutionary in your faithfulness, you are revolutionary in your love.

DACA, Harvey, and Charlottesville: This is an Emergency!

September 8, 2017 @ 03:30 pm by Jacqui Lewis

I was up on a mountaintop in New Mexico for a few days at an event called WIDEN. With five dozen young adults and five elders—my husband and I among them—we listened as Father Richard Rohrhelped us imagine what it means to be spiritual activists.

Fr. Rohr taught us when John’s gospel says “the Word became flesh” in the first chapter, it meant all flesh. Not just Jesus, but you, me, all the people, the animals, and the planet are all word-made-flesh. St. Francis of Assisi knew this, and so does Fr. Rohr.

I’m down from the mountain, back in Manhattan, watching the news, thinking, “Wow, we are in a state of emergency!!”

As POTUS opens his mouth and spits out venom and hatred disguised as patriotism; as he stands up for statues AND seeks to pull down every just and ethical statute helpful to human kind in the name of politics, I hear word-made-flesh.

I hear the flesh of God’s people rising up and speaking out. “O say, can you see,” I hear, “we are connected to each other. We will not stand idly by as you take away the dreams of 800,000 young people protected by DACA. We will stand with them and for them. We will call every representative, go to every town hall meeting, and demand that this land of immigrants keep making space for our Latinx brothers and sisters.”

The word-made-flesh that is the compassionate heart of Americans is speaking, “O say, can you see? We will fight to take down statues and symbols of white supremacy. We will not honor violence, hatred, cross-burning, and lynching as though we are proud of it; we loath it, and we will take those symbols and any statute that reinforces oppression down.”

As Harvey and Irma open their mouths and roar a swath of rain, wind, and destruction on seas and land; as the earth shakes and quakes, cracking open mountains and throwing tsunami tantrums, I think they are word-made-flesh. I hear, “O say, can you see how you have not cared for Mama Earth? How the waters are rising, the icecaps melting, the weather patterns changing? I am trying to get your attention. You must stop using my seas as a toilet; you must stop putting poison in the air; you must stop tearing holes in me, and taking out my goodness.”

You and I: We are word-made-flesh. Our hopes and dreams, our prayers and resistance that stand against hatred and stand for revolutionary love—those are God’s dreams. We are weeping God’s tears. We are speaking God’s commandment to love Her with everything we have and our neighbor as ourselves.

If you are in New York City on Saturday, come to a DACA rally to urge POTUS and our national leaders to leave DACA in place, to value the lives of the 800,000 people who are also word-made-flesh. Meet the Middle Church contingent near Columbus Circle at the southwest corner of 58th Street and Eighth Avenue at 1:45p, and march to Trump Tower to remind our nation that these young people are made in the image of God.

If you are in New York on Sunday, come to Middle Church at Second Avenue and 7th Street at 9:30a or 11:45a. Join us to sing and pray and stand in the presence of revolutionary love. As we remember 9/11 and claim the power of human connection, reflect on your own image-of-God-ness and your call to change the world.

No matter where you are when you read this, contact your representatives in both houses, and tell them what you think love looks like. Demand that they stand up for people and for the planet. Demand that they use their voices to represent yours. Tell them to save DACA, to take down every symbol of oppression, and to insist that POTUS do something about climate change. Demand their response right now!

Friends, this is an emergency. Mama Earth has been hurt and is showing us her wrath—the result of our ignorance and ignoring her. POTUS is intent on pulling down every just and ethical statute designed to support people on the margins—women, poor people, Black and Brown people, immigrants, and religious minorities. He cares more about statues that human hearts; more about reducing taxes for the wealthy than providing health care for all of us. As for Congress, most Republicans are intent on staying in power and dismantling Obama-era legislation rather than standing up against POTUS and for the people of our nation. Democrats need to become more creative and find ways to collaborate with the other party and govern. Our representatives must all stand up for what is just, what is right, what is fair. They must all ask themselves WWLD—What Would LOVE Do? And then they must do it, with courage and boldness.

This is an emergency. This is a time for a revolution, a love revolution. In cases of emergency, we know how to do this. We rescue each other from rising waters. We pull down moldy plaster and rebuild. We board up windows together, or fly each other out of danger. We open our doors and our hearts. We stand up, we march, we sit in, we die in. We change the law. We change the tide. We make it better. We take care of each other. We have each other’s backs.

We know what revolutionary love looks like, and we know how to live it out loud as justice and advocacy. This IS an emergency. In case of emergency: LOVE.

Complex Love: Revolutionary Activism - a matter of life and death

July 11, 2016 @ 04:35 pm by Jacqui Lewis

As I shared in my sermon on Sunday, July 10:

The 4 year old child who witnessed the killing of Philando Castile, is our child. The children of the five Dallas police officers who were killed -- Lorne Ahrens, Michael Krol, Michael J. Smith, Brent Thompson and Patrick Zamarripa -- are our children. And the children of Alton Sterling, they are our children. We must end the violence now for the sake of our children, it is a matter of life and death.

In the Matter of Black Lives. . .

July 7, 2016 @ 04:05 pm by Jacqui Lewis

He was walking in his hoodie, carrying Skittles and an ice tea. He was selling cigarettes. He was selling CDs. She was pulled over for changing lanes without signaling. He was pulled over for a broken taillight. He was walking down the stairs, because the elevator was broken. He was standing on his front porch. She was sleeping on her grandmother’s couch. She was standing with her boyfriend on a corner.

He was registering people to vote. He had whistled at a White woman, so they say. He was standing on his front lawn. He was standing on a motel balcony.

A man’s body is slammed against a car, he is wrestled to the ground, face smashed into pavement. My head hurts, watching, feeling the rub of the asphalt. I have been here before. The familiar sense of suffocation. Hard to breath with your face in the concrete. Subdued, they are sitting on him, on me. He is tased. I am tased. I am shot. In the chest. I can’t breathe. In the back, it is on fire. I am lying there, I use my hand to reach up to touch the bleeding space. I am dying. I am dead.

He is us; that is our blood oozing out onto the pavement, our children weeping as our image is plastered in the media.

He is dead. We are dead. Reciting from our graves the names of the all-too-many killed at the hands of the state or by those who know the state will exonerate them.

A little girl sits in the back seat, her mother is praying over and over again, “Please Jesus, don’t let them have killed my boyfriend.” He is bleeding, slumped over, a pulpy mess where his arm should be. She watches, she listens, and we see what she sees, hear what she hears. There is a policeman holding a gun in the window, pointing at him, who is moaning. Mommy is talking into the phone, making a video. She has to get Mommy’s purse. Now we are in the police car. Mommy is crying, she is losing it. I am afraid, but I think she is more. I tell Mommy, “I am right here with you.”

The man is dead, they killed her childhood.

They killed our childhood, they killed us all, and we and our children are screaming, and afraid, and traumatized. Their blood is in the ground, which is crying out, “How long, O Lord?”

Our dead bodies choking in the dirt struggle to scream, “When will it end? When will our lives matter, when will Black Lives Matter?”

We know this hatred is not inherent; we know that are not born to hate. We learn to hate.

It starts with a suspicion, that the so-called Negro is inferior, fueling fake science to support the hatred. Biblical myths have fueled the hatred. Cain kills his brother Abel, and God is angry. Cain is marked or cursed with dark skin or Black skin. Southern Baptists used this so-called curse to justify slavery. Brigham Young—the second president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—the Mormon Church—used this so-called curse to argue, in 1852, that Blacks could not be priests in the denomination, a ban that was lifted 125 years later. Noah cursed his son Ham, and according to some Jewish, Muslim, and Christian believers, the curse was for his progeny to be slaves.

And so it is, condoned by broken theology, and now by cultural conscription, that Black lives matter so little in our nation that they can be pummeled, kicked, tossed, tased, trashed, shot, killed, and discarded. With little consequence. With impunity. As though they are less than animals.

This hatred of Black flesh so deeply imbedded in our culture. It must be addressed for the sickness and sin it is.

What must we do?

1.) There must be repentance. We must acknowledge that to be silent is to agree, to be complicit. That we have not done enough, must be whispered in confession booths, must be prayed from pulpits, must be preached in sermons. God’s creation includes beautiful Black bodies and when we disregard their lives we disregard the God who created us all. We mock God, and that is not acceptable.

2.) We must create a revolution, a love revolution, that acknowledges that each body is awesomely and wonderfully made in the image of God, who delights in all flesh, in Black flesh. The revolution is specific, it begins with each relationship. An acknowledgement of particularity. A deep listening of story. We cannot be conceptual revolutionaries, we must not be closet prophets. We must know an “other” and love them and carry them inside us at all times. With empathy.

3.) We must revise the narrative. The story of White supremacy is a lie that must be disrupted on the level of culture, society, and legislation. At the level of system and government. And this must begin at home at our dinner tables, in our congregations, at our fellowship hours. Our outrage must create a revised narrative, a new story. A story in which all of God’s children are seen and cherished as wonderful, gorgeous, beloved, valued, fabulous, awesome mirrors of the image of God.

4.) And though this work is for all of us, I would be remiss if I did not say that White people have a special role to play in changing this story. You who have privilege must own it. There is no more time for denial. You who have privilege must teach your children that they have privilege and with it comes responsibility. To open doors for others. To share power, to step back from power. To learn how to follow Black lives into the trenches, and to be willing to be taught. You must be willing to learn. Read Black history, because it is your history. Bring those stories to the classroom, to the church school room, and to the pulpit. Read the Bible for the stories of the people of color in it. Disrupt the Whiteness of Jesus/Yeshua and claim his Afro-Semitic roots. You must tell other White people that they have power and you must not mince words. You must—because you are truth-tellers—tell the truth. Because the truth will set us all free.

Hatred is coming for us; you know this. It is coming for immigrants, for Muslims, for Jews, for Sikhs. It is coming for gays, lesbians, for bisexual and transgender people. Hatred is coming for anyone who is “other,” and it is coming for Black bodies, for Black men, women, and children. And so we who believe in freedom must come to understand that when a Black body is killed, we have been murdered. When a Black child is hungry, our nation’s stomach must growl. When a Black grandmother goes to the polls and can’t vote, our rights are being dismantled. When it is done to the least of us, to the marginalized ones of us, it is done to us. To you and to me. To the Christ who calls us into mission.

We still have a race problem in America. In the matter of Black lives, church has work to do.

Water. Fire. Spirit.

January 10, 2016 @ 03:25 pm by Jacqui Lewis

Before the creator God said, “Let there be light, let there be creatures;” before the Creator said, “Let there be humankind in our own image;” before the Word that was God was calling us into being; before God made the human one from the earth and blew the Spirit of Life into lungs animating and inspiring the first people; before that…

The Spirit of God, the Breath of God, the Wind of God hovered over the blue and green waters. Hovering and blowing waves into crescendos that rose and fell, rose and fell, leaving footprints on the sand.

Those waters, blessed by the hovering Spirit, carved out mountains and valleys, rose, and plummeted and cascaded from waterfalls, travelled around cracks and crevices and carved ponds and lakes out of stone, went underground to make springs, hot and cool and refreshing, travelled along the beautiful earth to make streams and rivers.

The waters froze and made glaciers, thawed and are thawing still, causing oceans to rise and climate patterns to change, warming the earth in ways that delight us and frighten us. The waters hang heavy in the air, making it so wet you could wring it like a sponge. Moist on our face, clinging to our clothing, heavy in our lungs so heavy, we pray for the rain to come and it comes. Falling afresh on us, watering plants and creating puddles for little rain boots to splash in, filling cisterns and water towers, irrigating crops, quenching the thirst of the parched places and the wildlife. Down it comes, causing joy and mudslides, making forests green and providing oases in the desert.

And the waters traveled deep down into the ground, and they moved along the table, and they joined the waters of the ocean, the deep blue ocean, and journeyed between continents and washed up on shores and became rivers and canals and tributaries and were purified for drinking and bathing.

The rivers of Babylon. The brooks in the forest in Michigan. The snow on the caps of Mount Kilimanjaro. The cistern in a camp in Minnesota. The water in a well in Jerusalem. The bath in Baghdad. The water on a wood stove in the Congo. The tap water in a restaurant in the East Village. The Tigris and the Euphrates and the canals in Amsterdam.

The Jordan River, chilly and cold. Chilling the body but not the soul.

Into that river, Jesus, whose name is Yeshua, whose parents named him a word that means God saves, stepped down, raising his tunic just a little, grabbing hold of the muddy slippery bottom with his toes. Walked into the river as some made their way out. Smiling the knowing smile of shared culture and ritual. This is what we do; this is how we mark transitions and rites of passage. This is how we cleanse ourselves, how we purify ourselves. This is the right thing to do, the righteous thing to do.

His cousin John is the water, has been preaching in his wild clothing that the Kingdom of God was coming, that those who would be ready should repent and be baptized. Should change their minds and be baptized. Should turn their lives around and be baptized. Should return to the way, and be baptized. Should confess their sins, speak together their sins. Speak their collective waywardness and sense of being lost and hoping to be found, tell the truth on themselves and open their hearts to the light and say, “Come and find me, heal me, change me and be changed.”

They got in the river to be baptized not because they believed but because they doubted and wanted to believe. Not because they were holy but because they wanted to be holy and whole. Not because they were perfect and without sin but because they were human, and would be made more perfect as they turned toward the Holy one.

When they asked what to do, John told them to give away their extra stuff, to keep only what they need. That the coming Kingdom requires an ethic of sharing, radical hospitality, love in action.

Yeshua stepped into the river to be baptized. Into the river that is of the waters, the original waters, the ancient waters, to ritualize his righteousness, as a sign of the covenant, to point to the newness the Kingdom would bring. As a symbol of the renewal that the soon-coming Spirit would bring. And so Yeshua, son of David, born into a family with a culture and rituals, went down by the Riverside, stepped in the water, went to the ancient river, walked into the water, and stood near his cousin John dressed in camel hair with a leather belt around his waist. This one of whom John said he was not worthy to tie his sandals, this one who would come and baptize the people with Holy Spirit. This one came into the water and yielded to his cousin, like all of the people in Jerusalem.

And when he was baptized, Jesus was praying. Was he praying thanksgiving? Was he praying for his people? Did he, Yeshua, confess his shortcomings? Did he speak together with the gathered people of fear and suspicion and hopelessness and despair? Did he join his voice in the collective confession? When we are afraid, we sin. When we feel dismissed, we sin. When we are overwhelmed with meeting our own physical needs, we sin. When someone offends us, we can be offensive, and we sin. When we feel oppressed, we oppress others, and we sin. We are overwhelmed and we do nothing, and we sin.

The one who is the bearer of good news, the one who knows the heart of God, the one who came to heal the world stepped into the river, and was baptized, and turned even more fully to his God, and God saw him and broke open the heavens and the Spirit of God descended in way that looked like a dove, and God said, “You are my son, the beloved, in whom I am well pleased.”

Yeshua is the Son, and God is pleased. And you, you and yes you, you are God’s child, Beloved. God is pleased to dwell in you, to walk with you, to hold you, to receive you when you turn your heart over to God, to wait for you when you don’t feel like it, until you feel like it.

There is no river in this place, but these are the waters of the earth, these are the ancient waters. This is the water of all time. This is the water of baptism.

This water is blessed; it is holy, it has traveled the earth, it knows God’s breath. It has been breathed upon by Holy Spirit.

We, in this space, have been blessed by water, bathed by water, comforted by water, soothed by water, healed by water.

We have climbed into hot springs or hot tubs. We have stood in saunas or in moist, humid places, and our skin has tingled with the damp warmth. We have stuck our toes in the foam of the ocean, and stuck out tongues to taste snowflakes.

We have dived into the water, headfirst. We have clung to the side of swimming pools because we swim poorly, and have soaked in the tub and asked Calgon to take us away. We have washed our dogs in the water, washed our cars with the water. We have washed that gray right out of our hair with the water.

We have cooked for friends and washed the dishes with the water. We have splashed our faces with the water, run the water over our wrists to cool off. We have taken long swigs of water for strength, and tasted snow.

The water has baptized us.

We have remembered the water, with our bodies, with our hearts. When we recall it, we know, in deep place like a memory, that God sees us and knows us and loves us and forgives us.

We have also been baptized by Spirit, by the hovering breath of God. God’s Grace is more than sufficient to pick us up when we fall down, set us on the right path.

And, we have been baptized with fire. The Spirit has come and rested upon you, upon me. It looked like a dove when it came to call Yeshua beloved; it came looking like tongues of fire at Pentecost, giving us gifts to heal the world, giving us passion with which to do our work.

Spirit baptism, we are fired up and we are ready to go.

This water I am touching is living water.

Because you have been baptized with Spirit, and fire, and water, you are anointed and appointed to be God’s hands and feet in the world. You are the ones God has been waiting for right now, today, to do what God has called us to do to heal this broken world.

Jesus’ baptism started his ministry; it was his identity shaper. You have been baptized with Spirit, with fire, and with water. You are called by God to do a bold new thing on the earth. You can do it. You will do it. We can do it.

Every time you touch the water. In a dishpan, in a bathtub, as you make tea, as you brush your teeth. As you leap into the ocean, as you fish in a lake. Every time the water touches you, as it rains on your face, as it clings to you like second skin, as it sprinkles your hair with snow. Remember this: you, like Yeshua, are a child of God. You, like Yeshua, are called to ministry.

This is a new year, this is a new day; this is the beginning of the rest of our lives of faith.

Go. Be. Do. Love.

What You Can do for #BlackLivesMatter Now

August 9, 2015 @ 01:20 pm by Jacqui Lewis

Dear Friends:

One year ago, when Mike Brown was murdered in the midst of tears and grief, we prayed with our hands up as tempers flared and fires burned. When we saw Eric Garner die on camera, it took our breath away. When Sandy Bland died in custody, we saw the lethal consequences of racism behind bars. And when fifteen people died in houses of worship—six in Oak Creek and nine in Charleston, we were stunned that hate could drive white supremacists to spill blood even in sacred spaces.

