When Hope Sings, So Beautiful was published five years ago, it felt a little like I was singing — or perhaps spitting — in the face of a gale force wind. Naturally every author hopes his or her work will be “read widely” and received more or less “appreciatively” by an imagined audience. Five years later, my hopes haven’t gone unfulfilled, my singing hasn’t gone unheard, and my spit, to complete the metaphor, hasn’t flown back in my face. Not yet, in any case.
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 five years since the book’s publication has 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.
If you, your church, your students, or anyone you know has benefited from reading Hope Sings, So Beautiful, or if this blog and website has been helpful to you in any way, I would welcome hearing from you in the comments section below. Tell me what has been helpful, share a story of how you’ve used the book, or offer an honest critique. What might have been done or said better? Is there a particular chapter of the book, or a particular blog post these five years, that stands out for you?
Five years in, I am grateful to friends and dialogue partners in Cincinnati, in Denver, my present home, and in cities all around the country, who have invited me to speak in their churches and university classrooms and retreat centers. I am equally grateful to individual readers who’ve expressed gratitude to me for the book as an entry point for their own personal, spiritual, and theological journeys in the realm of racial justice and reconciliation. And I’m especially thankful for those colleagues in the academy who have published thoughtful reviews of Hope Sings, So Beautiful, and in doing so have introduced the book to a wider audience. Thank you! (Links to reviews below.)
I owe an especially exuberant “Thanks be to God!” for the friendship and leadership of Pastor Henry Zorn of Lutheran Church of the Resurrection in Anderson Township, 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 him and his church in their ongoing commitment to racial justice and reconciliation. I was teaching at Xavier University in Cincinnati at the time, and was deeply moved by Henry’s endorsement of the book. It seemed to me a direct affirmation that my hopes and “labor pains” in bringing the book to publication had not been in vain.
In 2006, Henry started Anderson Churches for Racial Unity, an ecumenical organization that promotes education and awareness of racism. After the massacre at Mother Emmanuel, Henry led his church community in rituals of remembrance and lament and reached out to establish a sister-church relationship with Allen Temple AME Church in Bond Hill, an historic black church in Cincinnati’s urban core. The relationship between the two churches continues to this day, and their collective witness is one of the most powerful examples I’ve come to know of the labors and hard-bought joys of building transformative relationships across the color line. Henry himself might confess that he has seen the blind become sighted, the diseased become whole, one stumbling relationship at a time, starting with himself and his congregation. Yet clearly, painfully, there is so much more work yet to do.
Finally, I owe a big thank you to Liturgical Press for publishing Hope Sings, as well as my two books on Thomas Merton, and for supporting me these five years via this blog and continued promotional efforts. With your blessing, I will keep singing and sometimes spitting into the wind, with hopes that five or ten years from now, neither the book nor the blog will be so sorely needed.
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)
- Mary McClintock Fulkerson. The Journal of Religion 95:4 (Oct 2015): 579-80. Fulkerson.Jrnl.Religion.2
- Lauri Cassidy. Horizons 42:1 (June 2015): 212-14. Cassidy.Horizons
- Raymond Carr. The Merton Annual 27 (2014): 248-52. Carr.HopeSings.MertonAnnual
- Jon Nilson, Anglican Theological Review 96:3 (Summer 2014): 621-22. Nilson.AnglicanTheological.2014
- Kevin Considine. Theological Studies 75:1 (March 2014): 217-18. Theological Studies-2014-Considine-217-8
- John Kane. “At the Color Line: Race and Hope.” The Denver Post (November 2013) JohnKane.Hark
- Arlene Montevecchio. National Catholic Reporter (August 21, 2013)
- Andrew T. McCarthy. Catholic Books Review (Summer 2013)
- Laura Swan, OSB. Magistra: A Journal of Women’s Spirituality in History 19:1 (Summer 2013), 96-7. LauraSwan.Magistra
- Alden Bass. Englewood Review of Books (July 19, 2013)