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Jesus, if your good Samaritan
Had come along the road to Jericho
An hour earlier; if he had heard
The cries for help; if he had found those thieves
Half-killing that unhappy traveler, –

Would he have waited, peeping round the turn,
To give the helpless victim time to offer
His coat, and cloak also, and other cheek?
What would a neighbor do? – O Son of Man,
That day you call the nations into judgement,
Do not forget – we gave two pence for Belgium.

Jesus, were you thinking of the Germans,
Or Turks, or Austrians, or French, or English,
Or Russians, or Italians, when you said,
“ Be not afraid of them that kill the body,
But cannot kill the soul: fear rather him
Who may destroy both body and soul in hell“ ?

Or were you thinking of old Master Mammon,
Who laughs to see his puppets, Peace and War,
Obedient to his hand that pulls their strings,
Dancing his Dance of Death?  O Prince of Peace,
How shall we slay the slayer of the soul?
How shall we know your peace from Mammon’s peace?

Jesus, when we’re set on your left hand
Among the goats, we wonder will it be
Because we took up arms and did our bit,
Killing our quota, reddening the shambles?
Or will it be because we always said –
America first ?

Florence Converse, SCHC, 1917

July 19, NAACP Convention, Cincinnati:

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Sitting in a circle, we’re leaning forward to hear civil rights attorney Al Gerhardstein and activist Iris Rolley describe the disciplines adopted by Cincinnati to prevent the use of deadly force by police against unarmed black men. From Ferguson to the White House, people have been turning to the Cincinnati experience of the last 15 years to find tools to reduce the bloodshed.

Suddenly the man next to me raises his hand and calls out, “A police officer has just been shot in Kansas City.  He’s in critical condition.  Check this on your phone.  We need to know about it.”

It’s one of the agonizing intersections of this day, the first anniversary of the killing of Samuel DuBose by a University of Cincinnati policeman in a traffic stop about a minor violation. This is one of vanishingly rare cases where a police killing of an unarmed black man has resulted in an officer being fired and indicted for murder.

In our small circle, mothers, fathers, African-American cops, and young people start haltingly to express the dread that is getting worse with each successive shooting. We are all flailing our arms to grasp some sort of life preserver.  How can we pull our communities out of the rage and alienation in which we’re all in danger of drowning?

Women of faith, I think there’s something we can do. Black youth, Black parents, police of all colors, veterans, white men:  everyone needs a sanctuary where they can safely come and confess their fear, be heard, hear, and begin to reconcile with each other.

Please, let’s make our churches a sanctuary – a place of safety to confide fears and traumas and to start to understand that the people we fear have so much in common with us!  Can we learn, teach, and help all these groups to learn the skills to de-escalate encounters before the guns come out?  What about writing circles, litanies of grieving and reconciliation, and drill as diligent as martial arts in the words and gestures that prevent the toxic fight-or-flight response?

Ariel Miller, Ohio-Kentucky Chapter

photo:  A mother’s protective arm around her sons during the Black Lives Matter parade in Cincinnati, July 10. The boys’ shirts read:  Hands Up: Let’s Pray.  photo by Ariel Miller

July 20, 2016

Help us remember the future, help us dream the future into becoming, knowing our oneness with all creation: every plant, animal and star. Help us all to come out of our old Newtonian-Cartesian paradigm of dualistic, reductionist thinking and extractive economy into the recognition that we and everything are all part of the 13.8 billion-year-old energy of the universe. Humans are  the conscious channel that has evolved to be able to love this creation in which every form of life is completely connected with every other form of life. Help us all remember the future and dream the future into becoming in peace, harmony, compassion, and social justice: that all life, every living creature, and creation may sustainably continue to have the opportunity to participate in this most difficult journey of life that is also the most sacred miracle we all have ever participated in.  Peace, love, and sustainability for all life.
Lynne Smith

June 14

Big, tragic events like Orlando, Newtown, etc. remind me how much we need one another and how fragile we are. Those of you who know me, know I pray in song.

