Remind and Renew 2016: Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II

This week I was blessed to attend Remind and Renew, a two-day symposium hosted by Phillips Theological Seminary in Tulsa, Okla. One of the reasons I attended is that three of this year’s speakers were authors of recent Chalice Press books: William J. Barber II, Leah Gunning Francis, and Sharon Watkins. I’m always eager to see and hear our authors, especially in front of audiences topping 200 participants from coast to coast, but the unifying subject was particularly intriguing:

What is the conversation about race Christians in the U.S. should be having, and how might that conversation contribute to liberty and justice for all?

As a former journalist, I saw the first opportunity to live-tweet an event, and I’ll give credit where credit is due: It’s not easy. (Note that these are paraphrases unless quotation marks are used. I’m not as fast a typist as I used to be.) That said, I captured nuggets from Barber and Gunning Francis that describe succinctly yet poignantly where our country and our church have failed — and where there is hope for change.

Brad Lyons at Remind and Renew 2016, photo by Mindy McGarrah Sharp

Dr. Barber spoke first, reminding us of the original Reconstruction that half-heartedly attempted to rebuild society in the old Confederacy before Jim Crow undid that progress, followed by the Civil Rights Movement, whose progress has eroded through the end of the War on Poverty and trimming voting rights. Barber believes he is seeing the Third Reconstruction beginning in the Moral Monday Movement rooted in his home state of North Carolina and other states where the movement is gaining momentum. Here are the nuggets I captured from Dr. Barber’s talk at #RemindRenew:

  • The fact of the matter is, when you deal with racism and class, you are dealing with an old demon. We have not fully named the demon, so we cannot cast it out.
  • Of those deconstructing Reconstruction in the 1870s: “They said they will redeem America. They used moral messaging for immoral purposes. Sound familiar?”
  • “I believe the 14th Amendment (equal treatment under the law) is more important than the Second Amendment.”
  • Why was the War on Poverty stopped? Because it worked.
  • Visionaries transcend boundaries. “You never hear anybody say, ‘I have a dream for Democrats.'”
  • “If the church doesn’t have a political Pentecost and learn to speak in tongues, we will never get at this issue of race in America.”
  • “Helicopter [national] leadership will not sustain a local movement.”
  • “We need to use moral language to reframe the public policy of who’s in power.”
  • Let’s read in the Constitution that freedom isn’t, in fact, the Constitution’s priority — it’s securing our basic needs and safety.
  • On the Religious Right: “I’ve got a problem calling somebody right when they’re so wrong.”
  • Moral imagination has been the backbone of every prophetic movement.
  • “We need a grown-up conversation about race and class. An altar call. We need a revival. We need a Pentecost.”
  • (Sarcastically) Want a great America? Cut teachers. Hurt people because of their sexuality. Deny income to the working poor. Take labor more open to war than diplomacy. Distort the religious views of leaders for your own benefit. Make sure everybody can get a gun more easily than they can vote. “If we can’t preach against that … then something is wrong with us.”
  • At the beginning of the Moral Monday movement, about 40% of North Carolinians agreed with the movement’s ideas. Now, it’s almost 60%. The moral understanding of policy has changed.

Barber is the most charismatic, evangelical preacher I’ve had the honor of seeing. Each time, the audience has been mostly white and middle-class — age varies widely — but  he connects so keenly with the hopes and ambitions and frustrations that all seeking racial justice share. I can’t wait to hear him again.

In my next post, I’ll share what Leah Gunning Francis had to share about her experiences protesting Ferguson in the days and weeks after the killing of Michael Brown, of writing Ferguson and Faith, and what terrifies her in an era when just a few years ago we believed we might actually be moving into a post-racial world. Stay tuned …


Brad Lyons is president and publisher of Chalice Press.

What Is a “Holy Currency Exchange”? Eric Law Explains

From the Preface to Holy Currency Exchange by Eric H.F. Law:

LawEric_Web-smallOne way to get attention on the Internet is to string words together that are not commonly used in everyday language. This technique works because people can find you simply by typing these unlikely couplings of words into a search engine, such as Google, Yahoo, or Bing. It has been about two years since the book Holy Currencies was published. I had been using the term “Holy Currencies” for about three years before that in my blog, The Sustainist, and in workshops I have given across the United States and Canada. When I Google “holy currencies” today, I discover pages and pages of references to this two-word phrase, the majority of these references directly connected to me, the Kaleidoscope Institute, and the book. I was also pleasantly surprised to read sermons, study guides, articles on missional ministries, success stories of missional programs, gracious invitations, diagrams, stewardship addresses, and stewardship packets based on the cycle of blessings model as presented in Holy Currencies.

