Reports from Tribeca 2018, Part 3

This is Part 3 in a series of posts from members of the All Angels’ community who participated in this year’s Tribeca Film Festival. Check out Part 1 for the series overview and Bryan Brown’s opening reflection on the film Blowin’ Up.


Trevor St. John-Gilbert & “Tanzania Transit”

Trevor St. John-Gilbert is a professional actor and part-time staff youth leader here at All Angels’. He attended a screening of “Tanzania Transit” on Monday, April 23.

What was the movie about?

Tanzania Transit is a documentary by Jeroen Van Velzen that depicts life aboard a train in Tanzania. Specifically, we follow three story lines throughout the hour-long documentary. The first depicts a Masaai grandfather and grandson who are traveling back to their village. The second, a woman who is hoping to start a new life. The third, a preacher who is planting churches across Tanzania.

How did you like it?

I really enjoyed the movie. I don’t typically watch documentaries, so this wasn’t a movie I’d have gone out of my way to see. That said, I’m very glad I did. It was fascinating to see the cultural differences between us. Their culture is very religious, and they are much more open to spiritual topics and conversation than Americans. It was surprising for instance to see how the preacher was able to open up conversations with relative ease. The other thing that surprised me was the moment the train runs over a cow. Everyone hops off the train and is celebrating because food has been provided for them. They make a fire and cook it up right there! In America there’s no way a train runs over anything and we’re happy to eat it.

What do you think the filmmakers are saying with this film?

To be honest, I’m not so sure they were trying to say anything with this film. The director was there for a Q and A afterwards and it really seemed that his desire was to tell these people’s stories. It was very much up to you to interpret the stories how you wanted to interpret them. There really seemed to be no bias in the film itself. For instance, the director thought the preacher was very manipulative, but that wasn’t what I thought at all from watching the movie. It was interesting to see that the director’s opinions of people weren’t seeping through. He honestly just shot footage and put it together for us to see, then to draw our own conclusions.

As far as how the movie connects to the world, I think specifically Americans will be appalled at the treatment of women. I think it shows that even though we’ve made progress in equal treatment here in America that there is still so far to go. Hearing a woman’s story of being married off at 14 to a man who she doesn’t know and then essentially being raped just makes you furious.

It’s also a reminder of the gap in wealth. It’s clear and easy to see it when you’re on the outside, for instance when you watch this movie. But it reminded me that it’s harder for me to see when I’m on the subway. How do I treat those with less? Am I caring for the poor and needy and the oppressed?

How should Christians respond to this film?

For me there were a couple things that really hit home. One was the stories of broken people. On the train you saw racism between tribes, you heard stories of sexual harassment and abuse, you witnessed people treating one another in sub-human ways. You also saw pockets of beauty and courage and hope. It’s a reminder that we’re all human, we all have stories, dreams, and desires. We also all struggle with sin and need help, need a Savior. Specifically, it was a reminder to me and a challenge to remain open to what God is asking of me. Seeing people’s humanity, seeing everyone as a person is really tough sometimes but so worth it when you do.

The other was watching this preacher. It was interesting to watch him because basically he would walk up and down the cars praying for people and selling his book. The things he was saying seemed mostly to line up with scripture and Jesus, but you did question his motives at times. He didn’t seem that humble, but I wondered how much of that is a cultural difference.  Watching him made me ask myself what are the things that I do that make people wonder if my faith is genuine. It also made me pause and wonder how much time I spend worrying about other people’s faith versus just following Jesus myself.

How was the experience overall?

Overall it was an amazing experience! I so enjoyed going down to Chelsea to see the move at such a nice theatre. It was also and premiere with the director, so it was really cool to hear him talk about the film. It made the whole experience way more real. This was my first time at the Tribeca Film Festival and it definitely left me feeling more connected to New York and to film scene here!