For all who have received the worst possible news in the last 48 hours, for all who were the bearers of it, for those still hospitalized and those facing a long recovery, for all the first responders, the second responders and all who stood in line to donate blood in the FL sun yesterday; for all who have been affected and all who care for them, who are also affected; for all in the GLBTQIA and Muslim communities, that you may not face reprisals for being your beautiful selves, for the Congress, that you may finally see your way to gun control and stop choosing money over life; for the unbalanced, who think that murder is really an answer; for everyone continuing to walk in love during these times of devastation; I am holding you all in my prayers, and I am sending you light. This is a cover of a song by Melanie DeMore (thanks Melanie) and has been my companion today. Listen below, find it on iTunes or here: http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/anahernandezfranmckendre

Blessings on you all,
Ana Hernadez

Sunday June 12

Sunday June 12 very early we hopped in the car to join a bike ride in rural Illinois.We did not turn on the radio.

Cheerfully calling out to the other riders, we pedaled off through cornfields.

The Sunday quiet was broken at least four times as we passed shooting ranges hidden behind the windbreaks.

From the last one came a loud staccato – semi-automatic? – like someone pounding on a door, causing people at at backyard pool party to call out jokingly, “come in!”

Only at supper did we learn of the mass murder in Orlando.

For generations, the Companions of the Holy Cross have welcomed women of all sexual orientations, partnered as well as celibate. I thank God for this welcome and pray that such spirit spread to all hearts. Please, God, soon!


News from the front lines: building and dignity for women in Pakistan

Nearly forty Companions and guests from seven chapters gathered at Christ Church in Needham, Massachusetts, on Saturday March 12 to meet with Alice Garrick, Executive Director of the Women’s Development and Service Society of the Church of Pakistan. Alice coordinated her visit with the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, which meets in New York City every March. She describes her work as “a voice for the voiceless” women in Pakistan suffering from poverty and limited access to schools and trade.

Alice’s ministry began in 1989 to empower rural women, gradually expanded its focus to include children, and now looks at whole families of any denomination or faith. They are supported by partners in prayer across the globe, and are registered with the government to provide social services. About 25% of the women served are Muslim, and all are very poor.

During the first five years, the focus of the program was simply “awareness,” teaching women about health and raising consciousness. During the second five years, they began practical work, including medical camps and supporting education for girls. The next five years saw an expansion into five projects. Four of these projects involved rehabilitation for sex workers (most home-based, to support addicted or indigent husbands), HIV/AIDS awareness, midwifery training, and vocational training, which ranged from embroidery and tie-dyeing to business and marketing skills. The fifth project is a summer program for self-enhancement. The women meet in small groups to identify their problems, then present what they have learned to the whole group for discussion. In the process they practice skills of group discussion, negotiation, and public speaking.

Alice was initially sent by her bishop to look into the issue of home-based prostitution. She gathered a team of health workers, social workers, and doctors who knew who was involved in such work. The women came together in a group and were offered support, training in new kinds of work, and programs for their daughters to enter different kinds of work. Fathers initially opposed these efforts because their source of income (wives and daughters) was threatened. The first two years were tough. Once the first class of midwives graduated and found jobs which earned MORE than prostitution and were receiving marriage proposals, most dropped their opposition. In 2010 the program was in three congregations; this year it will be in 36 congregations. Over 3,500 women have completed the course. Bible study, part of the program, increases the confidence and inner strength of the women.

Asked about violence against Christians in Pakistan, Alice explained that whenever there is anti-Muslim action abroad (US, Denmark, and Paris, for example) the local people take out their anger on the closest Christian neighbors because they have no way to reach those who were involved. In addition, because of “blasphemy laws,” it is easy to make a petty accusation against a Christian neighbor. Many remain in jail after such accusations. Those who have spoken out against these laws have been gunned down. The laws have strong popular support.

Sarah Braik, SCHC


Resources for Multi-Faith Literacy

As campaign rhetoric intensifies hate and fear against immigrants and Muslims in the United States, the Companions’ Spring Conference in April provided a profound immersion in the theology and practice of interfaith collaboration. Here are some of the resources provided by keynoter Lucinda Mosher, director of the Multifaith Chaplaincy Program at Hartford Seminary.

Mosher pointed out that Christianity calls us to reach out to people of other faiths, first through the Ninth commandment, “thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor,” which, stated positively, calls us to know the truth and bear truthful witness about our neighbor. Mosher defined “neighbor” as one who makes a claim on us by his or nearness (Luke 10:25-37).

