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Just be

(10/12/20 4:00am)

I was on sabbatical during this past Spring semester. Sabbaticals are a gift, not only in university settings, though probably most prominently so. It is a gift to rest, reflect, renew and rejuvenate. Of course, for professors, there’s the expectation that one will also engage in another “r,” that is, research. And I did that this past Spring.

Loving your body

(09/14/20 4:00am)

As a homiletics professor at Duke Divinity School, a teacher of preaching, one of my favorite preachers is a woman. She’s actually an “unchurched preacher.” No letters behind her name for seminary degrees—no degrees at all, actually. Not even a GED. Though she doesn’t have any school degrees, she seems to possess a Ph.D. in wisdom and love. There’s one particular sermon of hers that is in the words of Nat King Cole, “unforgettable.” Her name is Baby Suggs holy, a woman preacher in Toni Morrison’s 1988, Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, Beloved. This novel is a fictional narrative account of a former slave’s memories of post-Civil War Ohio. Baby Suggs holy, despite having “busted her legs, back, head, eyes, hands, kidneys, womb and tongue” through the furnace of slavery, preaches about the corporeal body to a corporate body in what was known as the Clearing in the woods. Morrison writes that she preaches from her “heart.” Is there any other way to preach? 

The gift of laughter

(08/31/20 4:00am)

There’s a cultural myth within African American folklore about the character High John de Conqueror. Anthropologist Zora Neale Hurston tells a story about him and how he helped enslaved Blacks survive harsh realities. He took them away on a trip to heaven to see the Old Maker without the white slave master realizing what was happening. When they returned from their trip, they were strengthened and renewed because of the two gifts they had received. The two gifts High John gave them to endure their brutal, inhumane situation were the gifts of laughter and song.