Reports from Tribeca 2018, Part 2

This is Part 2 in a series of posts from members of the All Angels’ community who participated in this year’s Tribeca Film Festival. Check out Part 1 for the series overview and Bryan Brown’s opening reflection on the film Blowin’ Up.


Ariana Miller & Blowin’ Up

Blowin’ Up is a documentary that embodies the verse “Mercy triumphs over judgment.” (James 2:13)  It introduces the viewer to a Queens-based trial-diversion program which offers women charged with prostitution and human-trafficking-related crimes the opportunity to avoid trial and have their charges dismissed if they participate in a program designed to help women reflect on their experiences and create an alternative life for themselves.
Being arrested, charged, and brought before a judge is rightly an intimidating and anxiety-invoking prospect.  But rather than fear of judgment, the documentary represents the redemptive potential of the law in drawing a line defining what society will not tolerate, the purpose not being to condemn, but to present individuals with the option to choose a better path and providing a guide along that path.
The absence of the men profiting from and taking advantage of the exploitation of these women forms a palpable void in the film and the courtroom it observes.  Yet women who found themselves in complicated personal situations marked by desperation which were also exacerbated by their exploitation often seemed resistant to characterizing themselves as victims.   One who turned to prostitution to help a jailed boyfriend confessed, “I don’t believe I was human trafficked.  I chose to do that.”  Another who had paid a large sum to immigrate from China to escape oppressive debt asked herself, “I had been in bad situations before and I never did that.  Why do it now?”
Their advocates, rather than manipulating such admissions to induce guilt or shame, probe that emotional awareness to help the women find their deeper, more life-affirming desires.  And not far beneath the surface, lie yearnings so simple and sweet that the viewer cannot help but see girlish innocence.  Asked where she wanted to be a year from now, one young woman shyly admitted, “I want to be a housewife and have a kid.  Isn’t that what everyone wants?”
The trouble, though, was that, regardless of the situations that led to prostitution, once they had entered into it, they found themselves trapped, threatened, and subjected to violence.  What seemed like a means to an end quickly became a prison.
Despite the unfairness of women being targeted by law enforcement while their exploiters often remained free, most of the women, had they not been arrested, would have remained vulnerable to those exploiting them.   Some had recently arrived to the country, spoke little English and so could easily be kept on the margins of society, unknown, unseen and uncared for.  For those who know their cities well, a web of entanglements make it difficult to extricate oneself.  Providing the title of the film, one woman emphasized how hard it is to “blow up,” meaning to cut ties on one’s own and leave “the life” behind.
And so, the ability to summon these women before the law provides the opportunity for society to bring them out of the shadows, from the dark alleyways and dim parlors to the sometimes harsh light of an open courtroom where they are seen and heard, supported and even celebrated for choosing goodness.  In Blowin’ Up, we are presented with a picture of how law and grace work not in contradiction to one another, but rather in coordination with one another.  We see that compassion can come through accountability.  And at a time when stories abound of law enforcement and the judicial system being used to undermine lives, this film provides a look at what we might aspire to.

Ariana Miller is a parishioner and vestry member at All Angels’ and an attorney by vocation. She attended a screening of Blowin’ Up with fellow parishioners Bryan Brown and Elam Lantz on Saturday, April 21, the first screening in our lineup.

Reports from Tribeca 2018, Part 1

About the Series

Tribeca Film Festival 2018 is now on the books and All Angels’ was there! We sent 15 people to 7 films over 6 days. They saw 3 narrative features, 3 documentary features and 1 compilation of VR (virtual reality) documentary shorts. Several of these movies were premiers with filmmakers, cast, and crew members present in the theater for Q&A.