In the last year, an eruption of moral rage has led to a rapidly growing multi-racial, multi-gendered, multi-generational, multi-faith movement for racial and economic justice. We have grieved, wept and turned our #PropheticGrief into fervent prayers and courageous action. In Ferguson, we stood with clergy and organizers calling for repentance and renewal. We have died-in and marched from New York City to Washington, D.C. We have traveled to Charleston, Selma and Winston-Salem to stand in solidarity with our sisters and brothers. We have walked the halls of power, from Capitol Hill to the Pentagon, to demand the just treatment of all people. We have put our feet on the ground and our bodies on the line to make sure brown and black lives matter -- at the polls, in our schools, in the marketplace and on our city streets.

We are a small school of faith leaders -- Christian, Jewish, Sikh, and Muslim - channeling the hunger for justice in our many communities into a single chorus, calling for change. We are not the only ones. This movement has many leaders -- queer Black working class women, undocumented youth, Muslim and Sikh advocates, and so many more. They are organizing on the ground and online, connecting our struggles, and building unlikely coalitions. If we believe in the freedoms for which our ancestors died we must join them. Together, we can renew our commitment to build the movement to topple the wages of racism for people of all faiths, colors, and beliefs.

Will you join us?

Go to for a list of National Demands, which include supporting the End Racial Profiling Act (ERPA). This law will prohibit the use of profiling on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin or religion by law enforcement agencies. Introduced last April by Congressman John Conyers and Senator Ben Cardin, a groundswell of support could make this law in the fall. For sample messaging for letters and phone calls to elected officials, go to

Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II Pastor, Greenleaf Christian Church Goldsboro, NC
Rabbi Sharon Brous Founding Rabbi, IKAR Los Angeles, CA
Sister Simone Campbell Executive Director of NETWORKBishop Minerva Carcaño Bishop, California-Pacific Conference, UMC
Dr. Sharon Groves Faith organizer and strategist working at the
intersection of faith, LGBTQ equality and justice
Rev. Dr. Peter G. Heltzel Assoc. Professor of Systematic Theology at NYTS Director, The Micah Institute
Valarie Kaur, Esquire Interfaithleader, Civil rights lawyer, and filmmaker
Rabbi Stephanie Kolin Associate Rabbi ,Central Synagogue in NYC.
Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis Senior Minister, Middle Collegiate Church in NYC
Reverend Michael-Ray Mathews Director of Clergy Organizing at PICO
Brian D. McLaren Author, speaker, activist, and networker
Rev. Dr. Otis Moss III, Senior Pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ in ChicagoBishop Gene Robinson Retired Bishop, The Episcopal Church
Linda Sarsour Community activist and Executive Director of the Arab
Arab American Association of New York.
Rev. Dr.. Katharine R. Henderson President, Auburn Theological Seminary
Rev. John Vaughn Senior Vice President, Auburn Theological Seminary

Into God’s Hands

April 3, 2015 @ 09:56 pm by Jacqui Lewis

Sometimes it feels like death is all there is.

On a Kenyan university campus, 147 students massacred and another 79 wounded. Christians separated from Muslims and picked off like skeet in a shoot. A militant group—Al Shabaab—proudly takes credit for the carnage.

Sometimes it feels like death is all there is. The dying hopes of Nigerian girls and their families that they will return home. The swath of death and destruction at the hands of Isil. Dead black and brown bodies, male, female, gay and transbodies, children’s bodies slain at the hands of those hired to protect and serve. The horrific retaliatory violence aimed at the police, aimed as though violence is an appropriate response, when indeed it is not.

Sometimes it feels like death is all there is: the slowly dying intent of the more well to do, who feel stuck in betwixt and between their ethics and values and those of their companies and co-workers. The dying promises of a democracy, in which government should and must care for the most vulnerable, whose promises are on life-support.

Sometimes it feels like civility and dialogue are dead, manners are dead, kindness and care for the marginalized are dead, simple acts of grace are dead.

Sometimes it feels like even life-giving, meaningful spiritual practices are dying and what arise in their stead are judgmental platitudes and rigid gatekeeping about who is in and who is out. Meaningful religion, life giving spirituality -- the welcoming, radically loving, justice seeking, community affirming effects of religion at its best -- can feel almost extinct.

Perhaps it even feels to some like God is dead.

So this holy-day rolls up on us a like gangster, ready to jack our faith, insist on our doubt, and say, "yes, yes the innocent one was murdered, he was crucified, they tortured him, they pierced his side and crowned him with thorns."

We say, "So what, old news; what does it mean? What can it possibly mean?? They are still killing the innocent," we say, wagging our heads. "They kill the prophets," we say, hoping our own prophet-ness will not stop our breathing. They hung him out to die and to dry and with him, right there with him, like the two thieves, we die, too.

Our faith can die. Our sense of right, our hope that might is destroyed by the kind and gentle acts of loving people, it feels crucified, dead and buried, like that creed we memorized when we were younger. It can feel as though all of us, have descended into hell.

Sometimes it feels like death is all there is. Dreams not only deferred, but dying, hanging loosely, only by a thread to vines that are suffering from root rot, and decay—overwatered with the tears of both the hopeful and the hopeless, wilting under the weight of expectation.

Mouths hang open, caught midway between a stifled cry, a lament and that nervous kind of laugh that escapes us when we know not what we do. "O my God why have you forsaken us?"

If this was the way, if he was the one, why did sorrow and love pour mingled down? If this was the way, if love was the way, if he was the truth and the life then why, why did the liars accuse and the people run? Why did they put him there, on the cross, to languish, to suffer? Why are the mothers of the captured daughters on the cross? Why are the survivors of the draught, the quake, the ones murdered by bombs guns, the ones burnt out by fire, the ones whose souls are murdered by bullying, why are they on the cross, hanging, dying only to be buried in the earth, in a cave, in the ground, in the system, in the muck and mire of human failure?

It felt like death then. They had walked with him, talked with him. Learned from him, laughed with him, supped with him, drank wine with him. Yet they fell asleep when he was praying, they ran when he needed them. The pain too much to bear, the fear too heavy to wear.

We want to run. From the pain, from the death. He can’t breathe hanging there, he can’t breathe and we can’t catch our breath. Not speak. Not to act. Not to run for our lives.

He can’t breathe. He can’t run. Like the Psalmist, he commends his spirit to the One he trusts. The Intimate one. The one he calls Father. He can’t breathe and he does not run, he pitches himself into the arms of God, surrounded by enemies and enmity. He lodges his soul, his life, his breath, into the hands of his God for safekeeping. He puts his life in the capable hands of the creator, liberator, redeemer, sustainer, into the One who knows him, loves him. And though he is in pain, breathless, almost lifeless, the one called Jesus rests in the hands of God.

This is what faith is. Not a magic formulae for a perfect life. Not a parachute out of danger and harm. Not a bubble of protection from fear and heartbreak. Not a talisman to be rubbed for good luck.

Faith is putting our lives, our souls, our breath in the hands of God.

Faith is intimate. It is trust. It is tender and sometimes eludes us.

If faith is putting your lives in God’s hands, then prayer is the transaction that allows us to do so. Prayer is the language that connect us. Like a child seeking the face of her mother, prayer enables us to seek the face of God.

Jesus knew how to pray and taught his disciples how to do so. Father. Mother .God. Holy be your name, for yours is the Reign.

And though he could hardly breathe, Jesus is paraphrasing a psalm. Be gracious to me O Lord for I am in distress. My eye wastes away from grief. My soul and body also. For my life is spent with sorrow and my bones waste away. I have passed out of mind like one who is dead. But I trust you O Lord. You are my God. My times are in your hand.

My times are in your hand.

Into your hands, I commend my spirit.

Into your hands I commend my breath.

In death, in so much death, and in life

Into your hands, O God, help us put our lives.

A Particular Woman’s History

March 1, 2015 @ 05:50 pm by Jacqui Lewis

My grandmother’s birthday was yesterday. She would be 102. When I was a little girl, I thought there was a river running around her one-story white clapboard house on the hill, with black trimmed awnings reaching toward the sky. I grew to understand that there was no river; it was a ditch for runoff. And the hill was just a little high ground to avoid flooding.

Oh, how I loved her house. I loved the fact that the door was almost always open. I loved looking into the screen door at the living room, the mesh making it look misty and magical. I loved the colorful woven rugs on the floor, the dark mahogany table in front of the soft couch and love seat covered in blue. I loved the well-dusted miniatures kept high on shelves and in the étagère. I loved the sunny yellow kitchen and the rich smells that refused to leave. Bacon and greens and ham and sweet potato pie and pot roast and fried chicken and freshly baked corn bread swirled, hypnotizing me.

I loved the white crocheted bedspreads in the two bedrooms and the white doilies on the tabletops and the smell of Lemon Pledge and Pine-Sol that signaled her fastidious attention to clean. I loved the pink fluffy rugs in the bathroom and the smell of talcum powder and Ivory soap and the neatly folded don’t-touch-me towel hanging on the rack.

I loved her. Ma’ Dear. Mommy’s mommy. Born February 24, 1913. Stout, red-boned—meaning reddish-brown like that clay-tinged dirt surrounding the house sprouting crabgrass. I loved her stunning smile, wide and open and white despite her chewing-tobacco habit. I loved the way her kisses were sweet like sugar, sugar for which she asked in a lovely Mississippi Delta drawl. “Come here gal, and give me some sugah; I love you,” and the way she smelled like cinnamon and lavender. I loved her laugh, a laugh that broke my heart wide open, and I loved her eyes and the way they were shaped like almonds. Mommy has those eyes, and the same cheekbones, and the same skin that seems never to wrinkle stretched tautly across them.

Though she was the number 5 child, she took care of 14 brothers, and her own often-pregnant mother. She raised three children—Emma, my mom, the middle child; Verline, Mommy’s baby sister; and Gus, the oldest brother. She raised them after their father skipped out and moved north to another town and started another family. She raised them sharecropping, chopping cotton, and working as a nurse’s aide at the hospital. She raised them on crowder peas and pole beans and cabbage and pigs raised on her little plot of land. She raised them with love thick as molasses, with a switch when needed, and with the Bible as her guide. She raised them in church, sent them to the only school they could attend—the colored one—and held them in the big love of her bosom. She raised them to love each other. Gus has passed. Emma and Verline talk every day on the phone. Every day.

Louella Edwards. Li’l Sis. Mama. Ma’ Dear—my grandmother. Strong. Courageous. Faithful. Matriarch. A Christian whose favorite verse was, “Pray for your enemies.” Friend. I inherited her hats when she died. Big, beautiful, snazzy hats with bows and veils. A particular woman with hats and gloves and a story. Her story.

How did a particular woman’s history shape your story? This month at Middle Church, we will celebrate the women in our lives, how they raised us and what they taught us, about faith and courage. I hope you will share your powerful women’s stories with each other.

The Longest Four Minutes of My Life

February 1, 2015 @ 07:00 am by Jacqui Lewis

Right after the Rodney King violence in LA, I was in graduate school and had cut my hair in a short afro to make it easy to care for. I lived on the Jersey Shore and almost every day driving to Princeton, a police car—at least one—would follow me, ease up on me, check my plates, and sometimes pull me over, the shock registering on their face when I was a woman.

Oh, how we need a movement for racial justice. And we now stand on the shoulders of Ella Baker, Fannie Lou Hamer, Diane Nash and so many more. I am a child of the Civil Rights Movement; we have done this before. There are Selma moments all over the nation. People working together to cross the Bridge to racial reconciliation. We will not rest until Congress helps put an end to racial profiling, until there is a Congressional hearing on the criminalization of communities of color, and until we demilitarize the police.

On Wednesday, January 21, an interreligious bunch of us got on a bus to DC at 5:30 am to assert how much Black lives matter, Black women’s lives matter, and all lives are sacred. Here is Jonathan Lucas’s testimony about our experience. —Jacqui Lewis

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Martin Luther King, Jr. Sunday Worship and Teach-In

January 10, 2014 @ 02:19 pm by Jacqui Lewis

Scripture says, “They shall beat their swords into plowshares.” Such a radical idea that both the prophets Micah and Isaiah describe it. Take the things that do violence, melt them, and reshape them into the tools that give life. We will do just that, as we invite you to join in celebrating the non-violent legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

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My Gift to Bring

December 12, 2013 @ 05:01 pm by Jacqui Lewis

The World Wide Web. The Internet. Twenty years ago, my friend Jim told me it was coming. An encyclopedia of information from around the globe. Search engines that could find anyone and anything. A network of resources beyond my imagination at my fingertips. And, a thing called email. Wow!

Jim set up an account for me at AOL that I used every now and then to communicate with my church team. Today, I am in a meeting for an hour, and 85 emails await me. The Internet helps me write sermons, blogs, and my book. I am learning how to use Twitter to get in the fast lane of conversations. And I have recently learned another amazing gift the Internet has to offer: online shopping!

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On Earth as It Is in Heaven

November 6, 2013 @ 01:38 pm by Jacqui Lewis

On earth as it is in heaven. We pray this every Sunday. We name our God as Holy Parent, just like Jesus did, and then we ask for it to be on earth as it is in heaven.

I admit that when I was young, I thought of heaven as a place with pearly gates and streets paved in gold. There are images like this in the Bible, and those inform spirituals and hymns. I came to think of heaven as a place like Oz, over the rainbow; a place up in the sky where "troubles melt like lemon drops away above the chimney tops..." 

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Touch the Finger of God

October 1, 2013 @ 11:33 am by Jacqui Lewis

Michelangelo's painting, "The Creation of Adam," has always taken my breath away. Adam is depicted reclining in the garden; a beautiful face and strong masculine body, his left arm resting on his left leg as though it is too heavy to bear. His hand as graceful as any dancers, almost, but not quite touching the hand of God. God is in heaven, with angels all around him, one tucked underneath his left arm, while his right extends beyond heaven toward the human. God's bearded face, softly draped white garment and kind, intense gaze grace a body that seems in the same proportion as that of the man. One might ask, "Who is in the image of whom?" They always looked like partners to me, God and the human one. A few years ago, when I saw this image on the almost fully restored ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, my heart leapt out of my body. I sense in the painting the yearning of God to be close to the creation, to be near to us, to partner with us.

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Marchin’ Up to Freedom Land

July 16, 2013 @ 04:45 pm by Jacqui Lewis

Late Sunday night, John got a call from his 38-year-old son, now mine. Joel was walking home late with his girlfriend on a quiet street in Brooklyn, when he was assaulted by an African American man who seemed to be Joel's age. He punched Joel in the head behind his ear-"clocked me" to use Joel's words-and then ran around in front of Joel, ready to fight. Why? It seemed to be a reaction to the Zimmerman trial. That is what Joel thinks.

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We Can Make a Difference...

May 3, 2013 @ 10:31 am by Jacqui Lewis

I am amazed at the ways people of faith can make a difference in the world. I traveled to Pakistan with my colleagues Bob Chase, Hussein Rashid, and Michael Livingston. We were part of an interreligious delegation to Pakistan arranged by Intersections International. When we met with Pakistani leaders—Muslim leaders—it was the commitment we share to a healed world, and the love we share for God who calls us all by name, that inspired our courageous conversation. We are committed to doing something that heals the breaches of misunderstanding and suspicion.

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Blogging for The Huffington Post

March 27, 2013 @ 12:00 pm by Jacqui Lewis

For Holy Week, I wrote a poem about Jesus and then I reflected on how during his time and now there is a clash of values. You can read "Jesus, This Ain’t No Ordinary King" in The Huffington Post.

Our Small But Mighty Team

March 13, 2013 @ 11:15 am by Jacqui Lewis

On Saturday, February 23, 2013, volunteers from Middle Collegiate Church traveled to the Rockaways to work with Rockaway Plate Lunch Truck to provide relief to those affected by Sandy. Rachel Hippert, one of our Ministry Coordinators, wrote this guest blog about that experience.

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We Must All Work to End Gun Violence Now

January 29, 2013 @ 04:52 pm by Jacqui Lewis

Thank you to Sojourners! They published my piece "What's Going On: Mobilizing Against Gun Violence" in their God's Politics Blog.

Praying A Deep Sigh

December 19, 2012 @ 11:30 am by Jacqui Lewis

Hello everyone. We are all reading more about the shootings in CT. We are learning more about the lovely people who died, about acts of heroism, about the shooter’s life. And we are so sad. We are also hearing more and more opinions about why this happened, what we should do about it, and where God is in it. I am sure that God is NOT ever willing acts of violence. I am grieving, I am shocked, I am sad, and I am clear that we have GOT to do something about gun control in this country. I have more to say, and I am sure you do, too. We will have these conversations, and say the words we need to say. For now, I offer this blog at Huffington Post, along with my tears.

Ways to Contribute to the Hurricane Sandy Relief Effort in New York

November 1, 2012 @ 03:15 pm by Jacqui Lewis

Here are ways you can contribute to Hurricane Sandy's relief effort:

  • You are invited to assemble and distribute brown bags of prepared food in the East Village on Sunday, November 4. We will pack food items at 9 am and 10 am and distribute after worship at 122 Second Avenue. Email Minister Tricia Sheffield at, to be a part this.
  • Our partners at the Interfaith Assembly for Homelessness and Housing have organized door-knocking downtown at 200 Madison Street (cross-street is Rutgers Street) on Saturday morning. They''ll be checking on residents and helping distribute aid and identify at-risk residents that need help. For more information, including directions, click here

Here are organizations who are assisting with the relief:

WNYC also offers a list of how you can volunteer in the region:

For questions about access to power, food and other frequently asked questions after the storm, see this resource:

Huffington Post's "Hurricane Sandy: How To Help & What You Need To Know" is also helpful: 

The Interfaith Assembly for Homelessness and Housing is also compiling a list of volunteer opportunities to aid with hurricane relief. That can be found here

If you know of something that we have missed, please feel free to leave it in the comments. 
Restor(y)ing My Soul

July 2, 2012 @ 05:00 pm by Jacqui Lewis

Dear Middle Church family,

I was awarded a grant from the Louisville Institute for a three-month sabbatical I proposed titled “Restor(y)ing My Soul,” a journey in which I would trace my theological roots. I proposed to interview my relatives, including my Great Uncle Ed, who is the last surviving sibling of my maternal grandmother’s generation. Uncle Ed is a Baptist preacher, and will turn 90 this July. His sister, my Ma’ Dear was the “knee baby” (second youngest), and he is the youngest of 13 siblings. He has some stories to tell and I can’t wait to hear them. I also proposed to go to Greece and Italy and do some of Paul’s missionary journey. Since I was awarded the grant, I received an invitation to be in a study group at the Hartmann Institute in Jerusalem, so I will travel to the places where Jesus did his ministry as well. Oh how wonderful!

