Hope Sings at Seven Years: A Resource for Deep Listening, Self-Reflection, and Action

When my book Hope Sings, So Beautiful was published in 2013, it felt a little like I was singing — or perhaps spitting — into the face of a gale force wind. Today, in the wake of the murder of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis and the wave of protests sweeping across the country, that wind feels like a Category 5 tornado.

             Bebeto Matthews/ AP

To talk about race is a hard thing under the best of circumstances. Yet the litany of horrors linked to race that have taken place in this country in the seven years since the book’s publication have made it both more difficult and even more urgent today not only to “talk about race,” but more importantly, to intentionally build relationships and open ourselves up to “graced encounters” across the color line.

As I said to my wife Lauri last night, I feel that the well of words to speak into the void of white supremacy in this nation has run dry. Since the book’s publication, on this very blog I have written about the deaths of Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland, and Eric Garner. I have written about the anxiety that comes with being the adoptive father of two black children, our youngest son Henry, now 11, a big, beautiful, very dark-skinned kid who already weighs more than his dad. I have written about the importance of interracial worship, welcome, and solidarity in my own experience and in churches around the country. Yet today, much of what I have written feels like so much straw, scattered in the wind.

CoverIf you, your church, your students, or anyone you know has benefited from reading Hope Sings, So Beautiful, or if this blog has been helpful to you in any way, let me say, first of all, thank you. And second, I want to ask you to consider who in your circle of friends, family, fellow Christians, pastors, priests, religious men and women, young people, old people, students, might benefit from the book. And to consider recommending it to them, whether for personal reading and reflection, or for a neighborhood, parish, or organizational reading group.

At the risk of offending humility, when I revisit the pages of the book today, and when I occasionally assign particular chapters to my students, it feels just as relevant today, if not more, than on the day it was published 7 years ago. More personally, I feel it is one of the best — because most honest and personal and difficult — things I have written. (But don’t take the author’s word for it! Links to reviews of the book are below.)

Of course, there are many other superb resources, especially by writers of color, that I would recommend: scholars, artists, mentors, and colleagues from whom I have learned a great deal in my own self-reflection and education as a white Catholic on the history of racial injustice in American society and in the church. Indeed, many of these are my primary conversation partners in Hope Sings, So Beautiful. In this way, the book can serve as a window into a much wider conversation and world of powerful, transformative stories and resources.

Henry.ZornI want to finally express my enduring gratitude for the friendship and witness of Pastor Henry Zorn of Lutheran Church of the Resurrection just outside of Cincinnati. After the massacre in June of 2015 at Mother Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC, Pastor Zorn reached out to tell me that he had read Hope Sings, and that the book had become a kind of “blueprint” for himself and his church in their ongoing commitment to racial justice and reconciliation. Those efforts and life-changing relationships his church community has built “across the color line” continue to this day.

Onward, each of us, I pray, and let us keep walking the path together with courage and hope.

Select Reviews of Hope Sings, So Beautiful: Graced Encounters Across the Color Line (Liturgical 2013)

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