when i called the african methodist episcopal zion church home

there was a time, my friends, that i called the african methodist episcopal zion church (AMEZ)  my home. and i am so proud to say that.

that’s right. little ole white american girl me was a member of a passionate, inspiring, welcoming, enlightening, life-changing AMEZ community for about four years.

if you know anything about me, you’ll know that i have a methodist (christian protestant) background and upbringing. my methodism is still part of my spirituality, though i also invite + use other elements of other religions/faiths and non-religions in my spiritual journey.

just 7 short years ago, in addition to working at a united methodist church, i was also studying for my master’s degree in theology at an African Methodist Episcopal Zion (AMEZ) seminary. 

the AMEZ church was founded in 1796 in new york, as black members in that area separated from the white Methodist Church. (the african methodist episcopal church (AME) was also founded in 1796, but in Pennsylvania, as black members separated from the white Methodist Church. both were founded so that black americans at the turn of the 18th century would have the opportunity to worship in their own way and also set up their own theological schools. both were supported and helped by the white methodist church. all of the theologies and organizations of all three of the churches are fairly similar… seeing as they all 3 rose out of the methodist movement by john wesley in the 1700s. and today all three denominations have made a commitment to work together in ministry.

now, most people in north carolina (where i lived + worked at the time) who want to study theology at a united methodist seminary choose to go to duke university. my granddad did about 70 years ago. and, of course, throughout all of my life i thought hat i had wanted to attend duke also.

but, in order to study there, i would have had to quit my job and relocate, which i wasn’t going to do. however, i had heard a tip from some fellow ministers + pastors about a small AMEZ seminary that had a master’s of divinity degree schedule that worked well for people who worked and needed to commute. same degree. same theology. just a different school.

i looked into it, and after taking just one preliminary class there, i knew with all of my soul that this was where i was meant to be. it was the perfect fit – and believe me, i had visited many different seminaries in the country. it was small, unique, personal, and it felt like i would get to  be part of an intimate, motivated grassroots effort –  a place where i could explore my faith, expand my spirituality, and be a part of what i knew would be a life-changing experience.

i knew inside that all along i had wanted something a little different. to step outside of the norm. and expand my horizons (and mind)  in a whole new way.

so, i decided to leave behind the traditional united methodist seminary and attend this small, historical, black AMEZ seminary. yes, i spent four incredible years studying theology full-time at hood theological seminary in salisbury, north carolina. 

to express to you what it was like to attend classes with such a diverse group of people from all backgrounds, races, nationalities and ages would be nearly impossible. just know that, even though hood was a seminary of only a few hundred students, the intimacy + interaction + support that i received from fellow students and our professors was profound. i made deep connections, that even though i may not have much contact with people now, have impacted my life and remain close to my heart.

me hood graduation

almost daily i still remember some of the moments and lessons and experiences that i had. times like eating meals with members of all races and discussing racism head-on in light of our faith, of listening to the stories + lives of others, of feeling lost + overwhelmed together as we tackled these complex subjects of faith + life, of hitting the bottom in my own life, only to find that this community of professors + students was there to support me and help me find my way to my own inner peace.

my professors challenged me, and i had the highest of highs when i was awarded the title of theological student of the year. and the lowest of lows, when a professor pushed and challenged and failed me – only to help me see that i was capable of so very much more that i was giving. these highs + lows were life changing. they gave me clarity. they made me a better theologian, minister, and spiritual being.

but, one of the things that i remember and call on most, are the daily worship services that we shared as a community. each student had to preach and lead a community/campus-wide worship service multiple times throughout their studies. this terrified the begeezus out of me in the beginning. preaching for my fellow students and professors blew the freak out of my mind. but, as the years passed, and as i grew in confidence + knowledge, i became someone who loved to share a message of love + grace. i loved standing up in front of people + letting all of the research and studying and meditating i had done come bubbling out of me.