Here is the itinerary: July 1 was my last day at work. First, my husband John and I will travel to New Orleans, where I will speak at the Essence Music Festival, then to Chicago to be with my family at Mom’s family reunion. We will return to New York and leave the same day for Israel, and stay there for 10 days. From there, we travel to Athens and Rome. I will be thinking about theology from the spaces where the early church took root – I am thrilled about that! Since we are so close, we will visit Paris as well. Then we will be home – resting, writing a book, working out, enjoying some down time and real Sabbath. I will be back at Middle Church on October 1.

I am expecting to return rested, refreshed, restored, and restor(i)ed. I leave you with prayers for a blessed summer, and for you to also find some Sabbath time. I also leave you with hope – that whatever your heart is yearning for, whatever are the prayers you are praying, they are answered and that you have peace.


Jacqui will be sharing "Postcards" from her sabbatical on her Facebook page.

Help Grace Community Church

May 23, 2012 @ 04:14 pm by Jacqui Lewis

Last week, just before preaching a sermon in Atlanta, I heard about this congregation in Minneapolis whose members stopped coming when their pastor voted to affirm marriage equality. The Sunday after the vote in 2005 (I fact checked) The Grace Community United Church of Christ lost 25% of its mostly African American members; now they are down to 45 or 50. Rev. White simply decided to believe out loud and vote with his denomination to fully include the LGBTI communities in the sacred and human right of marriage.

Living our faith in public can cost us friends, comfort, votes. AND it also is exactly what is needed to bring about God's Reign. I believe the universe responds with tears of joy when we do the right thing. We can change things; there can be miracles when we believe.

There is a large church in Dallas called Cathedral of Hope UCC. They rescued this little church by raising $15,000 in one Sunday. Two leaders delivered the love in person.

Sadly Grace Community Church still needs our help. That gift will only last until June. Another $200,000 has to be raised right now or they will have to close their doors.

The consistory, staff and I are sending $1.00 for each of our members--799, to the struggling St.Paul congregation. We are doing that right now because it is urgent and they need our love for standing up. You can give a dollar in the offering bag this Sunday along with your own giving to Middle's justice works. You can also send more to support them through Believe Out Loud.

I want to thank you for all of the ways you believe out loud and are generous for justice.

Wear a Hoodie to Church

March 22, 2012 @ 01:01 pm by Jacqui Lewis

On Wednesday night, hundreds of people — women, men, and children — took to the streets and marched from Union Square in reaction to the senseless killing of an unarmed Black teenager, Trayvon Martin. In their hoodies, with their children hoisted on their shoulders, they marched and chanted, full of lament: race clearly still matters in these United States of America. Black teenagers scare some people, therefore, walking while Black is a dangerous thing to do in some places, some times.

Keep reading.

Lent: Lengthening of Days

March 15, 2012 @ 04:08 pm by Jacqui Lewis

Read Jacqui's latest blog for the Huffington Post, "Lent: Lengthening of Days."

Is There Really a Church Like That?

March 6, 2012 @ 04:31 pm by Jacqui Lewis

When I was a little girl in Chicago, we used to watch the PTL Club, and sing along as people on television "praised the Lord." I was too young to know if their theology matched mine (what was theology?). I knew the music was different than that in my Baptist church on Sunday morning, but I liked it anyway. The people seemed joyful, and it was something, along with Ed Sullivan, that my parents let us watch.

Keep reading...

We Have All Come Over a Way that with Tears Has Been Watered: Reflections at the end of Black History Month

February 24, 2012 @ 12:51 pm by Jacqui Lewis

On this rainy Friday, it is my sabbath. I am not good at sabbath, but am trying to get comfortable having a day to just be, with God, with John, with me. A day to just let thoughts drift in and out of my mind, feelings in and out of my heart, in a mindful kind of way. I am trying to get comfortable resting, not doing, just being.

Keep reading

Jacqui on HuffPost

January 28, 2012 @ 04:47 pm by Jacqui Lewis

Over the foregoing nine months, I have written a number of pieces for the Huffington Post. You can find them compiled below, or a the Huffington Post. To subscribe to my HuffPost RSS feed, click here.

Click for list.

Middle Project Leadership Lab

November 11, 2011 @ 11:49 am by Jacqui Lewis

Middle Project Young Adult Leadership Lab graduate Kerry Docherty shares these thoughts about relationships, learnings and being in a spiritual community.

Kerry Docherty, a lawyer, during a Middle Project Young Adult Leadership Laboratory.


I spent most of my spiritual life a loner. I would attend a religious service, sit in the back, and silently creep out the back door when it ended. Just when I resigned to the belief that I may never find a sangha (my spiritual community), I found Middle Church.

Soon after I attended my first service, Christina found me in the pews and provided me with a warm welcome. A couple months later, Jacqui and John posed the possibility of the The Middle Project Young Adult Leadership Lab. I was hesitant at first, reluctant to become an active member of the church community as I had been disappointed in the past. My previous exposure to youth groups focused on handholding, talks of love, and kumbayas. The Middle Project, however, proved much different. Don’t get me wrong, there’s definitely still a lot of warm fuzzies involved, and some singing, of course (thanks to Jacqui), but most of the time we get down and dirty, working on self-examination, honest communication, and intentional listening.

The Middle Project participants are diverse in every capacity, including race, profession, sexual orientation, and spiritual background. That being said, we all share a common denominator – a desire to integrate our spiritual faith into our everyday experiences. Many of us entered the project with practical questions: what does it mean to be a progressive Christian? How does my faith influence my community? How do I know what God has planned for me and how do I know what I should be asking for? How can I, if at all, be an effective leader (spiritual or otherwise)?

Though I hadn’t met many of the other “Middlers,” prior to the project, I felt an immediate connection as we began to openly share our stories, doubts, opinions, and struggles. Even when there were disagreements, we respected each other. We allowed each other to feel heard. And although I had a tendency to feel vulnerable during class, I often left feeling empowered, expanded, and supported in both thought and spirit.

Since then, my relationship with some of the Middlers has deepened into friendship. For the first time in my life, I feel like I belong to a spiritual community.

What We Learn

Each Leadership Lab session has three different layers: (1) personal reflection, (2) our relationship with God, and (3) leadership in the community. In any given class, Jacqui and John effortlessly weave together academic exercises, experiential learning, and discussion groups. For example, in one of the first classes, we read articles on personality dynamics, took a personality test, and then did a sociommetry exercise, where we stood in different parts of the room to measure where people categorized themselves socially. The introverts then shared what it felt like to be in a room with extroverts and vice-versa. In another class, we explored the idea of “Being Storied,” where we read some of our very own Jacqui Lewis’ book, examined how the history of the United States has affected our current cultural issues – such as racism, inequality, and greed – and then shared with each other some of our own stories, stereotypes, and desires.

I left each class with a greater insight on the interplay between reflection, God, and community, and how these three jewels play out in the ordinary routines of life. By the end of class, my heart, mind, and stomach were full.

How The Middle Project Affects Work and World

The Middle Project is not focused on the esoteric or religious philosophical debate. Rather, the classes are centered on practical solutions to everyday problems. The class exercises encourage us to unearth our own strengths, insecurities, desires, and prayers and then explore how we can utilize them to effectuate change in our communities, be it at work, in school, or in our family. We’ve learned techniques such as how to communicate with difficult people at work, how to confront stereotypes, how to view our stories and histories from a different angle, and how to harness our power. Not only are we learning practical tools, but we are doing it in an environment that is both safe and challenging.

At this stage in my life, I’m still processing what my role is in this world – how I describe my faith, how my faith affects what job I pursue, how my faith affects how my interactions, how I can find my strengths and apply them, how to be an effective leader, what stereotypes I still harbor. Middle Project provided me with a safe environment to explore these questions, articulate some of my thoughts, and learn from the people around me. I would undoubtedly recommend the Project to anyone who has a lot of questions and wants to spend some time working through the answers with diverse, yet similarly passionate, individuals.

For Such a Time as This

October 27, 2011 @ 03:56 pm by Jacqui Lewis

It is getting cold outside, and sadly, tempers are getting hot in Atlanta and Oakland as occupiers are dispersed. In our own city, even in the midst of tensions, I keep hearing stories of the love and care being displayed among those in the park, and from so many who take care and Spirit down to Wall Street. I hear stories of consensus-building, even as boundaries are created to keep people safe. When people talk too long, a sign goes up to tell them time is up! Occupy Wall Street, however we feel about it, is organized to care for the community. There are committees and teams and assignments for leaders, all ready and set-up with intention to feed folk, keep them warm, wash their clothes, and keep the space clean. I know that some have a critique of this movement, but we have to critique this as well: there is a wide gap between God’s vision for a just society and the way our economy works. Unemployment and underemployment, increasing poverty among our children and older citizens, rising debt for students and working class families–the numbers do not add up in God’s Economy.

This is where their work IS our work. How do we as a people get to a better place? How do we dismantle current systems that do not care for most of us, and create systems that do? How do we listen to folk who are different than we are, listen for consensus in our stories and visions, and then create a new reality in which all of the people, especially the poor, are invited to sit at the welcome table (Luke 14:12-24)? How do we create a just society in which 100% of us are pulling together to heal our nation?

This Sunday following worship, my congregation, Middle Collegiate Church will host a Town Hall discussion so we can share stories and vision from many perspectives. Listening deeply with compassion in a safe space can lead to consensus and a new way to be human.

As we prepare for this conversation I would like you to think about these three questions.
• Question #1: What would a vision of economic justice look like to you?
• Questions #2: What do our visions have in common?
• Question #3: How do we collaborate across age, race, gender, economic status, faith tradition, political viewpoints and personal goals to achieve economic justice or God’s Economy?

This discussion will be streamed live and you can participate by asking questions via our FB Event page, or by tweeting @middlechurch using the hashtag #MCCEcon.

Later in the afternoon, there will be an Interfaith Worship at the park at 4:30pm led by Occupy Faith NYC.

Friends, our congregation is already very busy doing God’s work, providing food assistance to approximately 1,500 people per month and clothing for about 200 people a month for those in back-to-work transition or in need. We want to do more.

I am so proud of Middle Church. I personally LOVE the spirit of what is happening in the Occupy Wall Street movement, yet I know we do not all feel the same about it. Our diversity and respect for it is part of the magic of Middle Church. In the midst of our diversity, we all share a vision of God’s Economy–in which all have food enough to eat, clothes on our backs, safe and warm places to lay our heads, make a living wage so we can support our families, affordable health care so we can stay well, and jobs when we graduate from college so we don’t start our adult lives with a huge burden of debt. Economic Justice is a goal we all share.

How do you feel about economic justice? Your story matters to us as we think about God’s Economy. We hope you will join the conversation as we seek to build God’s Reign and God’s Economy on earth. I hope to see you Sunday, October 30th at 11:15 am for an artistic worship celebration in which the congregation participates in the sermon through movement and conversation. Please stay for our Town Hall Meeting and then lunch and talk at tables. I hope you will come on Sunday, November 6, at 6:00pm for a musically rich worship celebration featuring 30 Rock and Broadway’s Tituss Burgess, and more conversation afterward. And I hope you will add your voice to this important discussion as you follow us on line, on Facebook and on Twitter.

I believe we have all been called together for such a time as this. Good people of courage, with faithful hearts and open minds can and will change the world.

Occupy New York

October 7, 2011 @ 02:55 pm by Jacqui Lewis


One of the reasons I am passionate about Middle Church is that we have been addressing economic justice for more than 50 years. Olga Downey was an older woman who helped start the clothing closet. She got her clothes from that closet, saved her money, and left us an endowment that funds our children's ministry to this day. Lucille Bodden followed Olga in running the closet for a long time, and on a fixed income, was always faithful and generous in giving money to fund the ministries she loves. And now, due to some wonderful volunteers, our closet is getting boutiqued in a larger space so that our clients can feel clothed also with care. We feed close to 1,500 people each month with lunches in the park, bags of food to take home, and warm meals on Sundays. We also partner with New Alternatives and Momentum to feed homeless LGBTI youth and people living with HIV/AIDS. Generous people: people of means, people who struggle, people who give time, and people who give funds make ministry happen at Middle Church.

It is also true that our investments--Olga's fund and Collegiate investments--fund more than 75% of our ministry. That means Wall Street is a partner in our ministry.

I want to change the conversation, Middle family. I am bored with political rhetoric about class war fare. I want us to talk about class collaboration. I grew up in the Black Church, where the milkman and the accountant sat together on Sunday, taught their children to lead on Wednesday, marched for justice on Saturday, and gave what they had in time, talent, and treasure to make the church run. Once enslaved Africans were free, there was always an economic gap. But folk did not forget from whence they came, and they reached back and pulled someone up and helped someone out. The early church was like that, learning from its Jewish leaders, including Jesus himself, that in God's Economy, the poor, the orphaned, the widowed, the sick, and the lame were the responsibility of the community.

Class collaboration means that a faithful coalition of people realize that they can have a greater impact toward a more just society when they pool resources, enact strategies, build bridges, challenge the status quo, and speak truth to power. The early church learned that some have gifts for prophetic speaking and others have gifts for making sure people got fed. I think we need to resurrect these ideas and ideals and not waste time on us-versus-them tactics.

People of faith know that God's Economy does not have to be a dream; it can be a reality in this time and place. This is, to my mind, what it means to be faithful. How do I care for my family, save for our future, and help others care for their family and future as well? How do I share of myself and my resources for the greater good of humanity? On several occasions, Middle members have made donations directly to Middle Church to benefit someone else. "Give this to someone who really needs it..." This is the kind of partnership I want the Church to explore. Can we adopt a family or a classroom or create a scholarship fund or mentor children so they are ready for college?

I must admit, I am outraged at the state of our economy. It is not acceptable for a nation with this much wealth to have people living on cardboard outdoors, to have children who only get one meal a day at their school and that one meal threatened with tax cuts. It is outrageous to have older people have to choose between medication or food. Even still, I am less concerned about how we got here, whose fault it is, and whether someone else could have done it better than I am with what can we do now and how will we pull together to do it!

I want Middle Church to keep on feeding and clothing those who need our help. And I want us to change the story and the conversation as we work for a more just society in which food, clothing, clean water, shelter, and health care are guaranteed for everyone in this nation, everyone on our globe. This means coordinating work with other partners. This means marching and writing and blogging and talking about solutions to these systemic issues. This means asking the hard questions, holding leaders accountable, and being willing to be part of the solution. I don't think any one person can fix this thing, but I know by God's Grace and Spirit, WE can fix it together!

Several of our Middle family have been connected to the Occupy Wall Street movement since it began on September 17. Some have been organizing on line, some have been at the scene downtown. On Wednesday, some of our staff and lay leaders participated in the march on Wall Street. As we were standing and waiting, singing and strategizing, there was a great brass band rocking tunes that reminded me of a cake walk in Louisiana. There were union guys in purple shirts, dreadlocked children with their parents, and cameras everywhere ready to capture the moment. In my head, Gil Scott Heron's "The Revolution will not be televised" was playing, because in fact this is a revolution and it is being televised and You Tubed and blogged and tweeted.

A crowd of thousands in business suits and bandanas, sweat pants and saris, clergy attire and mohawks moved and pulsed like one body. This is what America looks like, we chanted, claiming our 99% status and in our great diversity of person and perspective collaborated on at least one message: This ain't working so well and we have to change it. I heard another song in my head, a spiritual: Hush, hush, somebody's calling my name... Oh my Lord, oh my Lord, what shall I do?

God is calling us to God's way of thinking, to God's Economy. You may wonder what that looks like. Jesus tells a story in the gospels (you heard it in September in worship) in Matthew 20:1-16. Workers who are hired early in the morning to work in the vineyard get the same pay as those who came at the end of the day. There is something about the way God loves us that is about ALL of us having what we need! Enough food, warm clothing, safe places to live, a living wage, affordable healthcare, access to education for our children. These are not luxuries, people of God. And there are enough resources in these United States to take care of all of us and then share with the world.

People of faith: wealthy people, middle class people, working class people, and poor people--we need to UNITE in our common call to be the people God created us to be. We are responsible to and for one another, we have to do this better; it is our watch and we must take care of business!! We must partner with one another, reach across the aisle as necessary, find partners, and build bridges so we can heal this land.

It is too simplistic to demonize all of the people who make more money than we do. Good people with wealth share it every day. Look at Steve Jobs and the legacy he leaves with us, rest his soul. The problem is a system that allows lobbyists to protect corporations from the appropriate tax; the problem is a tax code with loopholes that poor people will never find or fit through; the problem is that people of faith often don't dare even whisper, "I wonder if we can take this on, demand something different, build a bridge over which the poor can walk toward a better life?"

Middle is going to stay connected to this movement, just in case this is the revolution we have been waiting for. I am not looking for us to throw verbal bombs or to participate in vitriol and hatred. And I know that we who believe in freedom will not rest until it comes. Let's turn our restlessness into revolution, our anger into action, our despair into demonstration. And let's never forget the Power at work within us that is able to do more than we can ask or imagine--that Power is Love.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, "Cowardice asks the question - is it safe? Expediency asks the question - is it politic? Vanity asks the question - is it popular? But conscience asks the question - is it right? And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular; but one must take it because it is right."

On Sunday, after we have worshipped our God, after you have had some brunch and talked a bit with your neighbor about the economy, after our volunteer training, Trish and John will lead a coalition downtown. They are taking sandwiches and Spirit with them; they will sing and offer hope and prayers...

Because it is right. And we've got the Power!

Love and Light, Jacqui

For a list of Occupy Wall Street solidarity events and Facebook pages, click here.

Being God's Love

July 26, 2011 @ 11:24 am by Jacqui Lewis

by Jacqui Lewis

Before I heard our intern, Arin Fisher's amazing sermon on Sunday at church, I was at the Manhattan Marriage Bureau as couples were lining barricades on the first day same-sex couples could legally wed in New York State. It was absolutely amazing, moving, fabulous, and so, so powerful! People were dressed in their tuxedos, bright white shirts, wedding gowns and sporting large smiles and big hopes. Hundreds of couples and their friends beamed. I posted some of their photos on my Facebook page. There was applause from those in line when the first lesbian couple got married. There was community and camaraderie; it was kind of like Middle Church!