The words “holy” and “currencies” do not usually go together, and that is precisely why I put them together—perhaps initially for shock value, which invites people to pay attention. Combining these two words also challenges our assumptions about what is holy and what is currency. The reason we don’t think these two words belong together is that most people don’t think currencies (referring to money) can be holy.

The Greek word for “holy” is ἅγιος (hagios), which means set apart for (or by) God. The word implies that the thing, person, or place that is holy is different from the world because it reflects the likeness of the nature of God. defines “currency” as “something that is in circulation as a medium of exchange.” Notice that the word “money” is not part of this definition. Money is just one of many media of exchange. In Holy Currencies, I proposed that a missional and sustainable ministry must have the dynamic exchanges of six currencies—Money, Time/Place, Gracious Leadership, Relationship, Truth, and Wellness. These currencies by themselves are not necessarily holy. In fact, they can be exchanged for many destructive actions that individuals and systems can do to people and our environment. For these currencies to be holy, they must resemble the likeness of the nature of God. We must utilize these currencies in ways that follow the pattern of God’s will and action. …

Eric Law: It is our choice to make our resources holy by exchanging them ... Click To Tweet

We all have resources—time, place, leadership, relationship, truth, wellness, and money. What makes these resources holy is a dynamic process of exchanging them to empower the cycle of blessings that sustains communities. This book captures real life stories of these holy currency exchanges, most of which emerged out of Christian communities. Some of these stories are not specifically Christian, but I consider them holy because they follow the divine patterns of holy currency exchange.

This book also offers innovative ideas for holy currency exchanges—some of which have never been tried. These ideas are dreams or visions of what can happen if we dare to follow the divine pattern of holy currency exchange. Some stories and ideas are local, in the sense that they address how to use resources locally. Other stories and ideas are global, addressing broader concerns, such as the wellness and truth of the environment, and of national and international communities. Along the way, I provide songs and poems to open your minds, hearts, and spirits to live into the cycle of blessings.

“Holy” and “currencies” may not go together in our minds initially. It is our choice to make our resources holy by exchanging them for things that are of God’s will. What resources are you setting aside to make holy? What stories can you tell about how you have practiced the cycle of blessings?

Download the rest of this free preview of Holy Currency Exchange

RSVP now for the livestream conversation with Eric Law, Jacqui Lewis, and YOU and your questions on Tuesday, January 26 at 1pm CT:

Brad Lyons is president and publisher of Chalice Press.

What Is Your One Word for 2016?

Mihee Kim-Kort, author of Making Paper Cranes, writes:

There’s a sermon that I often heard during the summers of 2002 and 2003.

At the time I was a backpacking guide for a ministry for high school students called Wilderness Ranch. It was my seminary internship for one summer, and an excuse to be in Colorado again for another one. I needed to get out of New Jersey for a few months. For seven days two guides would take a group of high school students from all over – Texas, Georgia, weirdly, New Jersey – through the Rocky Mountains. At the end of the week back at base camp the director, Skeet Tingle, would always do the same talk using the scripture from the Transfiguration.

I remember this as I sit at a table looking out at the lovely Blue Ridge surrounding Montreat, a Presbyterian conference center that hosts college students every year for a few days. How it’s easier to see at a height. How some things begin to make a little more sense up here. How you feel braver and truer when you are surrounded by trees and your Creator. How the air is clearer and you can breathe better.

The topography of a space has to include peaks and valleys, bright sunlight and a large sky, and a nibble of winter for me to come back to myself. Good preaching and the sound of 1100 college students singing Come Thou Fount and the Canticle of Turning helps, too. The epiphanies come like breaking waves and rolling clouds, and like Peter, I am eager to pitch numerous tents to hold onto those revelations. Reality begins to blur a little, and I see signs in the poetry being read on stage, paintings, a still lake, and even my dreams become undeniable.

And so that’s going to be the word for 2016. Dream.

Read the rest on Mihee’s blog

So, what is your one word for 2016?

Brad Lyons is president and publisher of Chalice Press.

Eulogy for one tree, birth announcement for another

A year ago today was the first Monday of 2015 — the first day back at work after the Christmas/New Year holiday, which meant lots of email and lots of work. Grateful to be back at work, I spent the afternoon digging out and didn’t notice the subtle shift in my office’s lighting, from a pale fluorescent blue to a brighter midday white, then, as the day’s final sunlight streamed through old windows, a soft purple.

Sometime around five o’clock, I looked up and realized my office had never been this color before. After a quick glance out my cloudy glass window, I grabbed my cellphone and scrambled outside.

Beyond the quadrangle at Eden Seminary, the sky of the west-southwest burned as the sun reminded us it is truly a star burning with inconceivable energy. As it eased below the horizon, it threw yellow and orange to the treetops. Above that — was it pink or magenta or another color whose name I didn’t know — high cirrus clouds stretched halfway up the sky before smearing into the cobalt of late-afternoon sky. I am from the Great Plains, a land of magnificent sunsets, yet this particular sunset was perhaps the most amazing I’d ever seen.