I asked each participant to reflect on their experience and to share their observations with the rest of us. I offered the following questions to guide their reflection and give some consistency to the various responses:

  • What was the movie about? Identify the film and describe it briefly for those who haven’t seen it.
  • How did you like it? Have you seen movies like this before? Is it a genre you like or dislike? Were there any moments in the film that you found interesting or important?
  • What does it mean? What do you think the filmmakers are saying with this film? Do you think this is something worth being said? Why or why not? How does the movie connect with the world, this city, your community, these times?
  • How should Christians respond? Does it say anything about God or the Bible? Does it challenge a particular practice or belief? Does it highlight a value that Christians should champion or reflect upon? What does it teach us? Does it mean anything in particular for All Angels’ Church?
  • What was your experience of participating in the festival itself? Did you see a premiere? Were the filmmakers, cast, or crew present at your screening? Did it mean anything special to see the movie as part of Tribeca Film Festival?

This blog series is a showcase for our participants’ reflections. Please read and respond in the comments or “like” or share on Facebook if you find these valuable. And stay tuned for new posts over the next few weeks.


Bryan Brown & Blowin’ Up

All Angels’ parishioner and film buff Bryan Brown may be best known for his guitar chops which can be enjoyed in worship on Sunday evenings, but he moonlights as a writer (well, daylights, actually), producing social studies content for a national magazine for elementary-aged readers. Bryan saw Blowin’ Up with two others from AAC on Saturday, 4/21, our first screening of the festival.

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My movie report
Bryan Brown, 5th grade
Mr. Little’s class 

Blowin’ Up

Being a documentary of a year in the life of a unique chamber of Queens Criminal Court. In this courtroom there operates a kind of catch-and-release program—GEMS, by acronym—in which women arrested in prostitution sweeps are given a chance to go through a series of counseling sessions instead of proceeding straight to jail. If the sessions are completed and the women are not arrested again within six months, their records are wiped clean. We follow a couple of specific cases, most prominently Kandie (I think; the film doesn’t identify people and it is possible to get lost in the swimming by of faces), who successfully completes the program and lands a job in Pennsylvania; a chance to start over. But our main focus is on three women of the court; Judge Toko Serita; Eliza Hook, an attorney with GEMS who works in the courtroom; and a counselor whose sessions we attend. (The film’s title, as Kandie explains, is slang for breaking with one’s pimp; but that’s not really part of the story.)

So many impressions and emotions attended the watching of this film. One was how kind everybody was to these young women. Judge Serita begins each encounter with a smile and an inquiry after their disposition. There is not a moment on camera when she is short with anyone, despite going through (it would seem) as many as 100 cases or more a day. Eliza says to Kandie (I believe) that she has no judgment of her—that is, even if she were to return to the life, Eliza would not judge her. The counselor is very gentle with her young charges, Chinese immigrants, whose faces—worried, silently weeping—are obscured.

Hey—even the prosecutor was kind. She was there to uphold the law, and you could tell she didn’t completely buy into the easy forgiveness, but she was willingly a part of the process.

Second: How little it is we see. The film punctuates its scenes with shots of Chinatowns, a sea of signs offering massages, within them photos of ordinary Anglo women and men getting rubdowns. The faces of young women on the street, in doorways. It’s not like the rooms above the saloon in Dodge City where we know what’s happening. We see these things all the time and don’t register them.

Third: How easy it is to slip, to fall. Kandie (who is African-American, and seems sharp and funny) tells us it was her choice to enter the life. It was easy; now it’s hard to get out. The majority of young women we see are immigrants who paid extortion to some kind of coyote to get them into the country and were promised jobs only to find themselves at massage parlors—then were forced into or found themselves servicing men. Much more vulnerable than Kandie, they can be deported at the drop of a hat. So after they complete their sessions, what are they going to do?

How many people in the world are like this? Most of the people in our ordered orbit, whatever our troubles, have some kind of safety net. These women have none.

I found myself thinking of the encounters Jesus had with women. People who were powerless in their culture. (This could be an interesting book.) Especially the woman taken in adultery. Those remarkable moments after Jesus invites those without sin to cast the first stone, when he’s letting her accusers slip away. Did no one condemn you? Neither do I. Go and sin no more.