however, it was also about receiving from my fellow classmates + faculty. there were days when a white male student would preach a subdued, yet powerful sermon; and then there were days when a fiery african american woman would have the place rockin’ and singin’ and amen-in’. and i loved how every worship service was different. the ones that crossed cultures + backgrounds + meshed them all together were the best.

but, the real beauty was found in the communion of our hearts + souls.

we may have used different words, or looked differently, or even communicated everything differently, but we were all claiming the same thing: grace and love and peace. harmony and justice and freedom.

me greece acropolis

it wasn’t just bridging black + white for us. it was about taking it global too. taken in 2007 at the acropolis in athens, greece. a trip i was on for one of my classes at hood. 

these days at hood, these experiences at hood, this part of my life that was spent at hood… i was changed. i became a better person. i was transformed and set free. and i had the pure joy of exploring the opportunity to see life through the eyes of others. we all came from such different places and philosophies, and we didn’t always agree. but, we always loved. we always accepted. we always held on to what united us instead of what divided us.

so, when i learned of how the members of the Mother Emanuel AME Church in charleston, south carolina have been responding to the deaths of nine of their very own right in their own church, i felt proud. proud to have been a part of this tradition. proud to have been a methodist. proud to have been a student at an AMEZ graduate school.

but, even more than proud, i felt hope.

the outpouring of grace + forgiveness from the members and families has renewed my belief in justice. just four days after the terrorist massacre, the congregation worshiped together in the same church where their loved ones were murdered. and, family members offered words of forgiveness to the killer at his bond hearing on friday. like for real. forgiveness people.

Nine Dead After Church Shooting In Charleston

nadine collier, daughter of a victim says, “i forgive you” to the shooter. photo from the new yorker.

the actions of this AME community in charleston have reminded me to never take for granted the deep connection i have with these african denominations of the methodist church – denominations that have carried a message of freedom + hope + liberation since the 1700s. denominations that have been on the front lines of being + living the change that we want to see in the world, of fighting with hope and grace and peace, instead of weapons and fear, for the freedom and rights of people.

635704859881514413-GettyImages-477986782 big charleston-shooting church2+062015+46

this is the power of answering hate with love.

and i am finding myself with tears streaming down my face, asking myself if am i capable of this this kind of mercy and grace. would i respond in the same way?

if you want to know what faith looks like, then look no further, my friends, than the responses of this community of faith after such a horrific tragedy. this is it. this is faith without question. this is living and moving on without understanding, and yet still believing and hoping and trusting. it is coming together, instead of tearing apart. it is looking for solutions, instead of responding with more terror and violence.

image.adapt.990.high.South_Carolina_Charleseton_shooting_bridge_062115.1434948060162 emanuel-church-service la-na-charleston-church-20150621

this is unfathomable mercy. this is unconditional grace. 

it is not possible for me to just sit back and watch what is happening. i must do something. i must join them in their fight, even if i can only fight from afar + with my words.

this is a reminder for me to never lose touch with my own little AMEZ roots. to never forget all that i have learned + experienced. and the best way that i can do that is to live my life as i see these beautiful people in charleston living theirs – even in the midst of pain and suffering and tragedy.

once again, though, i ask myself… what am i going to do? what are we going to do? well, i believe the answer lies in how we live our lives every single day. in how we respond to pain and suffering and tragedy. in how we decide to treat each other.

join me, will you, in letting these strong, inspiring people in charleston set an example for us and challenge us to live life as faithfully, resolutely, and openly as they do.

let’s promise each other to live a life filled with love and hope and justice. deal?

onwards + upwards! xoxo

all of the other photos are from here ( a google image search).

A white man walked into a church…

but, this is no f*cking joke, people.

this is for freaking real.

a white man walked into an african methodist episcopal church in charleston, south carolina last night and killed nine people. murdered them. because they were black.

charleston shooting

photo from cnn.com

i’m so pissed. and so exhausted. sick from all of the violence. all of the hate.

how many people have to be killed before we wake up? how much more hate can we tolerate? and, honestly, what the hell can we do about it?

if i continue typing right now, i’ll just say the same things over + over again. so, i’m gonna let you read my friend’s (alex), words instead. this is from her post on Facebook. she nailed it.