I snapped a few photos with my iPhone, but they didn’t do this masterpiece justice. Then I took a dozen steps north to put a massive American Elm between the sunset and me. Its dark, lanky, bare silhouette framed the sunset perfectly. That was the photo I posted on Facebook and eventually Panoramia and Google Earth.

Sunset, January 5, 2015, Eden Theological Seminary
Sunset, January 5, 2015, Eden Theological Seminary

In the few days after Christmas, when historic rains softened the ground too much, the old root system couldn’t hold the tree upright one second longer. When the tree crashed down, the ground must have shaken, and it must have made an incredible racket, a holy racket. It fell to the south and toppled a smaller tree; if it had crashed to the east, it likely would have toppled into my office. The tree had to be four feet in diameter, enormous in mass.

Yesterday afternoon, a work crew finished three days of cutting and hacking, leaving a muddy smear in the winter grass. The wood has been hauled off, and all that remains is the sawdust and wood chips from chainsaws and bulldozer tracks. The roothole is filled, the ground smoothed, and I imagine the grounds crew will next address the issue when it’s time to plant grass.

Eden quadrangle, January 4, 2016
Eden quadrangle, January 4, 2016

The seminary displays historic photos in the main hallway of its academic building, and I examined them today to see if I could spot the tree as a sapling when the campus was under construction in 1924. I didn’t see it, so my guess is that the tree was planted in Eden’s first few years. In those succeeding decades, that tree shaded some incredible thinkers like the Niebuhrs, Reinhold and Richard, and Walter Brueggemann and thousands of pastors who have baptized, married, educated, counseled, and buried countless Christians and non-Christians alike. Under its branches have walked those who conceived astounding visions for how church could evolve in a world none of them could imagine.

That tree shaded some incredible thinkers like the Niebuhrs ... and Walter Brueggemann ... Click To Tweet

If a new tree is planted tomorrow, it will take decades to grow as tall as the one that likely serves as firewood tonight or mulch in the spring. If we are lucky — and I believe we will indeed be lucky — that tree too will see its share of great thinkers and astounding visions.

That new tree will, eventually, replace the old tree. If we nurture it and care for it, if we are careful to give it the nutrients and respect it needs, it will grow. Surely the new tree’s branches will look different, and it may be a different species of tree altogether, but it will fill the same role: shade on a hot day, shelter for birds and squirrels, carbon dioxide processer and oxygen generator for those of us who need to breathe, silhouettes for the artist, home base for neighborhood children playing in Eden’s fountain on a muggy day.

And so it is with all of us, and our institutions, our churches, and our world, which changes sometimes in the matter of seconds, of a few words said or unsaid, of ideas shared or hoarded, of possibilities followed or abandoned. When the old dies, we replace it with the new. It will be the same, it will be different, but it will be.

I hope they plant a new tree soon. I already miss the old one.

Update 5:14 pm CST: Tonight’s sunset is a good one, too. Must be something about January 5.



Brad Lyons is president and publisher of Chalice Press.

Welcome to #ABetterWord

Welcome to #ABetterWord, the new blog from Chalice Press where you’ll find information about authors, their work, our books and other resources. We also hope it will provide inspiration for you as you grow a deeper relationship with God, equip yourself as a disciple of Jesus Christ, and go into ministry as the Holy Spirit calls you.

Chalice Press offers hundreds of titles going back dozens of years, and all of it is still relevant in today’s world. We’re willing to bet you don’t know about many of our titles, so we’ll provide samples of our tried-and-true work so you can see the possibilities in our books. We’ll also introduce you to our newer authors at the leading edge of today’s thinking on religion, faith, and our culture. Many of our authors have blogs that you’ll want to read, and we’ll highlight those. We also know we’re not the only content providers on the planet, and we’ll link to other resources.

We also acknowledge that being a book publisher means we can’t respond to breaking news rapidly. (For more on breaking news, see The Internet.) Social media has become society’s go-to source to express our collective joy or grief, and we join in that conversation on Facebook and Twitter. But beyond those initial 140-character proclamations, our blog will help us reflect on those events.

We’ll also warn you that we might get silly sometimes. We hope you won’t mind a little levity.

Finally: Thank you. You probably haven’t stumbled in here randomly. Something brought you here, and it’s likely that you’ve seen a Chalice Press book or have another connection to us that predates these couple hundred words. You’ve probably already helped us in our ministry in any number of ways, so thank you. We’re grateful to be at your side as you work to find a better way to build a better world. Just like recommending a good book to a friend, we hope you’ll share these blog posts, too! And subscribe by email to keep up-to-date on everything we post.

Brad Lyons
President and Publisher

Brad Lyons is president and publisher of Chalice Press.