CRCDS in the Media: Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebrations in the News

Many members of the CRCDS community participated in gatherings, prayer services, lectures and celebrations in honor of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Day of Observance on Monday, January 19th.

Several of our faculty, alumni/ae and students were captured in news coverage, print articles and online.  Please click on the following links to view some of these stories:

CRCDS participates in the annual Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., celebration at the Eastman Theater in Rochester, New York: 

CRCDS Faculty member Dr. James Evans speaks in Providence, Rhode Island:

CRCDS M.Div. student Robert Hoggard is invited to speak in Middletown, CT


Keep Your Eyes on the Prize, Hold On! Read Dr. Marvin A. McMickle's musings on Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Day

As we observe the national holiday in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and as we see in the film Selma some of the struggles he faced and eventually overcame, I am reminded of one of the songs we sang during our marches and rallies in the days of the Civil Rights Movement; "Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on."

When the struggle was about desegregation of public accommodations or the struggle to attain voting rights in the states of the former Confederacy, nothing came easily. There was struggle, danger, sacrifice, and in too many instance including Dr. King himself, there was death.

Through all of that there were really two songs that encouraged us along the way. One was "We shall overcome" and the other one was a companion to the first; until we finally do overcome we will need to keep our eyes on the prize and hold on!

I think about that today as I ponder the findings of the Rochester Area Community Foundation about childhood poverty and third-grade reading and math levels in the city of Rochester. Our city leads the entire nation among cities of similar size in the category of extreme poverty which is defined as a family of four living on an annual income of less than $12,000.

There will be people who may read this blog who earn $12,000 or more each month. It will be hard for them to comprehend turning their monthly income into their family income for an entire year.

If you add present rates of extreme poverty to the fact that only 6.8 % of Rochester City School District are proficient in reading and the STEM subjects of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, the prospects for generational poverty already seem to be in place.

Of course, these trends could be reversed and/or reduced. Of course, all of these things could be reduced or reversed. If only we as a region and as a nation could commit to a reasonable minimum wage, affordable housing that is no longer limited just to the city limits of Rochester, investment in pre-natal care that benefits both parents and children, the end of mass incarceration for non-violent drug offenses that greatly reduce an ex-offender's chance of every escaping poverty, working on all fronts to shape a functional and accountable public school system, and a few other policy changes that are well within our reach.

These challenges are formidable, and they will not easily be achieved. They will likely require changes in racial attitudes as well as in public policies. However, they are not more formidable than ending segregation, or establishing voting rights unobstructed by poll taxes or literary tests or the capricious behavior of whites who did everything in their power to prevent African Americans from voting for 100 years after the abolition of slavery in 1865.

If our nation could overcome those challenges, then surely we can overcome the challenges that we face both nationally and locally. All we will have to do is keep our eyes on the prize and hold on!

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One More New Year's Resolution: a Reflection by Dr. Marvin A. McMickle

Dr. McMickle's latest essay appeared in the January 2, 2015 edition of the Rochester, NY Democrat and Chronicle's Unite Rochester blog. You may read it here:

In discussing the problem of war in the modern world where the just war theory no longer applies due to the destructive force of modern weapons and due to the fact that war’s destructive force now impacts more civilians than it does combatants, I am reminded of a troubling observation by the Swiss theologian Karl Barth written during the time of World War II. He said, “War means not only killing, but killing without dignity, without glory, without chivalry, without restraint, and without reserve. It also means to steal, to ransack, to burn, to lie, to deceive, to dishonor, and to fornicate.” This is certainly not true of every individual soldier. However, it is an apt description of what becomes of human nature once nations, tribes, or other opposing forces go marching off to war. These are precisely the things we see in The Ukraine, in Syria with ISIS, in Nigeria with the group known as Boko Haram, as well as in Pakistan and Afghanistan on both sides of what was the longest war in which American troops had ever been engaged. As we all consider the New Year’s resolutions that we may have already made, I invite those in power in nations across the world to add one more resolution that echoes the words of the 19th century African American spiritual that says, “I ain’t gonna study war no more.”

