Welcome

Welcome to Spirit of Abilene, an online faith forum to share ideas, stories, reflections, artistic expression, and opinions. Spirit of Abilene is the creation of Loretta Fulton, a veteran journalist with more than 20 years experience in writing about religion and spirituality issues. Submissions to this site, including articles, photos, poetry, opinions, reflections, and artwork, are welcomed. Faith In Action is a collection of photos of Abilenians putting their faith to work. Please spread the word to anyone you think would be interested in reading–or contributing to–Spirit Of Abilene. Click on the “email signup” in the top menu to receive a weekly update on new content. When submitting articles or images, please include a photo of yourself and a brief description of who you are. Send to editor@spiritofabilene.com

Add your voice to those speaking out against hatred and violence

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People of faith all over the country are speaking out against the bigotry and hatred that ended in death in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend. If you would like to add your comments, thoughts, reflections, please send to editor@spiritofabilene.com And, please attach a photo of yourself. Below are submissions from Jacob Snowden, president of the Abilene Interfaith Council, and Jen Rogers, a counselor with the International Rescue Committee and a social activist.

JacobSnowden

Jacob Snowden

JACOB SNOWDEN
President, Abilene Interfaith Council

The events of this past weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia, are deeply disturbing and saddening. The rally to “unite the right,” summoning white supremacist groups around the monuments of civil war figures, is indicative of a desire to celebrate and retain a history of racial violence and division. The Abilene Interfaith Council condemns the bigotry, hatred, and division represented by the events of this past weekend. Furthermore, we will continue to promote understanding and peace for the diverse people of Abilene and the Big Country regardless of religion and race. While we are confronted with the injury of the weekend, we pray for greater unity and compassion for our future.

JenRogers

Jen Rogers

JEN ROGERS
The emboldened racism on the streets of Charlottesville should both appall us and cause us to look within ourselves and our communities. It should lead us into response in our homes, work, and places of worship. It should cause us to bring and be light to shine in the darkness, to call out hate, and to be agents of peace and reconciliation. It should ask to to genuinely reflect on the ways we, even if unintentionally, contribute to racism in our communities. It calls us all to be active participants in fighting hate and racism. We cannot assume that this is a problem outside of ourselves and our community. Instead, we should be committed to address this in all of our circles of life. It may mean that we call out people we love or stop jokes and snide comments. It may mean that we get to know people in our community outside our spheres of influence. There are a million things it could mean. But if we ignore it or remain silent, we allow it to grow and we condone it by our inactivity.

DonWilson

Don Wilson

DON WILSON
Pastor, First Christian Church

The hate-filled, sinful actions of white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virgina, have me thinking of a Christian martyr who once said to a persecuting king, “You may deal us many fierce blows O King, but you must remember that the Church of Jesus Christ is an anvil that has outworn many a hammer.” So may the power of love outlast every blow that hatred and bigotry flings against it. Even more, may love shout even louder for justice, dignity and peace.

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Cliff Stewart

CLIFF STEWART
Pastor, First Central Presbyterian Church

“I have freed a thousand slaves, but I could have freed a thousand more if they knew they were slaves.”—Underground railroader Harriet Tubman

“If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.” Heather Heyer’s last post on Facebook before being murdered in Charlottesville on Saturday.

As a pastor in our Abilene community, I want to reflect on the disturbing rise of racial violence and tension that has come once again to our awareness in the recent clash of protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia.

A young student in our church emailed me on Saturday evening asking me to include Charlottesville in our pastoral prayers on Sunday morning. Of course, I said yes. When I saw the student who requested this after church I thanked him for his asking. He said he had been on Twitter after the violent confrontation between protesting white nationalists and those who were standing up against these racist protestations. The buzz around Twitter was how important it was that pastors all around the country say something in our Sunday services about our concern.

Many of us (myself included) are woefully ignorant of the evil dynamic of racism that permeates the world around us. If I only had been aware of how badly others have been treated I would have said something sooner. I had not earlier but now I am speaking.

I urge citizens of good conscience to arise and call our nation to assess and address the rising tide of injustice. I pray that God will open our eyes to the unfair mistreatment of human beings who deserve equal rights with those who are “privileged’ in our society. Let us stand together for liberty and justice for all.

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The Rev. Mary Glover

MARY GLOVER
Rector, St. Mark’s Episcopal Church

Good people of St. Mark’s: We must–strongly and courageously–condemn and oppose the views, rhetoric, and actions of those who claim allegiance to the KKK, the fascist and neo-Nazi groups, the white supremacists, the “alt-right,” and, especially those who claim Christianity as an ally in their hateful and violent actions.

“Blessed are the peace makers,” Jesus says. That peace-making cannot be achieved while standing back, remaining silent and afraid. Prayer is a place to begin… prayer changes us. Let us find strength and courage with and from each other in order to stand up for our brothers and sisters who are subjected to hate and inequality and harassment.

Let us rely on one another to know that we do not speak alone when we speak out against the hateful words of others. Do not needlessly put yourself in harm’s way, but let us pledge together to stand up for love, to stand up for inclusion and broadening relationships, and to carry God’s message of welcome, reconciliation, tender mercies, companionship, and solidarity to those who are being taunted, shamed, and, in too many cases, injured. They will know we are Christians by one thing alone… by our love.

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Jonathan Storment

 

(Editor’s Note: Jonathan Storment’s blog first appeared on the Patheos website, http://www.patheos.com

JONATHAN STORMENT
Minister, Highland Church of Christ

Nobody thinks they’re a racist.

Have you ever noticed that? In the social media bubbles of our own making, the echo chambers of our design we can safely assume that we are able to love everyone.

Even some of the people who marched under Nazi flags chanting “You will not replace us” this weekend, when their identity was outed online wanted to make sure the world knew “I’m not the angry racist I appear to be in those pictures.”