I was also moved by the portraits of the New York Times and watching the stories of couples in the NYT Video, "I Now Pronounce You..." made me cry the next day. The footage illustrated the love and commitment of these couples who for so long were denied rights. What's so powerful about these stories is that they focus on the personal narratives that have driven our hope for this day for so long. I was surprised and humbled to see that the Times also included words I said about our Christian faith, "God is love, and wherever love is, God is."

Brothers and sisters, thank you for being God's love to one another. We have witnessed with horror this week what can happen when God's love drops out of the Christian equation. As we pray for the families of those who were murdered in Norway, I can't help but send you and God great thanksgiving that we are a community where people can experience God's fierce love in and outside of our doors. Change doesn't come quickly, but it does come. And each of you as you love are leading the way to creating more of the world we hope for.

I know many of you have worked so hard for this civil right. And you have hopes of how our world will continue to change. On Sunday, during our morning worship celebration, we will honor this amazing change as we marry Kele & Renee and Alex & Jeremy. You won't want to miss the celebration, and I won't want to miss you this Sunday, as I prepare to go on vacation in August. As summer moves over us like a warm blanket, I hope you can still your life and experience the joy and gratitude of what has been accomplished.

What's Wrong with This Picture?

July 19, 2011 @ 09:29 am by Jacqui Lewis

The Reverend John Janka, The Middle Project

We have now turned on our own children. Predatory lending lead to foreclosures of homes largely occupied by middle class families. These foreclosures have allowed banks that participated in these predatory lending practices to now hold title to millions of properties that stand vacant while the middle class families who once lived in them swim against the tide of personal financial collapse. These families are drowning and, with them, their children are caught in the undertow of "too big to fail." It is our children's lives and futures that are at stake. It is past time to say "enough!"

Across the country, schools are cutting funding for programs; teachers are under siege for low test scores, are threatened with loss of job security, and are being held responsible for a broken system. This pattern of hand-me-down blame from public leaders to regional school administrators to local superintendents and principals and finally to teachers and even parents is shameful and grossly irresponsible. We are allowing a fracture in the middle class, separating public employees from the rest of the herd as sacrificial lambs in this blame game. But it is the children who are paying in the end. Larger class size, fewer teachers, cancelled programs, and an across the board demoralization of the troops on the ground. Something we would never tolerate in our military.

While homeless shelters are at capacity and non-profits struggle to provide emergency services, our government toys with a shutdown. While states and municipalities fend off insolvency, our government refuses to discuss tax increases on the wealthiest among us, perpetrating the lie that this would further harm the economy. Among the wealthiest among us are the politicians who refuse to even discuss raising taxes.

While our elderly and about-to-be elderly of modest means can't get the medications they need because they can't afford them, some of our political leaders are ready to sell out on Medicare and Medicaid and some want to dismantle the healthcare guarantees we have now, limited though they be while they enjoy top of the line coverage. So, families are forced to choose between grandma and their own children when it comes to holding the family together and getting needs met.

Unemployment is ravaging families in this country while large corporations and banks that benefited from enormous bailouts are holding on to that money rather than investing in the country's future by creating jobs. We talk of patriotism in terms of preserving our national security, protecting our borders and sacrificing our young on the global stage. May we also speak of patriotism as the motivation to set aside political self interest in the cause of a just and equitable economic balance sheet that guarantees our children will have hope in their own future.

While those who helped precipitate this financial debacle continue to receive outrageous bonuses, and our leaders continue to court the special interests for the contributions they can make toward their next election, the rest of us are left to fend for ourselves against the one percent of the population that controls ninety-five percent of the country's wealth.

Our national budget should be a moral document, not the tortured and twisted assembly of compromises that ensure the powerful stay in power and the wealthy stay wealthy. It is time to question who really speaks for the common person in this country. Every four years we cycle through a charade of promises by politicians who want us to vote for them. Perhaps it is time to let our children vote. Children in their innocence can often see through a lie, have a keener vision of fairness, and settle their playground differences more quickly than those who make our laws. Take time to make a call today to President Obama's comment line; tell him you want what our children would want: a budget that protects the vulnerable in our country.

Towards A More Just Society

July 15, 2011 @ 11:18 am by Jacqui Lewis


To my mind the most important thing about being a person of faith is to share God's vision for a more just society. As we say at Middle Church often, we are not saved until everyone is saved. Saved means having life and having it more abundantly. It means having income enough to put food on one's table, clothes on one's back. It is time for people of faith to address the stalemate around the federal budget. I am fed up with the politics and the posturing; aren't you? No matter our party affiliation, I am encouraging us to turn our prayers and activism to this issue today!

We heard two sermons in April; one from Rev. Dr. Wesley Granberg-Michaelson, and one from Rev. Dr. James A. Forbes, Jr. during our Leading Edge Conference. They told us what we know to be true: the budget is a moral and spiritual document, and that people of faith need to stand up for a budget that yields justice for the most vulnerable in our society.

My friend Emma Jordan-Simpson directs the Children's Defense Fund in New York. She has prepared a wonderful letter (right click, and select "save link as" to download) that we can send to our senators and representatives right now, to encourage our leaders to do the right thing. Won't you join me in sending a letter today? We can also call President Obama's comment line every weekday from 9 AM to 5 PM to express our views. If you want to call our senators toll-free, call (888) 907-1485 and tell them that the most vulnerable must not bear the brunt of the budget cuts. Children's Programs, Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid have all been threatened in the debate; let's turn that around with our prayers, our phone calls and our letters, today.

In solidarity and in peace, Jacqui

Yes We Can!

June 29, 2011 @ 12:30 pm by Jacqui Lewis

Dear Friends,

It has been an historic month in New York State and at Middle Collegiate Church. Our month included the sounds of freedom. Musicians from Broadway, Indie, and reggae sang at our Marriage Equality Concert in early June. Then a group of us from the church sang songs like "We Shall Overcome" at the steps of City Hall in support of the bill. And members of our clergy, staff and I stood outside the New York Senate in Albany with other supporters of the Marriage Equality Bill last week.

I blogged twice this month in the Huffington Post. I first reflected on my interracial marriage and how it would have been illegal in this country 45 years ago. You can read that post here, Love Will Make A Way: The Intersections of Interracial and Same Sex Marriage.

And this weekend, I celebrated the passing of the marriage equality bill with the following post, A Change Has Come: A Clergy's Response to the New York Vote for Gay Marriage.

You can see how our church, the clergy staff and I have been speaking up on the issue of marriage equality, here.

Thank you for raising your voices in song, emails and tweets to our legislators. You helped make history. Same sex couples will soon live into a new freedom.

With love, Jacqui Lewis Senior Minister, Middle Collegiate Church Executive Director, Middle Project

Just One Vote: The Power of Relationships

June 14, 2011 @ 03:05 pm by Jacqui Lewis

Hello everyone. Today several of my staff and I went down to City Hall to join our voices to those gathered in support of marriage equality. As we watch and pray for an affirming vote, read these words from my colleague Tricia Sheffield.

And, when you finish reading, go to Marriage Equality New York to reach out to your legislator to encourage them to vote yes.


Just One Vote: The Power of Relationships Dr. Tricia Sheffield, Research Consultant, The Middle Project

When many U.S. citizens (and not just white, middle class women!) were agitating for women’s suffrage, it all came down to one vote. Several states had ratified the constitutional amendment, but after the ratification in Washington, the amendment languished. As the decision went state to state, it all came down to Tennessee. If this state ratified the 19th amendment, then such an amendment would become national law. But the vote was tied 48 to 48. It was then that a young legislator, Harry Burn, just 24 years old, stepped onto the stage of history. He had previously sided with the anti-suffrage movement, but his mother had urged him to vote for suffrage and the amendment. She wrote: “Dear Son: Hurrah and vote for suffrage! Don’t keep them in doubt! I notice some of the speeches against. They were bitter. I have been watching to see how you stood, but have not noticed anything yet. Don’t forget to be a good boy and help Mrs. Catt put the ‘rat’ in ratification. Your mother.” Burn voted for women’s suffrage, and on August 18, 1920, Tennessee ratified the amendment and the 19th amendment, the right for women to vote became U.S. law on August 26th. It wasn’t an ideology, an argument, or an under the table deal that changed Harry Burn’s mind. It was a relationship.

I tell this story because we are now at such a time in U.S. history, with another kind of vote being debated in New York: the right for same sex people to be legally married. The arguments have been filled with vitriol, using naïve and unfounded religious arguments, quoting Scripture out of its cultural context, and asserting slippery slope arguments that are, well, just silly. But our civil servants in Albany aren’t necessarily going to vote “yes” for marriage equality based on a persuasive argument; they will vote in the affirmative because of a person, a story, or a relationship. As one of my friends once said, “It is easy to hate an ideology, but it is a lot harder to hate a person who is standing right in front of you.” It is the Mrs. Burn of history that will change minds, a woman who told her son to be a good boy. We can translate this phrase to say, “Do what is on the side of justice and love.” Now, I’m not so naïve that I don’t think there are many issues driving this debate, but in the end, it I believe it will be relationships, our living together in a peaceful, loving and civil society that will sway Albany to the affirmative for marriage equality.

I know the power of relationships. I myself was once a fundamentalist Southern Baptist, a person who went out to malls and beaches, proselytizing, trying to win souls for Jesus. I was raised in the racist South, hearing the “n” word on a constant basis. I also heard that gay and lesbian people were choosing to sin, and only the power of God could “cure” them of their hedonistic ways. But, as much as these viewpoints were a part of my story, this intolerant world in which I lived never felt comfortable. I felt uneasy when I heard from the pulpit, Sunday after Sunday, how women were not really made in the image of God, but in the image of man. I didn’t understand how women couldn’t be ordained to the ministry of Word and Sacrament just because they were women, especially since the women in my family were such strong, independent people who basically ran the family. I felt disturbed by the racist remarks; something seemed wrong, off, not God-like, although these statements usually came from so-called God-fearing people. I know the power of people’s stories, for it was my relationships with individuals, and a challenging education that changed my worldview. After I went to seminary, I disavowed the type of Christianity that said only people who believed in Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior would be saved and enter into Heaven. I rejected the racism of my former world, vowing to work against racism for the rest of my life. This meant I had to first deal frankly, and oftentimes painfully, with the inherited racism in my own body. And I learned that one’s sexuality is a fearfully and wonderfully made God-gift, a way to love and be in this world.

So, love informs what I do now. It was no one person, no Mrs. Burn that made me view the world in a more loving way and to work for justice, but many people with her same spirit, many encounters that moved me to examine my own soul. I listened to people, their stories, their pain, their joys, and in those relationships I found a part of myself. In my community, we believe that none of us are saved until all of us are saved. That is, salvation is not an individual position of whether you are part of the elect of God and are assured of your place in Heaven, but salvation is communal; salvation is now. Salvation involves having enough food to eat, enough clothes on your back, having a safe place in which to live; in other words, salvation is loving others as you love yourself, doing justice, loving kindness, and making sure that everyone has equal rights before the law.

We stand on the eve of a vote for marriage equality in New York. We only need two more “yes” votes for it to pass. And I’m hoping that the spirit of Mrs. Burn shows up again.

Pride. Power. Praise.

May 12, 2011 @ 04:45 pm by Jacqui Lewis

Dear Friends,

The children in our congregation have been rehearsing a play with some theater students at New York University called Creation Stories. It was written by the students to help our children think about how different cultures have different stories and theologies about creation. You can see it on Sunday May 22 after worship at 2PM. I am excited that we are teaching our children early that people see and understand God’s work and God’s purposes through different lenses. Our God talk informs our views on human sexuality.

And so it is that after decades of struggle around God talk on homosexuality the Presbyterian Church (USA) has voted to ban language condemning LGBTI persons from the Book of Order, which contains confessions of theology and church law. As a Presbyterian clergy, I am amazed and thrilled that my denomination has moved to include my theology–God has created us all, I believe, just exactly as we are and we are awesomely and wonderfully made. So, Amen! And in my celebration I am praying for those who feel somehow that we have turned away from God’s plan. Theology and God talk reflect deeply held convictions, some so deep that congregations will split from the PCUSA in protest of this decision. That will be painful for families and long-held relationships. I am also praying for a team of Collegiate people working on a conversation with our denomination, the Reformed Church in America, about how the Collegiate Church differs so radically from the RCA on full LGBTI-inclusion. We are there, the RCA is not. Kevin Scott Hall is our representative from Middle Church.

Closer to home, our Pride Planning team voted to use a cross in their logo this year. Outstanding!! We are unashamedly Christian, unabashedly clear that there are many paths to God AND we will march down Fifth Avenue representing the Spirit of Middle: Pride. Power. Praise. I love the re-appropriation of a symbol that has meant rejection by the Church to so many.

Back out in the world, last Sunday we screened a Believe Out Loud promotion (see the ad here) created by our sister, Intersections International. Lovely piece. Sojourners refused to run an ad for Believe Out Loud. I was only a little surprised and there has been a firestorm. This conversation and controversy poses the question: What is progressive God talk and activism?

Can Sojourners or any of us be for economic justice, be against racism, and not be for LGBTI equality?

What do you think? Let me hear from you.


The Believe Out Loud ad:

A Call to Healing following the death of Osama Bin Laden

May 4, 2011 @ 09:37 am by Jacqui Lewis

On Monday morning, May 2, I woke to the news of Osama Bin Laden's death at the hands of US Military forces. My first thoughts went to my family; my brother is an Army Colonel, who now works for the Under Secretary of Defense. He served two tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan, flying helicopters to keep other soldiers safe. We held our breath almost every day that he was away. Most of his troops survived their tours of duty, but every single death was a nightmare for their families and for my brother Ron, their commander. So many lives have been lost: soldiers on both sides of the war, women, children and old folk who just happen to be in the line of fire. Even more people have been wounded, seen their lives disrupted, or become refugees of the war on terror.

There is a huge cost to war. There is a huge cost to terror.

Every single person who lost their life on September 11, 2001 was a tremendous tragedy, a huge loss of life and presence. Their families, friends, loved ones, coworkers; their companies, their synagogues, churches and mosques lost the uniqueness of that person, that soul. As a nation, we lost something that I think we can't quite talk about. Something like faith in our borders, like self perception as unassailable. We were outraged, stunned. And after the shock, many of us became keenly aware of the way our global neighbors see us. This tragedy heightened our resolve to commit to interfaith dialogue and understanding.

There is a huge cost to terror. There is a huge cost to war. Billions of dollars in spending, the alienation that resulted when extremists turned planes into bombs and many of us turned our suspicions of what we do not know into fear and hatred. And in the midst of the anger and grief, what has given me hope is the ways communities have committed to connect across religious and ethnic differences to walk to the future hand in hand, like the apostle Paul says, "forgetting what lies behind [us] and pressing on to the... upward call..."

I admit that I felt deep in the pit of my stomach a sorrow at this news, and a concurrent feeling of relief. Osama Bin Laden is no longer out there, eluding authorities and adding to the grief and fear of so many people. I am also really disappointed at the celebratory tone we have seen in these past days. I have, though, been heartened by the reflections of the people in our community--somber, hopeful that a new day is dawning.

I have hopes. I hope for healing and for the end of war. I hope that a new Middle East is emerging and along with that a new consciousness about what it means to be a global neighbor; that we will respect the sovereignty of nations, that we will see ourselves as inextricably connected. I hope that we will, as a nation, understand the impact our policies have on the little Muslim girl in Pakistan and on the Muslim shop-owners in Brooklyn.

And while I hope, I pray thanksgiving that my brother is alive--it is really personal at that level. And I pray prayers of comfort for those who are not so fortunate as me, who will never see their loved one again.

It might be a radical act of love to pray for Bin Laden's family; perhaps we could add that to our prayers for peace, for safety from retaliation, and revenge, and for continued interfaith connections.

I am not Muslim, but I am calling us to prayer. Prayer and acts of justice-making will heal our world.

Care About All God's Creatures

May 2, 2011 @ 10:47 am by Jacqui Lewis

by Jacqui Lewis

The Middle Project Conference is in full swing. We had a great day with Ivan Petrella on Saturday helping us to think about economic justice from a global perspective and from the perspective of Liberation Theology. Gary Dorrien and Jim Forbes will started us off on Sunday with amazing wisdom and excellent preaching. Our own Tricia Sheffield and Chad Tanaka Pack ended our day with talks on spirituality and money and a culture of consumerism.

I have been busy with Easter and getting ready for this event, but I have not heard or seen as much about Japan in the news as I would have thought. There is so much heartache in the world. The recent storms in the south make me think about climate change and global warming. We have simply got to care about our Mother Earth, our brothers and sisters and God's creatures. Go to MSNBC to see how to help care for the storm victims here and donate to Japan here.

Here are words from our sister Saho, an artist in Japan.

Dear Middle,

I can not stand thinking about the pain those animals which did not do anything bad to humans. There are 360 cattle farms within a circle of 40Km around the nuclear power plants. 63,000 hens,1,000 horses, (don't remember their nunbers) cows, pigs and so have starved to death in these 50 days after that explosion. There were their owners who sneaked in and fed them, but most of them did it against the government's command. All the roads, wide or narrow, to those farms have been closed.

I do not have any means to save them. I will do my best to save dogs and cats around me, which have been mistreated. That is the only thing I am capable of doing. We are wondering what has happened to the 100,000,000 yen donated and why those victims are not receiving it. Victims need cars right at this moment to visit those places where the unknown dead have been gathered to check if their family members had been taken there, and to get jobs they have to drive to companies. They need cash. One of my students said most of it may be used by the government for the cleaning up of towns.

I hope the good friends of Middle will read what I have written.

Love, Saho

Err On The Side Of Love

April 28, 2011 @ 02:06 pm by Jacqui Lewis

Hi everyone. I got a really interesting letter the other day from someone asking about our theology of full LGBTI inclusion. It was fascinating, and raised good questions. I won't print the letter because that is not fair, but here is what I wrote back.