Well, how likely is that? (A film fanatic’s favorite moment: When Burt Lancaster says “Go and sin no more” in Sweet Smell of Success to a young woman he’s warned off an affair with a powerful married man.) I thought also of forgiveness. How many times will Kandie slip up, blow off her job, take some easy money? Seventy times seven? How constantly do I forgive those who, in my account, violate my social/political/existential space? How easily does my righteous anger become pride?

It’s easy to extrapolate from these women to our home-challenged men and women at All Angels. They are a main reason I go there. How often do they slip and fall? What happens then?

This is also interesting: The film gives no opinion about the institution of prostitution. It doesn’t attempt to fix blame on men who keep the business going. The oldest profession. It’s part of life—like poverty. The poor will be with you always. So what can you do?

I found myself unexpectedly moved at the end of the film when so many of the participants were there. Particularly, the judge, the lawyer, and the counselor. Even some of the men you saw in the court (bailiffs?), who said nothing in the film and whose attitudes were obscure; a beefy, Queens-looking guy and a tall, taciturn fellow. They were there and embracing all around. These were people who were doing something real.

Sacramental Mattresses

Just over a year ago, a few members of the staff and vestry began to reach out to what we call the All Angels’ Diaspora—a group of former All Angels’ members who, though they have moved away or found churches closer to home, are still deeply committed to our family and the mission God has called us to. In particular, we have highlighted Community Ministries as a way to stay connected. This Christmas, we put out a call to the AAC Diaspora to help us purchase new “sacramental mattresses,” as we knew the ones we had would only last through one more rough NYC winter!

Now that the weather has warmed, we are ready to do some Spring cleaning and toss out those old, duct taped mattresses we sleep on each week. We wrote a short update to the Diaspora to let them know of the role they are playing in our much needed shelter cleanup.

Read the update below and rejoice with us in God’s goodness as he continues to meet the needs of our community.


Dear All Angels’ Family,

You made it happen! This winter we put out an ask to our All Angels’ Diaspora to help us raise $5,000 to cover the cost of new mattresses for our Sunday night emergency shelter. I am pleased to report that we reached our goal with your help!

For those of you following the news about the state of homelessness in New York City, it will be no surprise that this past winter was one of the busiest seasons we have seen at our All Angels’ shelter in years. Homelessness is increasing around the nation and is overwhelming in New York City. The number of men, women, and children living in shelters and on the streets has increased by 25% in the last two years to at least 81,000 people. Mayor Bill de Blasio has declared a “homelessness crisis” yet the city continues to lack in affordable housing. As one of the few churches in Manhattan actively committed to serving those struggling with homelessness, our privately run shelter continues to be a place where the street homeless come to find respite.

With the increasing need for shelter in our city, All Angels’ is in the process of discerning the long-term goals of our shelter program, including our capacity of care. In the meantime, we will be replacing our old cots and mattresses for the 13 women and 25 men who stay overnight on a regular basis.

Mattresses may seem mundane but they are nonetheless sacramental, “an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace.” To provide a mattress is a concrete, tangible sign of that grace. 

Once we purchase our new mattresses this Spring, we will anoint and pray over them, that God will provide rest to the weary each Sunday night and the nights in between. We cherish the prayers you pray along with us.

Thank you for your love and generosity. May God’s grace abound to you so that you may abound in every good work.

—Chelsea Horvath, Director of Community Ministries

Church at the Movies

The 2018 Tribeca Film Festival is happening in a few weeks, and All Angels’ is planning to be there.

*Scroll to the bottom of the page to see what films we’re seeing at the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival

Oh man, I love movies! From VHS Star Wars nights to Thanksgiving weekend blockbusters with out-of-town cousins, a hallmark of my childhood was captivation with the big screen. It wouldn’t have been reasonable to call me a “movie buff”, but if I were given a choice between watching a movie and doing anything else I’d usually opt for the movie. This may be universal experience or maybe it’s in my genes because my kids seem to be just like me.