“What the fuck is wrong with people?! I’m angry. I’m tired of compassion. I’m tired of forgiveness. I’m tired of empathy. Because it’s not fucking working. Saying, “We’ve come so far since the 50s and 60s” is just an excuse in my eyes at this point. Because this is unacceptable. Hate crimes are unacceptable. Police brutality is unacceptable. Racial profiling is unacceptable. Less pay for equal work is unacceptable. Sideways glances are unacceptable.

If you’re sitting on your couch thinking, “Well at least they can vote and go to the same schools and not be turned away for service at a restaurant and live in peace.” WAKE THE FUCK [UP]. We have Voter ID bills passing in state legislation left and right — to disenfranchise minority voters. We have gerrymandered school districts and poverty stricken areas of cities that have underfunded schools and teachers from the bottom of the barrel because we don’t pay them enough to care — all of which are serving a majority of the minority population. We have religious freedom bills passing all over the place that will undoubtedly be used by racist, hate-filled business owners and employees against people because of the color of their skin. AND PEOPLE ARE BEING MURDERED. All of the time.

So stop saying things are better than they were fifty years ago and then doing nothing because you figure it’ll work itself out. Stand up for ALL your neighbors. Stand up when you hear a friend say something racist. Stand up to YOUR OWN racist thoughts and actions. Have those uncomfortable conversations with people. Go to vigils for our fallen friends and neighbors of all races. Show up. Be a warm body in the crowd. Otherwise there’s going to be even more cold bodies dead in the streets and you on your couch running out of excuses.

I mourn these losses in Charleston. And I’m again invigorated to see this through to the other side. Because I believe it’s possible. But it will take every single one of us standing up for what is right in order to make it happen. Are you willing to be a part of this movement?”

you know, it’s infuriating. it’s mind-boggling. and it leaves me feeling helpless + overwhelmed.

but, there is something that we can do. there is something that you can do. there is something that i can do.

black lives matter (1)

photo from my trip to washington, dc in january

i’m talking to you, my fellow americans; and to you, my fellow swedes (where the racist party just keeps growing in numbers in sweden), and to you, my fellow global brothers + sisters.

it doesn’t matter how big or how little your gesture is, just spread the love. spread the peace. make a fucking difference in your life. shine a little light somewhere. anywhere. lead a revolution or just share a smile. but, just freaking do something. (mind you, i’m talking to myself too).

things can change. it is possible. it really, really, really is.

so, join the movement.

spread a message of love and live a life that reflects the belief that ALL LIVES MATTER. let us create together a better, safer, more tolerate, peaceful, just, equal world. it’s time for a change.

i’m in. are you?

onwards + upwards! xoxo

one question i will never have to ask: [am i next?]

take your time, dear friends, and let these last words sink in. just listen. and feel.


John Crawford was holding a toy gun as he stood in the toy section of a Walmart. Before the police shot him to death in that same aisle, John managed to say, “It’s not real.” But it was too late for John.


Sean Bell was going to get married. One night, he was driving away from his bachelor party with his friends, Joseph and Trent. Suddenly, he hit a minivanFour undercover police officers from the minivan began to shoot at them without warning, firing a total of 50 bullets at the three unarmed men. A wounded Joseph turned to Sean and said, “S, I love you, son.” Sean’s reply: “I love you, too.” Joseph and Trent survived, but their best friend, Sean, didn’t make it.


One of the witnesses in the Trayvon Martin trial, Rachel Jeantel, was on the phone with Trayvon moments before the scuffle with George Zimmerman that ended his life. One of the last things she heard the unarmed Trayvon say to the man who was following him with a gun that fateful night: “Why are you following me for?”