Register for the LGBT Equality and Justice Day today AND let's remember that love is the law.

One thing I never argue about is that these words you quote are in the Bible; they are. And, so are words that would prohibit either you or I to speak in church, words that might suggest that my ancestors should have been enslaved, and words that would make capital crimes out of things that today we find ridiculous. I speak in church every Sunday as an ordained clergy, and I am not clear if you are ordained or not, but most denominations would allow you to be and would encourage your voice in leadership as a lay person. Most of us have ceased using the Bible as justification for bigotry. And, the church no longer keeps kosher, let alone killing people for committing adultery.

God's Word has always been interpreted with Holy Spirit - in the oral transmission, in the writing down of the scriptures, in the selection of the canon, in the preached word. We bring our whole selves to these Holy words, as we seek to love God with our heart, soul, mind and strength. Human laws are also interpreted by enforcement agencies, by lawyers and by the courts.

What seems to me to be core to the Judeo-Christian law is this: love God with your heart, soul, mind and strength and love your neighbor as yourself. Per Jesus the Christ, love is the ultimate law. If for some reason I have to answer for loving the folk in my congregation, all of them, and loving my brothers and sisters in all of God's creation, no matter with whom they have sexual relations, then I am prepared to do that, now and in eternity. I will err on the side of love.

In the meantime, at Middle we bring people together to learn more fully how to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly. We teach others to err on the side of love.

Journey Toward New Life

April 15, 2011 @ 09:57 am by Jacqui Lewis

Friends, in the Christian tradition, Palm Sunday begins a very holy journey toward new life. It is a journey of remembrance of events that happened in ancient Palestine, when a Rabbi named Jesus rode into Jerusalem for the Holy days of Passover. He rode in on a borrowed donkey, and was greeted with palms and excitement from those who thought he was the much awaited Messiah. What also awaited him was a trial, torture and an execution, because many believed him to be a heretic, a rabble rouser and an enemy of the state.

I don’t think the historic Jesus was trying to create a new religion, but I do think he took exception with the religious and political authorities of his day. I think he was offering a radical re-visioning of culture and the praxis of a life of faith. I think he was crossing cultic and cultural boundaries– welcoming women, children and the disenfranchised into more power-full relationships with authority. And I think he held a deep critique of economic disparities present in the Roman Empire. This is why he addressed the issue of money so many times in his preaching and teaching.

Beginning April 30th through May 3rd, Middle Collegiate Church and The Middle Project will hold their fifth annual conference for leaders in multicultural/multiethnic congregations. This time we will focus on faith, justice and the economy. This conference may not feel as warm and fuzzy as some of our others, where we have celebrated the joy of worship in our congregations, highlighted the use of the arts, and encouraged leadership development and intercultural relationships in congregational life. But it is no less important; in fact this may be one of the most important conversations we can have as multicultural/multiethnic congregations in this moment in time. We understand that we can change our culture as we rehearse the reign of God in our congregations. We understand that race, class, ecological, economic, gender and sexual orientation justice are inextricably intertwined.

And so, yes, we will have an amazing worship celebration on May 1, with Jim Forbes preaching, stunning music, dance and powerful fellowship. And we will talk about how worship, education, community organizing and leadership development can help grow our congregations and have an impact on culture. But we will also be engaged from Saturday through Tuesday by an extremely gifted and multidisciplinary team of presenters from theology, sociology and organizing who will help us to examine, both theoretically and in practice, what faith communities should do and can do to follow in the footsteps of that Rabbi. We will think together about how to critique and improve the climate of economic justice in these United States, to make a small dent in the problems of empire, and to transform the hearts and minds of our congregants toward a more just society. Injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere, we have been told.

A small band of folk got activated by the powerful message of Jesus, perhaps best “preached” on a mountainside, when before words were said, people were fed.

Come to this conference. Let’s talk about feeding the folk.
Learn. Do. Act. Heal the World.

Here are some resources for our journey toward a more economically just society:

The House of Representatives will vote Friday on a budget that would radically slash Medicaid, Medicare, SNAP/food stamps, slash funds that cover almost every other domestic human needs program, and wreck the promise of the new health care law. Click here to tell your US Rep to Oppose the House Budget Proposal.


Join the Circle of Protection at HungerFast.

Embrace the Darkness, Eric Law’s latest blog post.



March 31, 2011 @ 09:10 am by Jacqui Lewis

After two days of work here in Capetown with brothers and sisters trying to move toward reconciliation in their churches, despite centuries of apart-ness, I feel both tired and encouraged. These people, the twenty five we were with, want to make it happen. They are experimenting, they are trying to make partnerships, and they are doing this work without the blessing of their hierarchies. They are pilgrims on a journey, like we are. I was frustrated, moved and ultimately blessed by these conversations.

At the end of the day today, we drove into the center of Capetown, and a cloud was nestled at the breast of this giant rock called Table Mountain, soft and misty; it seemed to want to nurse at the strength that comes with time. Or, it was nourishment itself, for the city below, full of Living Water, ready to cascade on this city and this region to bring God's healing Grace. If you read my not-regular-enough blog for secular content, hear this: Only God's love can do what needs to be done. It is both Living Water and a Rock in a weary land; it is a shelter in the time of storm. And if you don't believe there is a God, what force can make beauty like these clouds.

I have looked at clouds from both sides now, from up and down and still somehow...

I think God is able.

To be Living Water and a Rock in a Weary Land

We need healing; God is able to help us.

Words From Our Friends In Japan

March 14, 2011 @ 09:04 am by Jacqui Lewis

What can we say when the earth pushes up from the ocean floor? We know that God is with our friends in Japan. We pray for those who are lost and for those who have lost so much. Here are words from two of our family and ways you can help.

Dear friends,

You must have heard about that largest earthquake in Japanese history on March 11th at 2:46pm, M8.8. If you have not, pls. see CNN. What is hard to believe is happening in eastern part of Japan and all the sea coasts are being attacked by tsunami. Highest tsunami is over 10M which is not possible to measure.

I live in western Tokyo prefecture, which is quite away from Sendai town (which is closest to the core) and yet have been greatly affected by it.

Fortunately I had arrived home 15 minutes before it started to occur and was with my mother. Cupboards were shook and alter got opened and inside spilt, glasses and pottery got broken and was hard to keep on standing.

It was hard for me to lift my mother and take her to safer corner but I managed. Frequency has gotten less but I feel the tremor almost every 5 minutes even now. The major quaking was so strong and long time; I was mumbling “Please stop” while holding the pottery of sideboard not to fly out. My mother was quiet but kept on eating her lunch and said “Turn the TV on”. Since then unbelievable sights have been shown on TV screen.

They assume more than 1,300 are dead or missing. Some towns were burned down or washed away by tsunami and they do not look like there were houses a day ago.

As for my house, damage was not severe but my studio’s was something to me. About 45 minutes after the measure shaking I left my mother alone at home and rushed to my studio. Liquor stores on the way smelled very strong sake. Some buildings’ signs fell on the pavement and wall tiles came down. I managed to open my studio’s door and could not move, seeing the sight inside. And I am still picking up the things on the floor and pieces of glass and china vase, trying to put things in safer places in the studio since it is still shaking. I could not reach to my computer because my piano had moved and together with pots of plants and so force blocked my way to my desk (on which computer is). I asked 2 men to help me move them and now I am writing this to you. I have mirrors on one side of my studio and they were shattered and I asked a carpenter to come tomorrow. I cut my right hands cleaning the pieces of glasses.

There are so much more work to do to clean up so I thank you for reading this and wish you a good day.

Your friend,


Dear Jacqui,

I’m just letting you know that I just arrived home, in my hometown Nagoya, which is not affected at all. The trip was very smooth. I’m realizing now, how much I was encouraged because of messages of the people in New York, having friends and being in the Middle community-it’s a big difference. I’m truly blessed and lucky.

And I was awed how quickly the US issued, ‘How to Help’ list when I sat there helplessly crying and not knowing what to do. My prayer extends to the US too, which has suffered also, and is still ongoing.

With love,


You can make a donation to Reformed Church World Services for their Japanese Earthquake & Tsunami efforts here. To see how Reformed Church World Services handles their disaster work, head over here.

Earthquake in Japan

March 11, 2011 @ 11:11 am by Jacqui Lewis

Dear Middle Family:

This is like something out of a disaster movie, except it is real. Our friends in Japan have been absolutely decimated by a massive earthquake, measuring at an 8.9 magnitude, a tsunami with waves as high as 33 feet, and then two more aftershocks at 5.1 each. The photographs, shocking as they are, can’t possibly tell the story of the fear and loss. Already, 88,000 people are reported missing, so far. Please pray and, if you can, help the Red Cross address this emergency: you can donate online or text “REDCROSS” to 90999 to give $10.

God bless you, and God bless the people of Japan.


On The Peter King Hearings

March 10, 2011 @ 04:25 pm by Jacqui Lewis

Sometimes someone says just what you want to say. Check out my colleague, Bob Chase, on the Peter King hearings, and do take it to heart.

Fear and bigotry fuel the fires of terrorism.

Take this to heart.

Get informed. Get involved.

March 6, 2011 @ 12:21 pm by Jacqui Lewis

Have you been paying attention to the Wisconsin and Ohio conversations on collective bargaining? No matter where you are on the subject, check out this really smart research, Why Wisconsin is Ground Zero For Democracy in America (PDF), from Dean Hubbard and Rober Toussaint. They are on the ground, not on the tube, and I think what they say is important.

Get informed. Get involved.

Read. Get engaged. Pray. Act.

February 24, 2011 @ 11:10 am by Jacqui Lewis

Friends I am taking a few days off but have to write how excited I am about President Obama's actions in support of Gay marriage. I think this clears the way for more organizing on a state level and Middle is gearing up for that in May and June. Much work to do.

It is Black history month and we still have work to do. Check out the Color of Change and sign the petition protesting the brutal treatment of 15 year old Chad Holley.

Read. Get engaged. Pray. Act.

Turn it Around

February 22, 2011 @ 03:32 pm by Jacqui Lewis

I am with my family today, staying up way too late talking to my siblings, listening to stories shared by my mom and dad. These past two days we have laughed and cried; cooked and eaten great food; washed dishes and shared stories; and we had a family meeting about the things we need to do to stay close. And, we were entertained. No kidding, we can watch my nephew RJ dance, imitating Michael Jackson and Usher, for hours! He is two years old, and his ability to mimic is stunning. You say, “Wow!” and he says, “Wow!” He spins like Michael Jackson and has Usher’s halftime show down cold.

How young we are when we imitate others, mimic others. How very young we are when we learn to do the thing people affirm; how very, very young we are when we get it that the thing that delights people and makes them clap is a good thing to do.

I would like us to each think that people are watching us. We are the salt of the earth. We are the light of the world. We need to imagine that we are a lantern on a hill and that people are gazing upon us to see what God is all about. I don’t want us to be self conscious but I want us to be other conscious, and to take seriously that we are leaders in a movement for change. What is that change? We are working to transform our culture into the Reign of God.

So, look at the person in the mirror, and know that each day we start a revolution. RJ likes to say, “spin! Turn around.” This is good advice. Let’s turn this thing around.

I know you want to tell me things are getting better all the time. Yes, you are right. Yet, last week a 15-year old kid in Houston was kicked and beaten by police while others watched. We still have some things to turn around.

We have work to do. A two year old watches television and mimics the dance. Someone is watching you and will imitate your activism, your kindness, the way you are faithful to your values and the way you choose to do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with your God.

Come on, turn it around; we can do this together. Do something, one thing, every day, to make it a little better.

Freedom Has Come

February 11, 2011 @ 02:59 pm by Jacqui Lewis


I was on the phone a little while ago with my mother. She is on the way to the doctor, to discuss a regimen to address her cancer–will she need chemo and radiation or just one?

It is not an easy conversation, but I send her phone love and kisses as she walks out the door with my dad.

My mom is a fiercely loving and generous person, and she is afraid right now. She is afraid that we are worried about her, she is afraid that she might not be here long enough to see RJ grow all the way up. She is afraid the doctors may not save her, not for long enough, and I understand that.

Sabrine, another mother, another brown mother a world away was afraid this week, too. Afraid for her son. Afraid for the violence and for his life.

“He kissed me goodbye and said, ‘Don’t be afraid.’ Then he looked me in the eye and said, ‘You are not my real mother. Egypt is my real mother. I must go save her.’ He gave his life for his country.”

– Sabrine, recounting her son Mohammed Badr’s goodbye as he left for the protests in Tahrir Square, Cairo, where he was shot and killed. (Source: Los Angeles Times

Mohammed laid down his life for his country, for freedom.

There is a song, Sweet Honey in the Rock sings it, known as “We Who Believe in Freedom Will Not Rest Until it Comes” (Ella’s Song).

Muhammed can rest easy now, an eternal rest. His mother Egypt is free. He did help save her.

And Sabrine, his other mother, can let fear go, release it to the wind, release it in the shouts and cheers.

Freedom has come.

Jacqui Lewis

A Prayer Heard Around the World

February 5, 2011 @ 11:03 am by Jacqui Lewis

I was riding in the car this morning, running some errands and thanks to the ease with which news travels around the globe, I felt like I was in Tahrir Square, a square whose name means liberation. I can hear the chanting of the protestors. I don’t speak the language but I know that they are saying, ‘Leave! Leave! Leave!” They are saying, “Mubarak is illegitimate, The National Democratic Party is illegitimate…” It’s Friday, 11 days into the revolution, and the protestors want Mubarak out. Today. Now. But not until after evening prayers.

Today is a peaceful day, relatively peaceful. Not like two days ago, when violence took the lives of 13 people and left 1,200 more wounded. The NPR reporters are being harassed, but not threatened with violence like their colleagues have endured, not today. There is an old woman poking her finger at them, “You make Egypt look bad! You are spies,” she says, but they can shake off words from an old woman.

Today the crowd moves with more care, aided by the police and the military. Today they lift up one man in a wheelchair, up over the crowd into the square, so he is close to the protest, which is pulsing with the energy of liberation and freedom. He waves his fists in the air and I am reminded of the friends who lower their disabled buddy right through the roof of a house so Jesus could heal him and make him free.

Today is a different day; it is the “Friday of Departure.” The protestors have been assailed by police on camels, had cement hurled at them, endured a rain of bullets, and still they are undaunted. They can smell the freedom they desire. If Mubarak loves Egypt, they say, he will leave.

Right after evening prayers.

Right after evening prayers, the Mubarak regime says, they will squash the rebellion.

And the sun has gone down on Cairo, dipping into the night sky. Mubarak is still in power. The protestors are still on the square called liberation. They have come across the Nile River, they have camped out with their children. They are hoarse from singing and shouting. They are determined to live in a new way.

The deadline has come and gone. But not the prayers; they will pray again tomorrow, five times on mats facing Mecca. And in between, they will pray with their feet, and with their voices. They will pray with their stamina and their actions. They will hold each other up and keep each other standing. They will shout and march and sing the national anthem and wave flags and insist on democracy.

We should pray, too. For change, for hope, and for peace.

Do something: get informed, sign a petition, ask great questions, and get involved.



Want to stay informed? Here are some links:

From Greed to Need

December 20, 2010 @ 03:12 pm by Jacqui Lewis

Dear Friends,

Greetings to you and your loved ones in this season of light, love, and hope! We here at Middle Collegiate Church and The Middle Project pray that no matter what tradition you celebrate, this time of year will be one of peace and joy and a time to refresh your soul and spirit.

It seems that now more than ever we need some glad tidings of great joy. I was listening to NPR yesterday, and the radio host was interviewing Santa’s top ‘elf’ at the United States Post Office here in NYC. This elf was relating how the recession had definitely influenced the children’s wish lists. Gone were the letters of greed, he said, and instead was now the palpable sense of need. He told the host how often the volunteers who open Santa’s mail will get quite a chuckle when reading the requests. But this year, he said, volunteers were crying. It’s quite simple: our down-turned economy has affected our children’s most dearly held fantasies and wishes. So, now more than ever, we need prophetic voices to prepare ethical leaders for a just society. The prophets and writers of Holy texts depict an alternative reality to the status quo, one in which justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream. In this reality, the Divine requires us to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with our God. What does that look like in our lives of faith? What does “doing justice” mean in today’s economy? We hope you will register for our 5th annual conference The Leading Edge: A National Conference for Leaders on Faith, Justice, and the Economy, April 30 – May 3. You may register right now at We have special rates for groups of 2 or more and we also have a special student rate.

In hopes we will continue to do a bold new thing here on this earth together, I wish for you many, many blessings, now, into the New Year, and forward looking on into 2011. See you in April!

Peace be with you,


Welcome Home to Middle

September 28, 2010 @ 10:37 am by Jacqui Lewis

Every now and then, in these past few weeks, I have been nostalgic about vacation. I’ve thought, wow, just four weeks ago, I was on the beach reading. Or, just ten days ago, I was walking in the park with John. I still hold the wonderful peace that was our sabbath in my heart (I think I even still have a tan!!) Mostly, though, these weeks back at Middle have been a great adventure of re-entry. Our staff is, quite frankly, jammin’ together. They are supporting each other, working as a team. I came back to their excitement about the new program year, and I am excited too. Our first worship celebrations together–our Interfaith worship, our worship on September 19 and our Homecoming Celebration Sunday was filled with great music, wonderful prayers, great art and, dare I say, meaningful sermons.

What was extraordinary about this past Sunday was the feeling of Home. A special art presentation focused on the road home to Middle – a journey we have all taken from many origins. Both choirs just rocked it! Many of us were back. And I think we were all feeling the sense that we had come home; home to a table that God has set for us; home to a place of shelter and safety – a place that, while not perfect, is a place where “mistake” is not the last word; home to a place beneath God’s wings; home to a place where we are free to rehearse new behaviors, to encourage the best in each other, to forgive the flaws and failings. A place called home in which we can find grace and peace and hold each other accountable for the self that God created to emerge and shine. Our choirs, the artists, the staff – all of us felt like we were participating in the beginning of a new thing: a bold new way to be the People of God.