For years I gravitated to releases with the biggest budgets and the gentlest MPAA ratings. Since I came up in a fairly conservative Christian home I was concerned to be entertained safely. My parents’ scruples–and later my own–kept a great many films at arm’s length. Behind this filtering process was an assumption that movies exercise some sort of power over viewers, but I couldn’t articulate that then. I only knew I wanted to experience the thrills of some movies while avoiding at all costs the worrisome effects of others. In other words, I knew that movies did something, but I wanted to control what I allowed them to do to me. For the most part, I wanted to be entertained by feel-good stories that ended happily ever after.

I went to seminary in Southern California, home of the movie industry. My school actually offered courses on film and theology, so I signed up. We watched 15 movies over 10 weeks and attempted to bring each into conversation with the biblical book of Ecclesiastes (admittedly not a favorite of mine before this class). You may remember that Ecclesiastes isn’t an especially hopeful book. It doesn’t pair so well with the feel-good movies I used to prefer. But what Ecclesiastes does offer is an honest take on the human situation. My professor Rob Johnston summed up the message of Ecclesiastes, saying, “Life is absurd and painful and joyful and worth dying for, all at the same time.” In this tension lies a certain mystery. A friend of Rob’s, theologian Bill Dyrness, says the theological task is “located at the intersection of hearing God’s story and telling our own stories.” So, in this class we attempted to use the mystery of Ecclesiastes as a lens through which to view the whole of the Bible, the witness to God’s story, and each of the assigned movies. Some of the films I watched in this way challenged and stretched me, but all turned out to be rewarding.

That first course gave me confidence enough to sign up for a second: an immersion course at Sundance Film Festival. This was a truly profound experience–watching movies, feeling the power (or lack thereof) in their stories, and considering what light, if any, they shed on God’s story. I also recognized a growing sense of responsibility as a Christian participant in this influential cultural event. Lots of people assembled there in Park City for the festival: filmmakers, producers, distributors, film fans and cultural leaders of all stripes. Each year this group makes a significant contribution to the cultural landscape of the coming years by deciding which movies hit theaters and shape the public that sees them. And I was there, present and engaged, as a Christian, as a witness to the Lord Jesus.

We have an opportunity of our own to participate in a major film festival in April. The 2018 Tribeca Film Festival opens downtown in a few weeks, and All Angels’ is planning to be there! Movies can be entertaining and fun, but they’re also powerful vehicles for telling stories and exploring people, the world, and God. I believe we do well to practice “hearing God’s story” and “telling our stories” together as a community. The movies offer us a way to do this. So you’re invited to join me and All Angels’ as we head down to Tribeca and see some movies later this month. We may learn more about ourselves and refresh our understanding of God’s story in the process. And of course, as living members of Christ’s Body, our presence will itself be a witness to God’s gracious presence in the world and an expression of mission in this city.

– Seth Little, All Angels’ Director of Worship Arts


Grab some popcorn. We’re going to the movies!

The 2018 Tribeca Film Festival is happening in a few weeks, and All Angels’ is planning to be there! We’ve selected six movies to see, showing Saturday-Wednesday, April 21-25 (with two on Tuesday evening). Anyone is invited to secure their own tickets and join us, but we’re currently seeking volunteers to attend a screening and write a review for this blog. If you’re interested in volunteering please contact Seth Little at seth@allangelschurch.com. We’ll cover your ticket if selected! Learn more about the festival at www.tribecafilm.com.