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"The Winter I Gave Up My Car" by Pastor G. Travis Norvell (CRCDS '01)

The following essay, "The Winter I Gave Up My Car," was written by CRCDS alumnus G. Travis Norvell and was published in the November 21, 2014 issue of The Christian Century:
Last winter the heater in my car went kaput. It was a terrible time for the heater to stop working. I am a pastor in Minneapolis, where winter is a six-month teeth-chattering battle for warmth. And did I mention that this past winter was the ninth coldest in Minne­apolis history?

Nevertheless, a heaterless car in a severe winter turned out to be a blessing—or, in the words of Elvis Costello, a brilliant mistake. For months the idea of giving up my car had been stirring in my soul, but I could not find the courage or the imagination to make it happen. One Sunday evening my 13-year-old daughter asked me to explain Christian socialism (youth do pay attention to sermons—sometimes). I did my best. Later, when I was saying goodnight, she asked, “Dad, what are you willing to give up so others can have more?”

I called a family meeting to propose an experiment that would affect us all: we would not repair the heaterless car nor would we buy another car. Instead, we would sell the car, and I would ride my bike or take the bus to work. Everyone agreed.

I was tired of feeling helpless in the face of climate change, tired of being all talk and no action. I would sacrifice a small amount of convenience, choice, and comfort in order to renew my commitment to the healing of creation.

I took some of the proceeds from the sale of the old car and purchased metal-studded bicycle tires, a pair of heavy-duty gloves (the kind a person handling molten steel would wear), and a bus card. I reckoned that if I could make this idea work in the dead of winter, then I could easily do it year-round.

The devils on my shoulders kept questioning my decision, asking: How will you get to the nursing homes in the exurbs? How will you respond to emergencies? What will you do when it rains or snows? What about your clothes (you cannot bike in a suit)? Plus, you’ll arrive late and sweaty to meetings.

I did not have the answers to those questions; I hoped the answers would come as I pedaled and rode the bus.

The first few days were horrible. I had not ridden my bike on a regular basis in years. Every inch of my body was sore afterward. Then there was the cold. In order to counter the below-zero wind that blasted through my layers of clothing, I would repeat the mantra, “Mother Earth, you better appreciate this. Mother Earth, you better appreciate this.”

When it rained or snowed, I took the bus. At first I had no idea about the bus routes or even how to pay for a bus ride. In 14 years of ministry I had taken the bus only once to get to the inauguration ceremonies of a newly elected mayor. I discovered that bus trips offered the equivalent of a course in human studies. Liberals like me may talk about diversity and economic equality, but many of us rarely spend extended time with the poor or share life with the diverse populations of the city. Riding the bus, I found myself sitting or standing beside a Somali woman reading Barbara Ehren­reich’s Nickle and Dimed, a father of five en route from the midnight shift at McDonald’s to his daytime job cleaning offices, a woman with a disability and her abusive aide, a recent college graduate on her way to a job interview, and school kids making their way across the city to the library. Riding in the comfort of my car had kept me from contact or communion with all these people. I had often prayed for the welfare of my city, but I had little idea whom (or what) I was praying for until I rode the bus.

When my pastoral destination in the exurbs was nowhere near a bus stop and too far away for a bicycle commute, parishioners offered to take me. I was uneasy with this reliance on parishioners. I did not like giving up my control of the situation or surrendering my time to another driver. But many of these trips turned out to be extended pastoral visits. As on all good road trips, the discussions in the car were often deep and revealing—moments of unexpected grace.

At the end of each month I tallied up my savings. By owning only one car, my family pays only one insurance bill and fills up only one gas tank. Needless to say, my mileage reimbursement account at church ends each month with a surplus. If my bike needs a repair, the cost is a fraction of that of an auto repair. Thus far I have been able to make all the repairs myself, thanks to a $3.00 used copy of Glenn’s Complete Bicycle Repair Manual.

