What's Black spirituality got to do with it?
A conversation with the Rev. Dr. Otis Moss about practicing faith - especially during this American midnight
Once or twice a month, The Cottage hosts live conversations for paid subscribers with authors, professors, activists, and newsmakers about books, ideas, or issues of faith, spirituality, and culture.
Usually these recordings are only for the smaller community of paid supporters at The Cottage. But those good folks thought that last night’s discussion was important as it speaks directly to the top news story today in the United States — the death of Tyre Nichols and the five police officers now charged in his murder in Memphis. They wanted me to share this conversation with the entire Cottage community.
Last night, the Rev. Dr. Otis Moss III, senior pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, shared wisdom from his new book, Dancing in the Darkness.
The book is a readable reweaving of Black spirituality into the current context, especially as practiced by Howard Thurman and Martin Luther King, Jr. It offers engaging and challenging stories from Dr. Moss’s own life and ministry. (There are eight short chapters on different themes — and it would make a perfect book to read together with a group of friends or in a church group over four or eight weeks. I highly recommend it.)
In addition to talking about the book, I asked Dr. Moss how these spiritual practices spoke to the events around Tyre Nichols’s death. Two spiritual practices in particular relate to these events: “Redirect Your Rage” and “Prophetic Grief.” The discussion moved toward painful history of the “justice” system, the meaning of justice itself, and the problems around policing and incarceration. I learned a few things — especially regarding the current tensions between those seeking to reform policing and those arguing for abolition. His remarks — and obvious passion — made me want to listen to and explore these issues more deeply.
This is a timely conversation full of spiritual wisdom we all need now. Today.
I urge you to listen to it as soon as you are able, and make sure to stay for the entire hour.
I think you’ll find the conversation thoughtful, grounded in respectful friendship, challenging, and surprisingly joyful even while engaging hard questions. The discussion models the spiritual vision Dr. Moss presented in his book — words that I found healing and beautiful.
One of the members of The Cottage wrote in the chat at the end of the gathering, “I feel happy right now.”
I did too. I hope you will as well. And I hope it inspires you to think about how you can make a difference by living both love and justice.
If you need hearing assistance, you can use the closed caption and settings buttons in the lower right hand corner of the YouTube screen to read along with the conversation.
The poem I refer to near the beginning of the conversation is Langston Hughes’ Let America Be America Again. I often link to it on July 4.
Please buy a copy of Dr. Moss’ book: Dancing in the Darkness: Spiritual Lessons for Thriving in Turbulent Times.
This conversation is brought to you by the paid subscribers of The Cottage, a community committed to meaningful, respectful, transformative, and imaginative discussions about faith — especially Christianity — and culture.
We understand the problems of being Christians in the early twenty-first century and yet we want to creatively re-engage faith in ways that make our hearts sing and address the profound problems of our times. Many of us have deconstructed and reconstructed faith more than once — and still find something deeply compelling about following God here and now. We’re what happens when you cross a retreat center with a think tank. We come from all sorts of denominations, traditions, religions other than Christianity, and “none of the above.” We’re on a journey together.
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The first duty of society is justice.
— Alexander Hamilton
This was excellent and much-needed right now, thank you for all of the wisdom on display here.
Thank you for inviting us all to hear the words and wisdom from Rev Moss.