Here’s our All Angels’ Church @ Tribeca Film Festival Schedule:

  • Blowin’ Up (Documentary Competition), 6:30 PM – SAT 4/21, CINÉPOLIS CHELSEA 8
  • Zoe (Gala), 9:30 PM – SUN 4/22, REGAL CINEMAS BATTERY PARK 11-5
  • Tanzania Transit (Documentary Competition), 8:00 PM – MON 4/23, CINÉPOLIS CHELSEA 6
  • Charm City (Viewpoints), 8:00 PM – TUE 4/24, CINÉPOLIS CHELSEA 6
  • Little Woods (U.S. Narrative Competition), 9:00 PM – TUE 4/24, CINÉPOLIS CHELSEA 9
  • Diane (U.S. Narrative Competition), 9:30 PM – WED 4/25, CINÉPOLIS CHELSEA 8

Interview with Author Karina Glaser

vander

Karina Yan Glaser is a writer.  Her delightful middle grade book The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street came out this fall and was chosen as one of the New York Times Notable Books of 2017. For a great review, see the New York Times (10/27/17).

What inspired you to write the Vanderbeekers? 

I was inspired by children’s books that were written in the 1940s where New York City was a different place in a lot of ways. Bigger families could still live here, and these stories show kids are having a lot of freedom in New York City. There was that sense of community.  I loved those stories growing up, which was a lot of the reason why I wanted to move to New York.   

When I was first walking around Harlem, I had this intense love for Harlem.  I’ve lived in a lot of places in New York, and I love different aspects of them.  But raising my kids in Harlem is great because people are very open in a way that I haven’t necessarily seen in other neighborhoods.  People still say hi to you even if you’re a stranger.  The crossing guards are not solitary; they are very interactive and they love my kids and watch them grow up.   

When I was writing the Vanderbeekers I wanted to capture these best parts of Harlem.  And of course there are challenges to living here, and we sometimes think wouldn’t be nice to live in Maine or somewhere calm?  But part of having community is staying in a community and not leaving.  It takes work to cultivate that.  In the Vanderbeekers you know the father has lived there his whole life. And there’s this sense that the community belongs to him and he belongs to them.   By leaving it would break this relationship he has with everyone.  And I wanted to show that in NYC you could have this place where  you belong, even though there 8 million people living here and it can still be a place where neighborhoods are flourishing and it’s not always what people think about urban areas and urban decay. 

As I was reading your book I had this experience of longing – to live in a community that has more of those rich interpersonal connections.  And we can usually only find that only in little bits and pieces. How do you find that in your own life?

It was a criticism of the book that it wasn’t realistic.  And that’s true in a lot of ways, but it also is real in a lot of ways.  The feeling of when you belong somewhere, and how important that place is.  Especially when New York is so transient.  Why was it so important for that family to stay in that one place vs we could move away and have more space?   

I don’t feel like I’m just creating a castle in the cloud with this book.  For our family it has truly been a great experience living in Harlem and there’s something special about that neighborhood and that community where we can feel welcome and we feel like we can contribute and it feels like home.

We were very lucky because our building was new construction, an HPD program in Harlem where they were putting up new buildings and trying to encourage home ownership and people staying in the city.  Everyone moved into this building at the same time, 73 units. And there was something special about that.  Mostly first time homeowners with similar incomes, but a wide range of people there. 

A special community formed because we were all in the boat together.  And it’s been really fun to watch the kids grow up there.  One of the things about me is I am relentlessly optimistic, and I just want the girls to grow up somewhere they are known.  We pursue that really aggressively, by starting things in our building, like a Halloween pumpkin decorating contest. We started a garden in the courtyard where people have plots, there’s a tradition of a garden clean up every spring, and people are out there socializing.  We also started a little free library in front of our building where people can take a book and leave a book in what looks like a birdhouse, and we make sure the library is full all the time. We want community, and in New York you have to chase after that.

Another moving theme in your book is the power of the kids, who are able to come together and do something that the adults in their life couldn’t do. 

One thing that’s wonderful about being a children’s book author is that we can speak that truth into kids’ lives that they have the power to change.  I think it’s an amazing part of being part of that children’s book community, because we all strongly believe that kids have this incredible power. Sometimes as adults we don’t fully understand the power the kids have or don’t allow them to do things that we think are maybe beyond what we think they can do. Reading back to the older children’s literature that inspired me, there are these things that kids do that are amazing that I don’t think is too beyond what I think kids can really do.   