I hope you had a summer full of adventure, healing, fun, meditation, exercise, making up, playing, and praying. I hope that if you had disappointments and setbacks, you had people to care for and about you. I hope that when things were amazing, you had some folk to say, “You GO!” I hope that you will make your way to Middle soon (and again) and get a warm hug during the passing of the peace and a great big dose of the Love of God. I hope you know that the Vision that God has given to us in our hearts needs you to make it happen, and that you will plug in to something; give a hand, mentor a kid, sing a song, teach a class, fold and stuff bulletins, pack and serve food, donate clothing, send a kid to New Orleans, write an article, support someone who needs help, advocate for justice – you get the picture.

Mostly, what I hope you know is that Middle is more Middle because you are here!

A Call to Reconciliation

September 10, 2010 @ 03:37 pm by Jacqui Lewis

Friends, a call to reconciliation is a high calling, but one not too out of reach for us. I believe, despite some evidence to the contrary, in the resilience of the human spirit to find goodness in the “other” and also to find it in oneself. This is my hope, and the reason I believe that we will overcome the walls that divide us and create a more perfect union. See this call from the clergy of the Collegiate Churches. Pray for peace and wisdom; learn about the things that confound you; believe we are more alike than different.


This weekend will be a poignant time for the people of the United States, and especially for those who live and work in New York City. We want to make you aware of four positive and peace-seeking events which will take place this weekend.

All of these events express support for our Muslim brothers and sisters in this difficult time, and support the vision of the Park51 project in lower Manhattan.

Candlelight Vigil
Friday, Sept 10th at 7:15 PM
Church Street and Park Place
Please bring candles and American flags, but no signs.

Sponsored by New York Neighbors for American Values – a coalition of more than 100 community groups (inclusing Intersections International, Inc.) in support of the American Constitutional values of religious freedom, diversity and equality, and the rights of Muslim Americans to build a community center in Lower Manhattan.

Interfaith Worship Celebration and Panel Discussion on Interfaith Reconciliation
Sunday, Sept 12th at 11:15 AM
Middle Collegiate Church

Join Middle Collegiate Church for their annual Interfaith Celebration (Eid ul-Fitr and Rosh Hoshana). Jacqui Lewis will preach, and she’ll be joined by special guests Rabbi Burt Siegel (the Shul of New York) and Fred Johnson (Intersections International, Inc.).

Stay after worship for a Conversation on Interfaith Reconciltion, a panel discussion with Fred Johnson, Jacqui Lewis, Tricia Sheffield, Burt Siegel, and Chad Tanaka Pack; moderated by Bob Chase.

Liberty Walk
Sunday, Sept 12th at 3 PM

An interfaith “Liberty Walk” supporting Religious Freedom in the USA, that will gather for an initial program at 3:00 p.m. on Sunday, September 12 at St. Peter’s Church, 22 Barclay Street in lower Manhattan.

Again, people have been asked not bring any signs. Rather, they ask that you bring American flags to show support for religious freedom in America.

If you would like to travel with Middle Church, please meet us in the church social hall by 2:30 PM on Sunday afternoon.

Screening & Discussion
“On a Wing and a Prayer: An American Muslim Learns to Fly”

Sunday, Sept 12th at 6:30 PM

A special bridge-building dialogue and film screening at Park51 on Sunday September 12 from 6:30 – 9:00 p.m.. This event offers a constructive way for New Yorkers of diverse faiths and backgrounds to come together for an enriching educational experience and to learn about their Muslim neighbors, and to reflect on the bigger picture. A screening of the film, On a Wing and a Prayer: An American Muslim Learns to Fly offers a whimsical approach to the very serious issues that surround us.

Following the screening, discussion groups will consider a broad range of topics, including stereotyping, faith, and identity. Reserve space here. Presented by Unity Productions Foundation and Park51.

Balm in Gilead

August 27, 2010 @ 12:53 pm by Jacqui Lewis

As I continue my Sabbath, I am also listening to the conversations and controversy about Cordoba House/Park 51. You know that at Middle we believe strongly there is more than one path to God. Further, we hope for a reconciled world in which our faith and the faith of others will be a "Balm in Gilead."

The staff and I believe it is important that as you listen to all sides of this conversation, you hear some words directly from the source. Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, in his own words.

It is also our prayer that Ahmed Sharif and his family feel God's arms-around Grace in this season and that he fully recover. Further, we pray for Michael Enright, whose actions stand in stark contrast to his previous volunteer efforts at Intersections and their sense of the kind of person he is.

Please plan to join us on September 12 for an Interfaith Worship Celebration that gives us the chance to think, love and pray together.

The Leading Edge 2010: A National Conference for Leaders on Faith, Justice, and the Economy

August 18, 2010 @ 10:14 am by Jacqui Lewis

I wrote these words last week for Middle Church’s Listserve as I went off the grid for my vacation:

…(We) share our stories, we learn about folk, we read their Holy texts, and we read our own. We find out that the One God is the God of everyone. God is on the side of justice and mercy and peace and reconciliation. Ain’t nothing wrong with a little prayer, is my belief. And the place of prayer should not matter. We have all come “over a way that with tears has been watered . . .” walking a path “through the blood of the slaughtered.” May hope and prayer heal our world.

These sentiments are still on my mind today. It remains my hope and heart’s desire for our world to be healed from racism, classism, sexism, and heterosexism. I’m listening to NPR right now, and sighing as I hear the stories of war and floods and intolerance. Despite the news, I, without a doubt, believe that God calls us to peace and reconciliation. We’re all still walking that path . . .

One of the ways The Middle Project ‘walks that path’ of hope and reconciliation is by coming together and learning from one another. The prophets and the gospel writers depict an alternative reality to the status quo, one in which justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream. In this reality, God requires us to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with God. What does that look like in our lives of faith? What does “doing justice” mean in today’s economy?

Building on the success of four annual national conferences for leadership in multicultural congregations at Middle Collegiate Church in New York City, The Middle Project is proud to host a three-day conference for clergy, seminarians, and other congregational leaders, The Leading Edge: A National Conference for Leaders on Faith, Justice, and the Economy, April 30–May 3, 2011. Our confirmed speakers are Dalton Conley, Gary Dorrien, Miguel de la Torre, Jacqui Lewis, Ivan Petrella, Tricia Sheffield, Chad Tanaka Pack, and Roger Touissant.

Participants will not only engage in deep theological reflection about these issues, they will also do practical work as they—
• Deepen their understanding of economic justice and the widening disparity between the rich and the poor (power analysis).
• Find power and purpose in the narrative of the progressive movement’s historical involvement in economic justice (labor movement, etc.).
• Discover practical tools for congregational education, activism, and advocacy.
• Create strategies for developing leaders and organizing their communities for justice work.

Conference Offerings: All speakers will do implications and applications as part of their presentations.
• American Empire, Militarism, and Economic Justice
• A Liberation Perspective on Global Economic Justice: Learning from the Margins
• Creating a Culture of Critical Consumption
• Building a Movement for Economic Justice
• Race, Immigration, and the Economy: Why the Rage?

Middle Church and The Middle Project is in the ‘business’ of training ethical leaders for a just society. I hope you will consider attending the conference in April. For more information, or to register now, please click here.

Uniting as Friends

August 5, 2010 @ 03:16 pm by Jacqui Lewis

I am in Florida, trying to get off the grid, so to speak. I keep sending little notes to Trish and Chad, some of my staff, and even to a few of you. I got a lot of things finished before I left–worship planning, program development, meetings, and care issues. But, I did not get to talk to some of you or write to some of you, ‘How are you doing?’ I have been wondering.

So, this is a note to everyone, before I go into radio silence. If you have been absent, we miss you; come on home! If you have been feeling poorly, I am praying for you, even now. If you are sad or confused or hurt, I pray God’s grace will feel more than sufficient to heal you and comfort you. And, if for you, this is a great day that God has made, then I rejoice with in this day.

And if for you, the news is painful, like it is for me, then I pray that you put into God’s hands this world–created full of folk with free will, which means confusion and conflict on a bad day, and love and compassion on a good one.

I am thrilled about Proposition 8 being overturned and pray for good sense for everyone who wonders if LGBTI persons ought to be able to marry. “Of course!” is my answer and so I say Amen for the change!

I am angry at the crazy conversations about immigration in Arizona and the possibility that our constitution might be bastardized by immigrants to keep out other immigrants. I am sad at all the controversy about Cordoba House. To be sure, the tragedy on September 11, 2001 was a national horror. We lost innocent lives and our own innocence. The planes-turned-to-bombs happened on our land, in our space, and we will never be the same. We are hyper-conscious now of ourselves as a nation in a global community and that some people hate us! We who believe in freedom need to keep our minds and hearts open to the other, lest we become an enemy to our own souls. Space for a community center in which there is a house of prayer may be just the kind of ‘balm in Gilead,’ which we need. The center may also help to demystify Muslim culture and religion, and aid in uniting us all as friends. When we learn about each other, and see each other for who we are, we are less likely to maim, wound, bomb and annihilate each other.

So we share our stories, we learn about folk, we read their Holy texts, and we read our own. We find out that the One God is the God of everyone. God is on the side of justice and mercy and peace and reconciliation. Ain’t nothing wrong with a little prayer, is my belief. And the place of prayer should not matter. We have all come “over a way that with tears has been watered…” walking a path “through the blood of the slaughtered”. May hope and prayer heal our world.

The Living is Easy

July 16, 2010 @ 07:59 am by Jacqui Lewis

Hey friends, it is summer time and the living is easy for some of us. Listening to NPR this morning, we must keep our eyes and ears open to news about the gushing oil in our waters in the Gulf Coast. Our teens are heading down there on August 1st to work on the rebuild (the still much-needed rebuild). This is another thing that should not drop off our radar. The Big Easy needs our thoughts and prayers and our help. Log onto whatever help site with which you feel comfortable and stay connected with your funds, too! Keep in touch with what Middle Church is doing by checking out our website while the youth are in New Orleans.

I think of the Big Easy and I think of jazz. Last Sunday at Middle Church there was a lovely three-piece suite of jazz improvisers, led by Louie Belogenis. The music was breathy, cool and smooth, and the silences were full of Spirit. I did a homily on love that ended in a hymn called “My Funny Valentine”. Inspired by the band, I tried bending notes like God bends all the way down to love us just like we are. My colleague Chad – preacher/artist/accountant(!) – was there, nodding his head and praying with his eyes open.

The Breath that is all around, the Breath that loves us more deeply than we can ask or imagine gave him this poem, and I share it with you along with my hope for easy days, and the easing of suffering everywhere.

Take it easy and make it easy for others.


Were I Jazz

Were I jazz

Cymbals sizzling
Summer sunset

Raspy whispered sax

Twinkling piano plinking
Evening starlight

Were I jazz


Carry me

Crunchy sour pickles

Our song
A playful prayer

Oil Spill Vigil in New York

June 6, 2010 @ 10:17 am by Jacqui Lewis

Friends, have you seen the photos of the disgusting oil spill? Spill is too mild a word. That should be reserved for milk or salt. One colleague said to me the other day that it is as though the earth is hemorrhaging. The picture is horrifying as thousands of gallons of oil fill the waters, kill the marine life, halt fishing, discourage tourism and muck up the shoreline.

I just got back from the beach in Hollywood, Florida. There were moments when the water was bathtub warm and crystal clear. Fish and human beings moved through the water as though safe in amniotic fluid filled with nutrients for life. This oil spill is another crude awakening that human need and greed will kill our Mother Earth if we do not take care of God’s good creation. See below from Be outraged and speak up!

Dear MoveOn member,

It’s just unbelievable.

By Tuesday, the oil spill in the Gulf will have been gushing out for 50 days straight. It might already be five times larger than the Exxon Valdez, and now BP says that the spill probably won’t be stopped until August.*

Meanwhile, our political leaders in Washington aren’t even talking about the real solution—getting off oil once and for all, and fully powering our economy with clean energy. It’s clear we need a major public outcry to make this horrible tragedy a turning point.

So on Tuesday—day 50 since the spill—we’re organizing emergency Oil Spill Vigils to demand an end to our dependence on oil, call for stepped-up efforts to end the spill, and stand in solidarity with all those affected in the Gulf.

Can you host an emergency Oil Spill Vigil next Tuesday? Click here to get started.

Hosting a vigil is easy. We’ll gather together, read stories from Gulf residents affected by the spill, and observe a moment of silence. All you need to do is find a nearby public location for people to gather, invite friends, and tell the local media about it. We’ll help you recruit people and give you all the guidance you need.

By standing together at events coast-to-coast, we can make sure lawmakers understand that the American people are demanding bold action to prevent disasters like this from happening again.

But we have to act now. The people in the Gulf of Mexico are facing the destruction of an entire way of life. Fishermen say they’ve lost 75% or more of their business, and it’s getting worse. Federal officials have closed over one-third of the Gulf of Mexico to fishing. And the oil is poised to reach the beaches of Florida soon.**

As Charlotte Randolph, president of one of the coastal parishes affected by the spill, said, “You see it in people’s eyes. You see it. We need to stop the flow. Tourism is dead. Fishing is dead. We’re dying a slow death.”***

Until we end our dependence on oil, disasters like the BP spill will keep happening. We can’t get off oil in a day, but the energy experts say that if we had gotten started 20 years ago after Exxon Valdez we could be most of the way there already.**** But because Big Oil still calls the shots in Washington, such bold action isn’t even being discussed. We need to turn this moment of crisis into a rallying cry to finally get America off oil.

We need as many Oil Spill Vigils as possible around the country so that tens of thousands of MoveOn members have the chance to speak out right in their neighborhoods. Can you host a vigil in your area? Click here.

Thanks for all that you do.

–Steven, Wes, Lenore, Kat, and the rest of the team


* “BP oil spill worse than Exxon Valdez, according to government estimates,” Christian Science Monitor, May 27, 2010

“BP officials on Gulf oil spill: We can’t stop leak until August at the earliest,” New York Daily News, May 30, 2010

** “BP puts containment dome on gushing oil geyser,” The Washington Post, June 4, 2010

“Almost one-third of Gulf fishing grounds closed,” Associated Press, June 2, 2010

“Oysters: From The Gulf To The Table, ” NPR, June 3, 2010

*** Ibid.

**** “Winning the Oil Endgame,” Rocky Mountain Institute, September, 2007

Want to support our work? We’re entirely funded by our 5 million members—no corporate contributions, no big checks from CEOs. And our tiny staff ensures that small contributions go a long way. Chip in here.

Fight Racist Campaign Against Black Women

May 26, 2010 @ 09:43 am by Jacqui Lewis

Hi everyone,

Check this out. I have been on the advisory board of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice for ten years now, be sure to let them know how you feel about this.


On Peace

March 29, 2010 @ 02:49 pm by Jacqui Lewis


I am writing this brief note on Palm Sunday, as I get ready for worship today. In our Christian tradition, this is the day Jesus makes his triumphant entry into Jerusalem. We call it triumphant, because his followers placed him on a colt, threw their cloaks down on the ground before him, hailed him as a king of peace, and waived palm branches before him. In fact, when he gets into the city, he is arrested, put on trial, and crucified as a criminal for insurrection. Jesus' encounter with the authorities was certain kind of contest, a struggle for peace in a time when Jesus' people were under Roman occupation--the so-called Pax Romana; the Roman Peace. It is not a new concept for powerful nations to think of themselves as peace keepers/peace makers as they wage war.

So, here is a piece on peace, from our colleague Sekou, as Tavis Smiley focuses on Dr. King's speech against the war in Vietnam. Important as we think about our years in this terrifying war against terror.

Peace, for real


Expect Better & Demand More

March 26, 2010 @ 10:46 am by Jacqui Lewis

Friends, I am just back from three weeks in Africa, the trip of a lifetime. I have so much to share with you and will do so in the coming weeks.

I came home to an amazing accomplishment: the passing of a healthcare bill that realizes decades of work by several administrations toward providing healthcare for the majority of citizens of our country. You know as well as I do what a contentious process this has been, and the narrow vote speaks to both the divide in our Congress and in our country on this issue.

What is shocking to me is how a divide in opinion, no matter how deep, can lead to violence and threats and unspeakably uncivilized behavior by so many. Democratic Representative Anthony Weiner (Queens/Brooklyn) was the most recent recipient of this ridiculous and dangerous behavior, when a white substance was mailed to his office. 10 house democrats are under police protection now.

I am so sad about this, but I am more angry than anything else. I am heartened to know that both Democratic and Republican leaders are denouncing this behavior; we need to denounce it as well.

I got the note below from the people at MoveOn and Color of Change. No matter what your politics, join me in denouncing this violent behavior.

Let's expect better and demand more from our leaders, and from one another.


Last weekend, anti-health care protesters were out in force in Washington and some of their behavior was deeply disturbing.

A crowd of tea partiers shouted the "n word" at Congressman John Lewis, a former civil rights leader who marched with Dr. King. They yelled homophobic epithets at Rep. Barney Frank, an openly gay congressman. And one protester actually spat on a Black member of Congress.1

Then this week, Democrats who voted for reform began receiving death threats; one had a coffin left on his lawn and another was told snipers would kill the children of lawmakers who voted yes.2 Several Democrats had their district offices vandalized, and a gas line was cut at a home that tea partiers mistakenly believed belonged to Rep. Tom Perriello.3

A few Republicans have spoken out against the racism and violence, but most are still treating them as "isolated incidents."4 They are not isolated. They've been part of Republican-supported tea parties for almost a year and they're a natural consequence of telling people that reform is a totalitarian plot.5

It's an outrage, and no American should tolerate it. So we're joining with our friends at Color of Change to stand up to the hate. Can you add your name to this letter asking Republican leaders to unequivocally condemn bigotry, hate, and violence among their supporters?