Bicycles are simple machines with few moving parts; they are difficult to mess up. I spend my days with broken people, broken buildings, and broken bank accounts—complex things that are easy to mess up. There is nothing more satisfying than actually repairing something that’s broken.

Although biking or taking the bus takes longer than driving, these activities offer some fringe benefits. When I bike, I arrive at the church or nursing home with my mind clear and my soul ready. When I take the bus, I can read, rest, and learn from others.

The sacrifice has caused some stress. Each evening I have to spend a few minutes planning out the next day, mapping out routes, double-checking bus times, and developing a backup plan. I have also had to alter my wardrobe—but there is no better outfit for biking and clergy work than a pair of khakis and a clergy shirt with a removable tab collar.

Not everyone can bike to work, and not everyone can take the bus or has access to public transit. But we can do meaningful and symbolic acts that will inspire each other, the churches we serve, and the communities we inhabit. We are not helpless. At rush hour, when I look at the solitary masses in their cars while I am pedaling over I–35 or reading on the bus, I want to shout at the top of my lungs, “There are other choices.” But those choices will never be visible unless people start living differently, making some small sacrifices for the greater good, and in the process becoming better acquainted with the cities we call home and those whose welfare we pray for each Sunday.

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Peace on Earth Takes Many Forms: Dr. Marvin A. McMickle comments on the re-opening of U.S.-Cuba relations

Dr. McMickle recently wrote about the developments with Cuba in the Rochester, NY Democrat and Chronicle's Unite Rochester blog:

This morning I received a letter co-written by the National Council of Churches and the Cuban Council of Churches which began with a reference to a biblical verse that says: “Behold, I make all things new.” The letter was celebrating the new era of relationships between the United States of America and Cuba. For the last fifty-three years there has been an economic embargo and a break in diplomatic relations between our two countries. Much has happened during those 53 years. First of all, the other nations of the world ignored our embargo and continued to engage with Cuba. Next, the United States reopened diplomatic relations and trade relations with China when President Nixon traveled to Beijing. It must also be noted, for those who object to these changes on the grounds that Cuba is a communist nation ruled by a dictator, that we never broke off diplomatic relations with Russia even during the height of the Cold War. This was done under the assumption that you gain greater leverage through engagement than you do through estrangement. If we were to end diplomatic and trade relations with every nation governed by a dictator that denied democratic rights to their citizens, we would not be on speaking terms with half the nations in the world. Most of the people in Cuba and most Cuban-Americans want to see this “new thing” between our two countries, because they understand that more exposure to the freedoms enjoyed in other countries will result in those freedoms coming more quickly to their country as well. The embargo certainly did not work. If the chief objective of the embargo was to drive the Castro regime from power, then the embargo can only be deemed an absolute failure. It is time to try a “new thing.” This change in relations between our two countries did not occur without some effort on the part of many people. Negotiations involved the Canadian government, the Vatican and Pope Francis, and various members of the United States Senate, the State Department, and direct conversations between President Barack Obama and President Raoul Castro. That level of direct communication had not occurred since President Kennedy was in the White House. Their efforts have resulted in changes that greatly contribute to peace in our region of the world. Will Cuba be transformed over night into a beacon of liberty and freedom? Probably not! Will democratic principles and free trade agreements begin to take root almost immediately? Absolutely! There will undoubtedly be some grinches that would like to rob the world of this small bit of Christmas joy. The usual cast of characters, most of them in Florida are still viewing the world through the lens of the Cold War; a time in our nation’s history that most Americans including Cuban-Americans under 50, do not even remember. Let me see, we were bombed by the Japanese in 1941, but they are one of our closest allies today. We went to war with Germany in 1941, but they are our major European trading partner today. We fought a war in Viet Nam and lost 58,000 soldiers in the process, but today we have an embassy in Hanoi. Surely, in light of these precedents it is time to enter a new phase of diplomatic and trade relations with Cuba. Maybe the former Beatle, John Lennon said it best: “All we are saying is give peace a chance.”

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