Kids need to see not only that, but also they need to see themselves in these stories.  In the story the kids are biracial,  and how many books can you name off the top of your head that the kids are biracial?  I see a lot of that happening now in children’s literature. We’re seeing all these different types of kids, not just white kids but all different types of kids making change in their communities.   

Where do you find inspirations for your characters?

One place is with my own kids.  In our neighborhood there is a man who sells flowers named Mr. Sunny.   He has a van and sets up a table and puts the flowers out and also puts out tables for chess.  Every day in good weather he’s out there selling his flowers and there was this one day where he wasn’t there anymore and we wondered where did he go. And it turned out that he didn’t have a license to sell near park property. There was an article in the New York Times and our local paper.  My older daughter Kayla was six. She was so distraught because she loved this man, who was always so kind to her.  So she wrote a letter to the Parks Department. It took her two hours to write and then we made copies and sent to council members and even the mayor.  At the same time other people were doing things to try to help him get his spot. And it turned out he was able to come back. Kayla got a letter back from the Parks deputy, who said he was really touched by her letter and glad we were able to get Sunny his space back.   

And so in some ways it’s a little thing but we can stand up for what’s right, and it’s not hopeless.  In children’s stories you really do have to keep the parents out of it, otherwise it just becomes a story about how the parents did something to make the kids happy and it’s not very fun.   I think that is a reminder to me as well.  On my second book my editor kept on saying this is a story about what the kids are doing. The kids are the motivators.  

You’ve talked about the importance of writing partners to you, how has that worked?

Having a writing partner has been a blessing.  I met my first writing partner in a coffee shop when i was writing my first book.  When your kids are in preschool you get to write something like two days a week for three hours.  I would see this other woman there who was also writing.  One day we just started talking, she had two kids the same age as our kids and we were both taking different classes at the same writing workshop. It’s nice just to have someone there to interact with.  I saw her as my coworker.  She would read my work and I would read hers, and it was great.

Through a number of weird coincidences I met my current writing partner, and we just clicked immediately.  We work a lot together, at a private library or at her house.  She published her first book two years before my book.  She has a lot of insight and wisdom, really generous with her ideas and her advice.  She doesn’t read my work when I’m working on it, but there is moral support.. And she’s good at bringing me back to earth if I’m in my head or I’m worried about something.  I talk to her about it, and she’ll lay out that you need to do this and this.  

How could the All Angels’ community pray for your work?

Time is a big thing now, managing different books at different stages: promotion, editing, revising, and writing from scratch.  The steps require different parts of my brain. 

I really care about whether what I write will be something kids can really relate to and feel empowered by, and feel that they are valued.

– Interview by Kevin Oro-Hahn

Preparing for Lent

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“Lent is springtime. It’s preparing for that great climax of springtime which is Easter – new life bursting through death…trying to sweep and clean the room of our own minds and hearts so that the new life really may have room to come in and take over and transform us at Easter.” — Rowan Williams, former Archbishop of Canterbury

What I love about the church calendar and living within its rhythms is that it helps me reorient myself, to the Story of God, to the Person of Christ, and remind me what (or rather who) is at the center of all things. Every year, I know that whether I feel like it or not, Lent comes to ask me that question, “How have I gotten away from the Lord and how can I return to him with all my heart?”

It may involve giving up something that I’ve grown overly attached to; it may mean taking on a new spiritual practice; it may involve delving into devotional reading or saying confession or maybe learning how to not be so intense about my spiritual disciplines and just play more!

Below are some ideas or perhaps they will inspire something entirely new. Don’t let it overwhelm you! Read through it and perhaps one will resonate or stick with you as the one you feel drawn to commit to:
10 Questions to Ask: This comes from Rachel Held Evans. Take 20-30 minutes sometime before Ash Wednesday and journal about one or more of these questions. You may have a better sense of what Lenten practice would be helpful for you afterwards.