So, Mosher added, the Christian mandate includes getting to know our neighbors of other faiths, through what David Lochhead calls the dialogical imperative (“talking through”): a process of building relationship which takes time and effort.

Mosher presented parts of a wonderful DVD by American Muslim Eboo Patel (Embracing Interfaith Cooperation). Patel lists the steps which will help us be good neighbors and citizens in the United States, one of the most religiously pluralistic countries on earth:

  1. Appreciative knowledge: discover specifics you admire about other religions
  2. Embrace an ethic or theology of interfaith cooperation: we cooperate because our religious texts and heroes require it.
  3. Learn the history of interfaith cooperation in human history including your own country.
  4. Know the shared values between and across faiths instead of going straight to the differences.

To these Mosher added: be aware of America’s interfaith infrastructure. A great start would be to find out what Muslims are doing to improve conditions in your community. I was astounded to learn at this conference how a non-profit founded by a compassionate Muslim nurse in Dearborn has grown into an extraordinarily effective one-stop shop, combining emergency assistance and empowerment for vulnerable women and children. I realized that I had never asked what Muslims are doing in my city to improve conditions for all.

Through field trips and workshops, we glimpsed the fruit of decades of loving partnership between Companions in the Ann Arbor Chapter and people of other faiths – Muslim, Christian, and Jewish – to bring hope and renewal to Detroit and Dearborn.

Ariel Miller, OH/KY Chapter

Weaving Our Bonds of Affection

Our sacred thread, Spirit of the living God;

Your weaving connects us to our foremothers.

You are a never ending thread – past, present and future,

Women praying together in small groups are foundational to the church.

Weaver God you are the transformer of our togetherness.

With you among us

Our hearts are our homes

Our homes are our hearts.

In being bound together

the sacredness of God is found.

In being bound together

You are changed and I am changed.

We see everybody as a sister.

A weaving is made up of interlocking crosses.

Together our crosses bind us together

And make from us a useful object

For supporting life

And doing God’s work in the world.

The thread that never ends is LOVE.

Love is so often not part of public policy,

But it is the language of love that weaves us together.

Our discernment comes down to asking God

“Who do you want me to love?”

We are each unique creatures.

Woven together in love

We can do more than we can imagine.

We are invited to enter into prayer.

To pray is to love.

Betty Lane, SCHC

Companions pray every Thursday for peace and reconciliation

Copy of DSC04248Companions pray every Thursday for peace and reconciliation. The urgency of this gets real, fast. Many of the Companions are on the forefront of the crisis of the unaccompanied minors whose parents have sent them fleeing the violent threats of gangs in Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador. Some make their way to my Cincinnati, where many of my friends are driving children huge distances to immigration court dates, and helping them cope with an entirely new set of oppressions. The last Thursday in April, my friend Nancy copied me on an email to our bishop about one of the youthful Guatemalan refugees here.
“Maria [name changed] is 17 and here with no family. Unlike nearly everyone who has tried to come here in the last 18 months, she made it across the border without being apprehended. She lives with a former neighbor from Guatemala and they both attend Church of Our Saviour/La Iglesia de Nuestro Salvador [Nancy’s parish]. Her father hocked his land in order to raise some money for her trip here, plus the woman she lives with has loaned her money.

“Although she really wants to attend school and eventually go to college to become a nurse, she first has to pay back her debt to her father and the neighbor – a debt of nearly $8,000. This is a little higher than some, but I think that it probably included a tacit rape-protection clause: the latest statistics are that 80% of the women and girls who come here have been raped somewhere along the journey.

“At the moment she is working two jobs, one as a hotel mail and one as a commercial janitor, in order to make as much money as possible. Both pay minimum wage [$8.10 an hour in Ohio]. I have already spoken to the Cincinnati Public Schools about enrolling her in high school next fall if she is able to get rid of this huge debt.

Our April Intercession Paper included this quote from our founder Emily Morgan’s 1921 Letter to her Companions in the SCHC:
“From the very start of the Society we have been interested in social and industrial conditions…conclusions have been reached not by dreams of brotherhood or reading about radical theories of deconstruction but by a constant strain on hearts and sympathies through personal contact with the inequalities of conditions and intolerable misery which it would be impossible to believe are in accordance with the will of God.” (Emily Malbone Morgan, Letters to her Companions (SCHC 1944), pp. 210-11.