The letter asks the leaders of the Republican party to do two simple things:

Unequivocally condemn bigotry and hate among your supporters, and make clear that those who embrace it have no place in your party and that you reject their support. Make clear that you will not tolerate fear-mongering and coded appeals to racism from officials in the Republican Party, at any level. Instead of calming the tea partiers' anger, Republican members of Congress have stoked it. NBC reported that on Saturday, Reps. Mike Pence, Tom Price, and Michele Bachmann all addressed the tea partiers and that Bachmann stirred them "into a tizzy."6 Protesters from that rally then fanned out across Capitol Hill and were behind the assaults on Reps. Lewis, Frank, and Cleaver.7

Yesterday, Rep. John Boehner called the violence and threats "unacceptable."8 But just last week, he referred to fellow representative Steve Driehaus as "a dead man" if he voted for health care reform.9 And while Boehner's office insisted his remark wasn't meant to be taken literally, as Rep. Driehaus pointed out, "It doesn't really matter the way you meant it, nor the way I accept it. It's how the least sane person in my district accepts it."10

And there's more: During the debate on the floor of the House on Sunday, Rep. Randy Neugebauer shouted "baby-killer" at Rep. Bart Stupak.11 And after the vote, Sarah Palin told supporters "Don't Retreat, Reload," and then highlighted specific members of Congress she thinks are politically vulnerable using gun cross-hairs.12

The Tea Party movement has been marked by racially inflammatory and violent outbursts since its inception a year ago. And while most Republicans are probably disgusted by this behavior, the Republican Party and its leaders have repeatedly tolerated it at events they support.13 But the hateful rhetoric and the tacit acceptance of "isolated incidents" of violence have gotten way out of hand.

Will you sign our letter to the leaders of the Republican Party telling them they must stop it now?

Thanks for all you do.

Justin, Nita, Kat, Daniel, and the rest of the team


  1. "'Tea party' protesters accused of spitting on lawmaker, using slurs," The Washington Post, March 20, 2010

  2. "FBI investigating threats to Democrats," The Associated Press, March 24, 2010

"Coffin placed on Carnahan's lawn," Politico, March 25, 2010

"The backlash: Reform turns personal," Politico, March 24, 2010

  1. "The Map So Far," Talking Points Memo, March 24, 2010

"Severed gas line found at home of Perriello brother," Charlottesville Daily Progress, March 24, 2010

  1. "Steele: Slur-hurlers 'idiots'," Politico, March 21, 2010

  2. "Swastika painted outside Congressman's office," The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, August 11, 2009

"10 Most Offensive Tea Party Signs And Extensive Photo Coverage From Tax Day Protests," The Huffington Post, December 28, 2009

"Armed and Dangerous?" Talking Points Memo, August 11, 2009

"We have something to fear from fear-mongering itself," The Washington Post, March 24, 2010

  1. "Tea Party Protest Scene," MSNBC, March 20, 2010

  2. "'Tea party' protesters accused of spitting on lawmaker, using slurs," The Washington Post, March 20, 2010

  3. "Leadership decries threats to lawmakers in wake of health vote," The Hill, March 24, 2010

  4. "Exclusive: House Minority John Boehner on the Health-Care Vote," National Review Online, March 18, 2010

  5. "Amid Death Threats, Dem Rep Driehaus Points The Finger At GOP Leadership," Talking Points Memo, March 24, 2010

  6. "'Baby killer outburst fuels Republican's new funding ad," The Houston Chronicle, March 24, 2010

  7. "Palin Uses Crosshairs To Identify Dems Who Voted For Health Care Reform," Talking Points Memo, March 24, 2010

  8. "Tax Day Tea Parties Officially Endorsed By Republican Party," The Huffington Post, May 15, 2009

  9. "Steele: I'd join the tea parties," Politico, January 5, 2010

We Are All One

March 18, 2010 @ 09:18 am by Jacqui Lewis

As we enter the third week of our travel, and prepare to leave for Ghana, I am thinking of all I have learned. I am thinking of talks with Dutch Reformed Church and Uniting Reformed Church clergy, and their candor about their struggle to unite. One pastor, Johanne, said, "We must learn to live the reality that already is: we are all one in Christ. That is the truth. Now we must live it." As I looked upon the faces of children in Africa, as I processed learnings with John and Anne and Peter, and I think about coming home, I think this is the truth. We are all one. We must learn to live as though it is true. We must learn to live as though when one of us is cut, the other one bleeds. When one of us is hungry, the other has a stomach ache. When one is lost, neither can we see. This is what God wants from us, I believe, one human family.

We fly tomorrow to Ghana, we will see Pat at BASICS and we will see the slave castles and I will preach on Sunday about unity.

This is my passion, and I know it is also yours.

Checking In From South Africa

March 10, 2010 @ 10:52 am by Jacqui Lewis

Our conversations in South Africa these last days have been blessed by candor and vulnerability. The folk we met from the Uniting Reformed Church (Black and Colored) and the Dutch Reformed Church (White) are thrilled that the US is working on the Belhar Confession. They see signs of hope for reconciliation, but are sure this racial work will not happen in their lifetimes. The Church everywhere has so much work to do. We met a man who left the Dutch Reformed Church due to its slow speed at this work. When I preach against racism, it is my passion for a world free of racism that is on the table.

I am grateful for colleagues who share this passion with me. Hug Trish when you see her because we promoted her to Associate Minister. Along with administration, she will help with our social ministries like Celebrate Life/Momentum Project and the Clothing Closet.

We are off tomorrow to see some of this country, to let the words we have heard settle into our hearts.


March 5, 2010 @ 11:42 am by Jacqui Lewis

I was talking about teeth the last time we chatted in worship. When I preached Sunday, I was in pain. On Monday morning, my secondary expert dentist took five minutes to numb me and then another hour to do the work. There are some pains not easily numbed, but once we get together to work on stuff, once we learn each other, once we get it, it can go really well. We have to, like my Vietnamese dentist and I, learn how to work together, how to communicate, how to work it out. Some of us have, like he had for me, the clues to the other's healing. Some of us have a word on target. Some of us will tell stories that lead to transformation. Some of us will be great listeners and then replay a certain wisdom that will change the world.

I am here, with my heart burning and my brain churning with wisdom and candid sharing and confession from South Africans working on reconciliation. I have more to tell you, and I will. For now, God is in the business of making all things, and all of us new.

Those of us on both sides of the world need this newness. I love you...

and my tooth does not hurt. Maybe there are other healings to follow.

Watch this space!

March 1, 2010 @ 05:07 pm by Jacqui Lewis

Greetings everyone!

I just left for South Africa, and I will have so much to share! Keep your eyes on this space in the coming weeks.

The Women in Church and Ministry Lecture: “The Word Became Flesh”

February 24, 2010 @ 04:14 pm by Jacqui Lewis

Jacqui will be speaking on this topic at Princeton Theological Seminary on Thursday, February 25. Come check it out! Details can be found below, or on the Princeton Theological Seminary’s site.

The Women in Church and Ministry Lecture: “The Word Became Flesh”
Location: Main Lounge, Mackay Campus Center
Start: 7:00 PM
End: 8:00 PM

Free and open to the public

For more information, contact the Communications/Publications Office or call 609.497.7760.

Believe Out Loud

February 14, 2010 @ 11:44 am by Jacqui Lewis

Hello Progressive Leaders.

If you do not get Religion Dispatches, you should sign up for it. See this piece by Jean Carstensen and the report on how much silence there is from progressive clergy when it comes to human sexuality. What we do not say from the pulpit speaks volumes. We need to say that economic justice, gender justice and sexual orientation justice are braided tightly together with racial justice. We need to say that when abortion rights are restricted young women and poor women are most affected. We need to say out loud and Believe Out Loud that women and LGBTI persons should be afforded full rights and inclusion in faith communities, and that includes the right to be ordained. We need to say that LGBTI persons should have the right to marry and raise families. It is not enough to believe it; we need to believe it and proclaim it. Our people need to have theological discourse from and with clergy they trust about human sexuality.

Sunday ends National Marriage Week. Let's make Sunday the beginning of a movement: Believe Out Loud that human sexuality is a gift from God and that there is a full spectrum of sexual orientations that express that gift. Let's preach and teach that from our pulpits and break the silence.

Toward the peaceable reign of God.


Cancel Haiti's Debt

February 8, 2010 @ 01:11 pm by Jacqui Lewis

Dear Progressive Leaders:

Critical to the rebuilding of Haiti is the cancellation of their debt, and then grants for the rebuild, not loans. Check this out and see what you can do to help.

Also, don't forget to register for our leadership conference "The Leading Edge".

In the struggle for a better tomorrow,


Melinda St. Louis Jubilee USA February 6, 2010

Today, the US government listened to your call for justice for Haiti and took action. Congratulations on all your hard work. This morning, the US Treasury announced its support for Haiti's debt cancellation and grants, not loans. "Today, we are voicing our support for what Haiti needs and deserves - comprehensive multilateral debt relief," said Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner. We couldn't agree more. In the days following the devastating earthquake on January 12th, Jubilee USA Network helped lead efforts by US civil society to achieve debt cancellation of the $709 million Haiti owes to the international financial institutions, including the International Monetary Fund and the Inter-American Development Bank. Your calls to the White House, letters to the editor, and now thousands of petitions have shown our leaders that Haiti's debt cancellation is critical. Last week, over 80 US faith, labor, and human rights organizations sent a letter urging Secretary Geithner to negotiate Haiti's debt cancellation. This message was echoed in another letter sent yesterday by 94 Members of the House of Representatives - Members you called and emailed. Legislative momentum also continues to build in both bodies of Congress. This weekend we are sending your petitions to the Artic Circle in Canada, where the G7 finance ministers are meeting to discuss Haiti relief, among other things. The Treasury committed to using its leadership here to make sure that the ministers support debt cancellation for Haiti. As the country begins to rebuild, debt cancellation without harmful conditions and an assurance that Haiti won't get back into debt are critical and important steps in the right direction. In the coming days, we'll be watching closely to see how the Treasury and the G7 will fulfill this commitment. To stay updated, make sure you check out and follow our blog "Blog the Debt" at Thank you again, Melinda St. Louis Deputy Director, Jubilee USA
Leadership Watch: Noteworthy News

February 1, 2010 @ 02:57 pm by Jacqui Lewis

News that has caught our interest:

I Choose Choice

January 27, 2010 @ 09:39 am by Jacqui Lewis

Hi everyone. I am not sure where you stand on abortion; this is a very complicated issue, and even those of us who are progressive leaders vary in our opinions. I am a leader and I am a woman who has never had to make that choice. I am also solidly and unwaveringly for women having that choice to make. I have been an advisor to the Religious Coaltion for Reproductive Choice for over seven years since I lived and worked in Washington, DC. Check this link out from the Director, Rev. Carlton W. Veazy and then do what you think is the right thing to do. I am writing CBS today.


Our his(Story) to Write

January 21, 2010 @ 10:06 am by Jacqui Lewis

In a lovely book, The Butterfly’s Way: Voices from the Haitian Dyaspora in the United States, edited by Edwidge Danticat, there is a poem in chapter one called “Present, Past, Future”. Penned by Marc Christophe, these are the opening lines:

What will I tell you my son?

What will I say to you, my daughter?

You for whom the tropics are a marvelous paradise

a blooming garden of islands floating

in the blue box of the Caribbean Sea

What will I tell you when you ask me

Father speak to us of Haiti?

What will the fathers and mothers who survive the aftermath of the devastating earthquake tell their children about Haiti? What will they say about a place named Ayiti Quisqueya, Bohio by its inhabitants? A place of mountains whose beauty was captured by the French and the Spanish? A place whose people were killed off by disease; a land inhabited by kidnapped Africans, whose land was tilled by forced labor? What will they say to their children about Hispaniola and Saint-Domingue-identities forced upon a land by colonial presences?

What will they say about slave rebellions and Francois Macandal and the Six-Year War? What will they say about those who fought in the American Revolutionary War and who went home to fight in their own? What will they say about François-Dominique Toussaint L’ouverture and the abolition of slavery in 1794? What will they say about January 1, 1804, the equalizing meal of soup, and Black Independence.

What will they say about Jean Baptiste Point Du Sable, a free Black man, the son of a French mariner and an African-born slave mother? What will they say about his time in Peoria and the way he founded Chicago, Illinois? What will they say about how his father took him to France to be educated? What will they say about a man who had the diplomacy necessary to befriend the area Native-Americans who considered him one of their own; who spoke several Indian dialects, as well as English, French, and Spanish? How can they speak about this Haitian American Hero?

What will they say when they speak of Haiti and of this time and of the reaction of the world-their neighbors? How will they speak of 40 seconds of terror, of two aftershocks and the aftermath of the crumbling of buildings and the crushing of bodies and souls? What will they say about the promises of an American president and a people? And when, more than a week later, there is another aftershock – a devastating 6.1, what will they say of how their spirits were rocked? What will they say about how the fault lines of race and class collided to crumble an infrastructure before the earth quaked?

And what will we say to our children, and to theirs?

A history of a people is just that – a story. Some of it is true; some of it is shaped and retold by those in power. In this month where we celebrate the African diaspora in America – African American History month, we think about how race is “storied”. We know there is only one race – the human race – but ethnicity and culture get “raced” in our country, and in other places around the globe. Race, skintone and color become signs for who is privileged and who is not; who holds the power and who does not.

How will we, on this soil, on this land help shape our history, and support and encourage the Haitian people to shape theirs? How we respond, what we do in these times can help reinforce the scars of a colonial past or help heal them. To be sure, money is the best way to help in these early days. Money can buy needed supplies and water, and money can flow over the internet; it needs no transport, airfield or road on which to travel. But in the days and weeks to come, as Haiti rebuilds and as we help, the way the world puts the power to shape policy, to name priorities; the way the world pardons debt and gives grants rather than loans – these tactics will help to create a story of hope, power and agency in a critical time in history.

Let’s do all we can to help write this chapter of history with love, grace and generosity. The Collegiate Churches of New York have made a first strike at this tragedy with a grant of $50,000; you can join in this grant-making by sending a check to Middle Church marked “Haiti Relief”, or you can go directly to and make a donation there. In time, we will do more – with our resources, with our time, with our love, prayers and support.

Let’s make African History Month a time of African diasporan connection. We all come from the same cradle of civilization – Africans, Europeans, Asians and Indians. So Haitian history, African American history, Chinese history – all of it belongs to all of us; and our future story is ours to write, together.

Help Our Haitian Neighbors

January 16, 2010 @ 04:06 pm by Jacqui Lewis

40 seconds. 7.0 Magnitude. More than 50,000 dead. Too many to count. A cloud of dust and debris. Brown bodies covered with soot and dust; with blood sweat and tears. 3 million people will require aid for up to a full year. Mansions and shanties, churches and hospitals--they all fall down. And Pat Robertson thinks the Haitians brought this on themselves.

These are the snapshots of the disaster in Haiti; pictures too horrible to even process.

Where do we see ourselves in that picture? Who is our neighbor?

This Sunday at Middle Church, we will celebrate the life and ministry of Martin Luther King, Jr. We will sing, and pray, and dance, and hope and talk about what it means to be a neighbor in these days and times. And we will collect a special offering for our neighbors in Haiti. Please come and be with us for worship at 11:15 followed by our SoulFood Brunch and then a workshop and panel of The State of Race in the Union featuring John Janka, Dean Hubbard, Granville Leo Stevens, Bruni Pabon, Kendall Thomas, yours truly and you in conversation.

If you can't be with us, join us in helping by sending a check to Middle Collegiate Churchwith "Haiti Relief" in the memo, donating through Reformed Church World Service, or take a moment to look at Charity Navigator's guide.

Lead the Way

January 8, 2010 @ 05:35 pm by Jacqui Lewis

I was sitting with my god daughter Morgan the other night. She loves to hang with me and my husband and when we all go out in the world, we pretend that this gorgeous café mocha colored child is ours. Morgan is one of those women who look like she could be from anywhere; she gets that from her mother. As stunning as she is to look at, and she is stunning, when I am with Morgan, I think to myself, “I am in the presence of brilliance”. She is so smart! In her last semester of law school, Morgan is smart about the world, smart about politics, smart about torts and other legal things, smart about life, and smart about herself. She is honest, funny, forceful, focused, she takes no prisoners as she speaks her mind. She is at that age when she seems both older than her 25 years and younger (when she seems to be permanently attached to her smart phone).

People this age move from working on who they are to finding strength at standing apart from the parental ethos and a more widely cast net of influencers and influences. She and her peers at 18-30 scoff at hypocrisy and want to see clear evidence that words and actions match. They believe they can change the world, and they can. One of Morgan’s BFF’s decided that she could start a business in Africa, pull some friends in, and not only make a living but make a difference; she did and they do.

This is the Yes We Can generation. They get technology and want their media served quickly how and when they want it. They thumb at the speed of sound– as they text, email and Tweet. They want connections and they want action and they know how to make it happen.

All of these people know a truth: people and institutions that talk the talk but don’t walk the walk are to be suspected. I believe they will wither and die on the vine. This is a newsflash for the church: if we don’t get relevant, if we don’t get with it, if we don’t get meaningful, if we don’t get relevant, we will die.

So we are doing a study of 18-29-year olds. Some of them go to church or synagogue or mosque. Some of them do yoga or chant. Others are recovering Baptists or Catholics. We want to know what they think, how they think about the world, about ethics, about doing the right thing. We want to know what gives them hope and what makes them want to make a difference. We think this generation will change the world and we better get on board or get out of the way.

If you are such a person, 18-29, who wants to get your voice heard in our study, January 29-30 at Middle Church ( or you know such a person, reach out to Trish Sheffield at The conversations are on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, for 90 minutes each. We want to hear what you have to say. No compensation but lots of coffee will be provided.

Change the world, lead the way.

New Year's Resolutions

December 31, 2009 @ 01:23 pm by Jacqui Lewis

December 31, 2010, 10:00 AM. The last day of the year. The last day of the decade.

I have so many thoughts about the last ten years; I could not have imagined ten years ago how my life would be today. I have SO much to say about that, but it will wait until the New Year.

For now, I am thinking about how the sand in the hourglass is running out on this year. I am thinking about how the clock is ticking toward a new day, a new year, a new decade. I LOVE fresh starts and new beginnings. It is as though we get to wipe our slate clean and begin all over again.

Many of us will make resolutions in the next few days. We will resolve ourselves to be new, to do new things, to think new thoughts, to engage in new behaviors. I am a person who moves too fast, tries to do too much, needs to lose five pounds (maybe ten?), should give up potato chips forever, should stop swearing (a confession here), BUT

I want to use this reflective energy to think of deeper, more meaningful shifts in myself and in my life – the kind of shifts that make me a better human being and make me better at being human.