1. When I wake up on Resurrection Sunday morning, how will I be different?

2. From what do I need to repent?

3. Is there one particular sin in my life that repeatedly gets in the way of loving God with my whole heart or loving my neighbor as myself? How do I address that sin over the next 40 days?

4. Is there anyone in my life from whom I need to ask forgiveness or pursue reconciliation?

5. What distractions most commonly interfere with my time in prayer/Scripture?

6. What spiritual discipline do I need to improve upon or want to try?

7. What are some things in my life that I tell myself I need but I don’t?

8. Why am I giving this particular thing up? How does giving it up draw me closer to God and prepare me for Easter?

9. What am I going to tell myself when self-denial gets hard?

10. Is it necessary/helpful for me to share the nature my fast with others or should I keep it private?

Give Something Up: During Lent, we can choose to give up something that has become an attachment or source of comfort and dependence that we turn to: certain kinds of food and drink, social media, shopping, etc. as an expression of our desire to turn to God and depending on him more fully. We can choose to give up negative things that come out of our mouths (or our virtual mouth on social media): criticizing, gossiping, snapping at people, saying disparaging things about others.

Take Something OnWe can also take on spiritual practices to realign our hearts toward God such as daily Scripture reading; “giving alms” to the poor (e.g. one parishioner would keep twenty $1 bills in her purse and give them out to anyone on the street or subway asking for money. There’s a stack of small cards that list all of Community Ministries programs, and you can give them with the dollar); practicing a real 24-hour Sabbath; sharing a meal every week during Lent with someone you love or someone you don’t know well.

I loved one person’s Lenten practice of making their bed first thing every morning and then sitting in silence on that nicely made bed for five minutes before they started their day. Maybe it’s choosing to do one creative thing every day that brings you joy. Maybe it is deciding to always say “yes” to inner promptings instead of explaining them away.

One year, I decided that during Lent I would engage in conflict more often (I’m a terrible conflict-avoider). If I was bothered by something, instead of sweeping it under the rug, I would try to address it.

Join an Lenten initiative: If figuring out what to do feels overwhelming and solitary, consider joining a Lenten initiative like the 40 Acts Generosity Challenge, which is exactly what it sounds like: every day, you are sent a “generosity challenge” where there is one act you commit to doing that extends grace, generosity and love in some way.

Chelsea introduced me to The Common Rule that was started by her friend Justin Earley. Justin has put together a wonderful and thoughtful “rule” that helps you cultivate habits of the heart in loving God and your neighbor. Both of these initiatives will send reflections either daily or over the course of the season.

Scripture: Make a commitment to read Scripture daily. It’s not too late to join us in reading through the Bible in a year with the Bible Project’s Read Scripture app and videos. The videos are truly amazing in helping to make complex biblical themes simple and easy to understand. They’re entertaining too!

Emma Buck had a great suggestion, particularly for those who struggle with reading because of learning disabilities or getting overwhelmed, that a good Lenten discipline could be committing to watching their videos every day. There are 115 total and 3 a day would get you through their entire library.

You can check out their website here for more information. And sign up here so we know that you’re joining us!

Sabbath Did you know that remembering the Sabbath is one of the Ten Commandments? It strikes at the heart of our idolatry of work and putting ourselves in the place of God. Here is a short, really helpful guide to explaining and practicing the Sabbath during Lent by Pete Scazzero, founding pastor of New Life Fellowship in Queens and author of Emotionally Healthy Spirituality.

Lenten Reading (and Coloring!): Hearts and Minds is one of my favorite independent bookstores. Byron’s Booknotes blog could be a book in itself, so thoughtful, theologically rich and full of great recommendations. I usually get books from Amazon, but decided that if I want a book because of his review, I’ll purchase it from him. It may take a few days for it to get to you but again, it’s okay to start next week!

You can find Byron’s Lenten recommendations here.

I hope that this list can inspire you for your own Lenten practice and help this season to become a time of returning to the Lord with all your heart.

— Christine