And while that kind of deceit is easy to see at a distance, I believe we are all engaged in a level of self-deceit…especially when it comes to this.

It’s only when you have to spend time around the people you would just as assume avoid that you discover the more nasty bits of truth about yourself, and it’s only when you discover those truths that you’re able to truly act on and resist them.

Over the weekend, as I watched the images of the angry white men marching with Tiki torches in Charlottsville one thought kept going through my head.

I have way more in common with them them than I’d like to admit.  (more…)

Michael McCown performs ‘Songs I’ve Always Known’ in Aug. 31 Concert

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Michael McCown, a Cooper High School and Hardin-Simmons University graduate will perform hymns from his new CD, “Songs I’ve Always Known,” in a free public concert at 7 p.m. Aug. 31 at First Baptist Church.

Michael is visiting his parents, Palmer and Patsy McCown, while on break from his work with the Frankfurt Opera. Michael grew up at First Baptist and his parents are longtime members.

Michael, who earned a master’s degree from the New England Conservatory of Music, sings tenor with the German opera. He is entering his 18th year with the company.

ACU instructor brings humor, insight into ‘A World Gone Mad’

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(Editor’s Note: Randy Harris, an instructor at Abilene Christian University, led a two-day seminar Aug. 4-5 on Christian ethics. Always entertaining and insightful, Harris didn’t disappoint. He invites anyone interested to a “Ministers’ Lunch Hour with Randy Harris”, 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. Aug. 29, in the Hunter Welcome Center on the ACU campus. His topic will be “Does the Church Matter?” Cost, including lunch, is $15. To register, go to www.acu.edu/siburt and click on “Events” by Aug. 22)

By Loretta Fulton

The title of the two-day seminar was “Christian Ethics in a World Gone Mad: How to Cope and Even Thrive.”

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Randy Harris

By the time it was over, some in the sessions may have suggested a name change to: “Solving Christian Ethical Problems Can Drive You Mad.”

Such is the nature of Christian ethics–it ain’t easy. Thankfully, the leader for the Aug. 4-5 seminar at Abilene Christian University was Randy Harris, a popular instructor at ACU, who made the sessions not only informative and enlightening, but also entertaining.

If you want to be driven truly mad, and entertained at the same time, read “ The Trolley Problem, or Would You Throw the Fat Guy Off the Bridge” by Thomas Cathcart. Harris suggested everyone attending the summer short course read the book beforehand. Those who did realized that spending just two days pondering ethical issues could be maddening.

An example of the ethical dilemmas thrown out by Harris for the participants to ponder:

  1. God wills it because it is good.
  2. It is good because God wills it.

Answer: “Not exactly.”

Scholarly types might want to know that the brain-teaser officially is known as the Euthyphro Problem, first posed by Plato. Don’t worry–even Harris had trouble spelling it. (more…)

Faith in Scouts restored, despite president’s ‘inappropriate’ speech

(Editor’s Note) Rick Hammer, a biology professor at Hardin-Simmons University and a Boy Scout leader, eagerly led a group of area Scouts to the National Boy Scout Jamboree, or “Jambo,” held in the Appalachian Mountains of West Virginia. He experienced many high points and one major low point–President Trump’s talk to the Scouts that caused an uproar. Below is an expanded Facebook post from Rick, dated July 27.)

“On My Honor…”

By Rick Hammer

Good morning from Jamboree at the Summit Center and our final day at Jambo! We are expecting rain to begin this afternoon and to continue until we depart at 9 a.m. tomorrow morning.

I think this morning has been my best day at Jamboree. I walked out of our camp this morning carrying three heavy postal flat-rate shipping boxes of bling (and a dirty T-shirt or 2) to mail back to Abilene.

Well, it’s a 15-20 minute walk mostly uphill and I was not looking forward to it at all. I had not taken more than a few steps out of our camp and onto the trail when four Scouts from Brownsville came up and insisted on helping me since they were headed the same way.

It’s my best day ever, not because I did not have to carry the boxes but because I got to see four Scouts selflessly demonstrating and living the Scout Law. I gave them all of our Texas Trails patches that I had with me. This experience has renewed my belief in what Scouting is supposed to be all about.

Stealing of cell phones, chargers, and patches has been rampant this week. That, along with much inappropriate pro-Trump political comments and disrespectful behavior during the presidential visit had my belief in the Scouting Law and Oath on the low end.

Four excellent Scouts from Brownsville provided my best day and experience at the 2017 National Scouting Jamboree. God bless them and Scouting! The day after the President addressed us Boy Scouts at the Jamboree with an unfocused, irreverent, and politically motivated speech, the Boy Scouts of America issued an official statement distancing themselves from most of the comments made by the President at Jamboree.

Trump recently stated that the Boy Scouts of America (BSA)  officially called him to personally congratulate him for his talk at Jamboree. BSA has officially denied Trump’s dishonest claim. Just another example of the discordance and abuse of integrity coming from this administration.

This is the real and tangible lesson that Scouts and Scouters should take away from last week’s Jamboree appearance and political speech by the President. From the Boy Scout Oath, “On my honor…”

STOP THE VIOLENCE RALLY SET FOR AUG. 14 AT ABILENE CONVENTION CENTER

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Chad Mitchell, pastor of The Mission, is inviting all citizens of Abilene to the annual Stop the Violence rally to be held Aug. 14 at the Abilene Convention Center. Mayor Anthony Williams will be among the speakers who will help facilitate a conversation about stopping violence in Abilene. Mitchell is extending a special invitation to all pastors, civic leaders, and leaders of nonprofits, as well as all interested citizens. The Stop the Violence movement started in 2008, with a goal of uniting citizens against violence.