Here are the questions I am asking myself this year; maybe they can be good for you, too:

  • What was the most consistent attitude I had last year?
  • Was it helpful/hopeful or did it pull me and others down?
  • Is there anything I can do to get a new attitude? Is there anything I can do to keep that helpful attitude?
  • What was the hardest or most difficult thing that happened to me last year?
  • Where was God (or the Holy or the Universe) in that? Did I do anything to make that happen?
  • What is the most important lesson I learned from that hard thing?
  • What was the best thing that happened to me last year? Where was God/Holy/Universe in that?
  • What did I do to help make that happen?
  • What can I learn from that success/blessing/triumph/peace?
  • What is one thing I can carry with me from this year into the next that will make me a better world citizen?
  • However you engage with yourself in conversation about 2010, may it be a joyous, peaceful, purposeful year filled with new love for others, new love for yourself, new grace in tough times, and a new and abiding appreciation for the goodness of God — however you name God — and the Universe around us.

    Happy New Year!


    A Little Child Will Lead Them

    December 23, 2009 @ 02:26 pm by Jacqui Lewis

    Sunday was a very special day at Middle Church. Our gospel choir performed an amazing concert in the afternoon, and our children gifted us with a great Christmas pageant.

    Most meaningful to me among the special moments happened when the children helped me with my sermon. I wrote a child-friendly one. After one of our little people recited a scripture by memory, I used the letters of the word Christmas to talk about what Christmas means. With great respect for their intellect, I was subtle and did not say, "C is for the Child and R is for the Region in which the shepherds worked." I just preached it with the refrain "Christmas means..."

    I was good and theological until I got to the second "S", at which time I acknowledged that Santa is part of the deal for many. Our children first coached me on all the names for Santa. Then there was a Minority report. One of ours was simply outraged: "Christmas is NOT about Santa. It is about Jesus and it is about love," he said.

    Now as a Christian clergy person, I was totally going there. But this child beat me to my own conclusion! Christmas is about love. And it is about this Child who re-presents Love.

    Christmas is also about little children who, if we will listen and let them, will fulfill a prophecy in the Hebrew Scriptures: "A little child will lead them."

    May the little ones be our leaders as we seek hope, peace, joy, and love this season, and in the next year.

    Happy Holy-days from me and the Middle Project


    Sex, Lies and Leadership

    December 11, 2009 @ 03:22 pm by Jacqui Lewis

    I have been working today on our Leading Edge Conference for next April and came across some blogs about Tiger Woods sent to me by colleagues. I was intrigued most especially by Maureen Dowd’s comments in the New York Times, December 10. Actually, the comments on her comments really fascinated me.

    I have to tell you from the start that I am not up on all the details about Tiger Woods’ infidelity… my apologies. I hear there are nine women and counting, and that Tiger was neither suave nor super sneaky about getting with these women. Ms. Dowd ended her comments with, “Now all we have left to look up to is Derek Jeter.” I was tempted to go to a few sites and see if, indeed, Derek is worthy of our adulation.

    But, I did not. I don’t care. I think Derek Jeter is a great baseball player and I think Tiger Woods is an outstanding golfer. He may well be the best golfer that has ever lived.

    I am sad for Tiger’s wife. I hope that she drinks wine with her girlfriends and gets good and mad about it. I hope she gets a massage and lets herself weep. I think being betrayed is a very difficult experience, and I will hold her in my prayers as she and Tiger work through this.

    I am just not worked up, though, about Tiger falling off some pedestal. Tiger is a man, a human being, a relatively young man who has spent much of his life in the public eye playing golf. He is not my hero, and I hope he is not yours. He is an athlete, a professional athlete, a wealthy professional athlete. He was a child, then a teen, he went to college, and he met some girls. He studied some, skipped some classes. He turned pro at 21. He lost his dad. He married his sweetheart. He had two babies. He hurt his knee. He recovered from his injury and is playing an amazing game.

    I have some psychology experience and so I could risk some analysis about his life: strong parenting. Not enough freedoms. A young and growing self impinged by the golf club (see Donald Winnicott on Good Enough Care/True Self/False Self). I could tell you about how many people go underground with their sexuality because they are expected to have a certain normative image, and they live in their persona (see Carl Jung), hiding out until they get discovered.

    I also have some theological training, so I am tempted to write about how and when monogamous heterosexual marriage got romanticized (it most certainly was not romanticized in ancient Judeo-Christian culture), and how unnatural monogamy is considered in many cultures. I can write to you about how marriage is a legal contract, one that should be available, by the way, to all adults. And I could say more about the religious/spiritual/theological piece of marriage that is primarily about keeping covenant or making promises, and that the best advice I give to couples when marrying them is to make a promise they can actually keep. I say, quite bluntly, don’t lie.

    We are not quite sure about the promises Tiger made to Elin; we think we know, but are we actually sure? I can’t imagine, though, that there was a provision for having nine mistresses.

    Here is what is most on my heart: I used to be perfect — when I was about… five years old. And now, at fifty, I am not. So, I am sad for Tiger and Elin, and I am hoping they can work things out for the sake of their children. I hope the nine or however many women there were are safe and disease free, and that they will think more carefully about whether it is worth the risk to make love to someone else’s husband — famous, infamous or otherwise.

    I hope Tiger learns something from this (not just how to be better at cheating, but what is this all about)?

    But, I am not judging him. I don’t care enough to judge him. When he plays again, I will watch. I will purchase whatever I was going to purchase, with or without his endorsement. He is just too ordinary in his humanity for me to judge him. He is not my hero; I don’t need another hero. We don’t need another hero, not Wheaties Box Front heroes, anyway.

    We need leaders. And neither Tiger nor Derek Jeter count in that category from where I sit.

    They are just professional athletes.

    I want a leader in my president. I want leadership from Congress and from my state legislators. I want community organizers and clergy and lay people in the marketplace to stand up for what is right — for healthcare for all Americans; for marriage equality; for a social justice ethic that ensures that all people have safe places to live and food on the table. I want leadership in the banking industry that will decide enough is enough and give bonuses to people struggling with their mortgage payments in the form of lower interest rates and grace to keep their homes. I want REAL heroes and heroines — leadership in parents who keep on working to take care of their children and courageous same sex couples and heterosexual allies who keep pushing for marriage equality, and people who keep going to New Orleans to help rebuild that city even though it has fallen off the news radar, and folk who blog and email and inform us about atrocities in Uganda and the ways we can make a difference around the globe. I want leadership committed to anti-racism and immigration reform. I want leadership in terms of peacemaking –everywhere. And I do mean an end to war in all the theaters where it is being performed.

    And besides wanting leadership, here is what else I want:

    I want my husband and I to keep the promises WE made to each other (I happen to know what those were) and if we get it wrong, I want us to find a way to love each other through it, hang in and grow old (I like my husband as much as I love him). And, if we really mess it up (GOD FORBID), I want our transgressions to be private, not the stuff for the front page of People or for Maureen Dowd’s column.

    And I want Tiger to save his apology for his wife.

    I don’t care enough to accept it.


    Tiger’s Apology:
    I have let my family down and I regret those transgressions with all of my heart. I have not been true to my values and the behavior my family deserves. I am not without faults and I am far short of perfect. I am dealing with my behavior and personal failings behind closed doors with my family. Those feelings should be shared by us alone.

    Although I am a well-known person and have made my career as a professional athlete, I have been dismayed to realize the full extent of what tabloid scrutiny really means. For the last week, my family and I have been hounded to expose intimate details of our personal lives. The stories in particular that physical violence played any role in the car accident were utterly false and malicious. Elin has always done more to support our family and shown more grace than anyone could possibly expect.

    But no matter how intense curiosity about public figures can be, there is an important and deep principle at stake which is the right to some simple, human measure of privacy. I realize there are some who don’t share my view on that. But for me, the virtue of privacy is one that must be protected in matters that are intimate and within one’s own family. Personal sins should not require press releases and problems within a family shouldn’t have to mean public confessions.

    Whatever regrets I have about letting my family down have been shared with and felt by us alone. I have given this a lot of reflection and thought and I believe that there is a point at which I must stick to that principle even though it’s difficult.

    I will strive to be a better person and the husband and father that my family deserves. For all of those who have supported me over the years, I offer my profound apology.
    From his official website.

    Marriage Equality: Justice Will Surely Come

    December 4, 2009 @ 06:37 pm by Jacqui Lewis

    24 – 38. That is how it shook out. 24 in the New York State Senate voted for the Marriage Equality Act; 38 voted against it.

    I was watching the live stream when the vote was taken on Wednesday. I was sad; I was disappointed.

    And I am inspired. I am inspired by the speech made by Senator Eric Adams, who encouraged his colleagues to “benchmark” their lives by the way they voted on that day, and admonished Senator Diaz for speaking from his heart, not from his mind about this issue. I am inspired by the speech that Senator Diane Savino gave, where she said, “So if there’s anything wrong with the sanctity of marriage in America, it comes from those of us who have the privilege and the right and have abused it for decades.”

    I am inspired by the amazing community in which I do my ministry — a place where everyone is welcome just as they are as they come through the door; a place where we really mean that welcome, and in which we work together for justice.

    Here are some excerpts from an email chain that went around right after the vote.

    “The NY Senate just voted on the Marriage Equality bill. 24 – aye; 38 – nay. Equality lost today, but we must use this as a rally cry. Now we KNOW. We KNOW who supports us. We KNOW where we need to focus our efforts. We KNOW where to start.”

    “I think it is amazing that it went so far. New York State may not marry people but Middle Church does. Be not discouraged…”

    “Middle Church is a prayer realized. It is a green branch that is grown and cannot be stopped…”

    I wrote, “The People united will never be defeated! We can rock it; it is the right thing to do and that is why so many people (not quite enough) voted yes.”

    And then one of my wonderful congregants touched my heart with this: “On a rough day like today, your short, perfect email reminded me what a great ally we have in you — and it filled my heart with hope and resolve. I’ve been working in the LGBT movement for almost two decades, from doing AIDS prevention education in Chicago in 1990 to being the ACLU’s marriage campaign manager to my new position as ED of the National Stonewall Democrats…I have been on the losing end of the stick quite a lot when it comes to the fights like we lost today. Tonight, though, I’m reminded that I am on the side with the right people, the right side of history and the right side of God’s wish for equality for all of us. ..”

    That’s right. We are on the right side with the right people on the right side of history and on the right side of God’s wish for equality for all of us.

    We who believe in freedom will not rest. We who believe in freedom will not rest until it comes.

    This will happen. It will become law not only in New York State but all across this nation. Why? Because it is right — it is the right thing, and even though justice is too often a long time coming, it will come. It will surely come.

    So join in the growing throng on the right side of right. Write to your senators and articulate your point of view (how your senator voted). Come to Middle Church on December 13 and participate in our PeaceTalks/Justice Works program and send a letter to your congressperson.

    We live to fight another day, until it passes.

    Rogue? Rouge? Or is Leadership the Issue?

    December 2, 2009 @ 02:01 pm by Jacqui Lewis

    Hello everyone. Pardon my silence. I literally lost my voice these last two weeks and upon finding it, I was, well, a little tongue tied about how to speak about the Sarah Palin moment. I am calling it a moment because with the launch of her new book, Going Rogue: An American Life, and the parody, Going Rouge: An American Nightmare, written by Richard Kim and Betsy Reed, two editors of The Nation, Ms. Palin is enjoying a media surge, with interviews by both Oprah Winfrey and Barbara Walters; commentary in various blogs and print media; and polling by Gallup about her popularity.

    I was slow to speak (actually, I edited myself) wanting to refrain from my gut reaction (why are we talking about this so much?!?) to an analysis (why are we talking about this so much?!?)

    Among other pieces, I read an article in The New York Times Magazine by a blogger named Lisa Belkins (November 29, 2009). Her comments feel really true to me. Alaska’s former governor struck a chord in the hearts of women when she was Senator McCain’s running mate last year. She was a great hope for many — relatable, attractive, seemingly balancing home and work, caring for both a baby boy with Down Syndrome and a teenaged-pregnant daughter. Her homespun droppin’ of the g made her seem to many as one who could save the Republican Party from within the populace. She polled at 54% at the beginning of her candidacy.

    Even as Tina Fey helped us to laugh at Ms. Palin’s mistakes, even as she polarized her own party and offended feminists with her winking and flirty presence, even as she showed herself to be a poorly researched and not well rehearsed public speaker, she still polled at 42% at the end of the campaign. Now, even now, 69% of Republicans give her a favorable rating with 29% unfavorable and 6% offering no opinion. (This compares to 14% favorable in Democrats, with 72% unfavorable and 13% no opinion and 41% favorable for Independents, 48% unfavorable, and 11% with no opinion. See the Gallup Poll October 2009.)

    Why all the buzz? Why does hope remain in the hearts of many that Sarah Palin can… lead us… anywhere?

    Does Sarah Palin understand national or foreign policy? Does she understand the dynamics of power and privilege that under-gird the racism and classism in our nation? Does she know how to exert ethical leadership in the public square?

    No, she does not. But Sarah is spreading seeds that are taking root because the ground is fertile in America for this sort of leader — unethical, unedited, unaccountable, and perhaps even unintelligent. There are people in our culture who are sad, afraid, and anxious that the America they love is slipping away. They are angry, suspicious, clinging to some dream that belongs to only a few, and they need a hero/ine who can articulate their feelings in a covert way. They are thinking that Blacks, immigrants, lefties, progressives, Latinos, and the poor are taking what rightfully belongs only to them, but they can’t really say that and be politically correct. Sarah says these things in code — to and for a certain group of people who are looking for someone/something to lead them. There is no one else quite ready to say those things, no one quite ready to stand in that place against the marginalized in our country and for some values that are archaic at best.

    We know from the history of our world that when there seems to be a vacuum of ethical and moral leadership; when people are divided by class, fear, and poverty; when racial and ethnic tensions rise, they will let themselves be led by… anyone! I think the parts of this country that reject President Obama as their leader are looking for the anti-Obama to articulate the racism, classism, fear, and fascism just under the surface of the American psyche.

    And for those people, Sarah Palin is not even really a person or a subject; she is an object onto which they can project their hopes (just like Obama is an object on which to project their fears and hatred).

    I wish I could get Ms. Palin in our Middle Project leadership lab for a week. We could teach her how to think ethically, to move morally, and to have a vision for a just society in which the common good is a gift for all. We could teach her how to organize a community, how to manage conflict and change, how to have the back of the “other” and build coalitions.

    She won’t come; she knows all there is needed to know to go rogue and hold the projections and fears and rearticulate them for the masses.

    But if she did, maybe, just maybe we could give her the opportunity to learn to be a leader. Then, maybe if she did run for office in 2012, there would be a real subject there, a real person there, not an object shaped by the projections and fantasies of an America in trouble. Maybe there would be someone on the Republican ticket who would want to pull the country together, not pull us apart.

    Jacqui is also featured as a guest blogger for Advent for the Beatitude Society. Join the site and be part of the lively discussion.

    Listen to the Children Cry

    November 17, 2009 @ 10:06 am by Jacqui Lewis

    Yesterday at our church in the East Village, we celebrated National Children’s Sabbath.

    I know that children are not everyone’s flavor, and I also know that they can be distracting in public places. Who doesn’t get annoyed when a baby starts shrieking on an airplane or in a movie theater? Personally, I really love children, but in THOSE moments, I find myself moving between, “what is wrong with that child’s parents?” to “did anyone think of putting Benadryl on the pacifier” to “that poor tired baby; maybe I should go and rock her!” A baby’s cry, especially a tired or hungry or angry cry, can pierce us right to our souls, right?

    We celebrated our children so that we can listen more closely to their cries. Adults need to listen for meaning to the cries of little people. There is a cry that goes up each day in America. Each day in America, one child cries as his mother dies in childbirth. Four children cry each day before they are killed by abuse or neglect. Five children every day cry before they commit suicide. Eight children or teens cry, right before they are killed by firearms. Thirty three cry before they die from accidents. We need to hear the cries of the 192 children arrested each day for a violent crime and the cries of the 383 arrested for drug abuse.

    When we listen to their cries we can learn how to respond. Parents learn to discern the “she is just tired” cry from the “he is in pain” cry. The children in our nation are in pain. When we listen carefully, we can know how to respond. They need our advocacy; children can’t advocate for themselves. The need our activism; children don’t’ have enough power often to be activists. They need our attention as we address making the nation and the world a safe and loving place for them. They are our future, they are our present. If we don’t act on their behalf, who will? If not now, when?

    For more information on how to help our nation’s children, go to

    Out, damn spot

    November 9, 2009 @ 04:32 pm by Jacqui Lewis

    I think we need a coming out moment; a national day in celebration of coming out of the closet on race! It would be so great to get some of the racism out of the closet and on the table. Let’s talk about it, fight about it, try to navigate our way through it.

    Race matters, still, and in these United States, class and race run so closely together that underneath the poverty, underneath poor housing, underneath shoddy schools, underneath lack of health care is the racial schism on which our nation was built.

    It seems to me that there is such virulent hatred underneath the criticism of President Obama. There is such shameful blatant bad-behavior—signifying, mocking, hurling insults, hissing and booing, shouting out of turn. No white president, no matter how stupid, would be assailed in this way. How do we know?

    Well…history is a great predictor of the future, that’s all I am saying. If the shoe got thrown, wear it (is that OK to say?)

    And here it is. I am still hopeful that this administration will pull this nation together in a way that no other before could. I hope not only in our president but in those around him.

    One year ago, history was made. It is history in the making. No matter your party, or your political persuasion, I wonder: What are we going to do? What is our part in this reparation?

    I am not sure that we always feel as though what we do matters, but it does. We have the ability to make a difference, in our prayers, in our sharing information, in our speaking and writing and texting and blogging and twittering. YOU can make a difference by what you do and how you are in the world. Err on the side of patience and peacefulness; give the other the benefit of the doubt. Send positive energy out and expect it back. Read and know, rather than suspect and speculate. When a petition comes by, when there is an opportunity to show up with your feet and hands, sign it; go there!

    Love is a verb that can change the world.

    President Obama can’t do it by himself, but we can do it with him.

    Yes, we can.

    About This Blog

    Preparing ethical leaders for a just society. Posts by Jacqui Lewis, Senior Minister.

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