Michael Brown died August 2014. Ferguson, Missouri, police officer Darren Wilson shot him at least six times, twice in the head. Michael was not armed. His friend and eyewitness reported that Michael said: “I don’t have a gun. Stop shooting.” Minutes later, he was on the ground, bleeding. Dr. Michael M. Baden, the man who did Michael’s autopsy, told the New York Times, “In my capacity as the forensic examiner for the New York State Police, I would say, ‘You’re not supposed to shoot so many times.'”


Amadou Diallo died right outside his own apartment in the Bronx. He was unarmed. Four police officers shot 41 bullets, hitting Amadou 19 times. Later, they claimed that they had mistaken Amadou for a serial rapist. That same day, some of the last words he said to his mother as he spoke over the phone were, “Mom, I’m going to college.”


Eric Garner died July 2014. He was unarmed. Police officers were trying to arrest him for allegedly selling untaxed cigarettes. Eric suffered from asthma, and as a police officer put his arm around Eric’s neck during the arrest, he managed to gasp, “I can’t breathe!” The New York City medical examiner’s office ruled Eric’s death a homicide, pointing out that the officer’s chokehold might have been a big factor.


Jonathan Ferrell had been in a traffic accident and was knocking on a homeowner’s door for help. He was unarmed. An attorney later described a video of the incident, which reportedly showed that when police officers approached Jonathan, he was holding his hands out in a non-threatening manner. The police officers never identified themselves. One of them fired 12 times, and 10 of those bullets hit him. Even as Jonathan lay on the ground, bleeding and dying from 10 gunshot wounds, the officers handcuffed him. Jonathan’s dead body remained handcuffed all the way to the medical examiner’s office.

Correction: In the case of Jonathan Ferrell, there has not yet been a trial. The case is still pending. And in the video, which has not yet been shown to the public, only one police officer fired on Ferrell, not all three.


Oscar Grant was on a subway train in Oakland when a police officer forced him out of the car and onto the subway platform. Oscar was lying down when a second police officer shot a bullet into his back. “You shot me! You shot me!” Oscar yelled before he died. That officer later testified that he meant to use his Taser on Oscar instead of his handgun. A court later ruled that the two had no legal reason to get Oscar — who was unarmed — off the train.


Kimani Gray was standing on a street in Brooklyn when police officers approached him. The officers claimed that when they approached Kimani, he pulled a gun from his waistband and pointed it at them. But one eyewitness, Tishana King, said Kimani never pointed a gun. She also said the police officers didn’t identify themselves when they approached. Police officers shot Kimani at least seven times, even though Kimani hadn’t shot a single bullet. One witness said some of Kimani’s last words were, “Please don’t let me die.”


Kendrec McDade died after a man called Oscar Carillo made a phony 911 call, telling police officers that he had just been the victim of an armed robbery. He later admitted that he had lied about the guns. The two officers eventually found Kendrec in an alleyway. They began shooting after Kendrec apparently moved his hands to his waistband. But Kendrec didn’t have a gun on him. All he had was a cellphone in his pocket. Court documents show that Kendrec’s last words were, “Why did you shoot me?”

as if all of the images + words above have not truly angered me enough, now i want to share a video. a powerful video. please… take the time to watch it. here is a little insight into why people are protesting around the country, especially in ferguson, missouri after last night’s verdict that there will be no charges for the killing of young michael brown. it’s people trying to make their voices heard. it’s people, young + old, who have to live every day of their lives wondering if the same thing will happen to them.

friends, it is time for a conversation. a real conversation. things cannot continue like this. i am angry. and sad. and embarrassed that such blatant injustice still exists. however, i do not condone violence in any way or in any form. so, the violence occuring surrounding the protests, is not the way to achieve the goal. if only we had martin luther king, jr. to lead us right now. please know, you may disagree with me and you may not think that the people who are protesting should be protesting… that’s fine. all i am saying is this: we need to begin talking about this. and not only talking, but listening. without judging. it’s time to dig deep and honor our humanity. can’t we do that? please?

all of the photos and stories are from an upworthy article that you can find {here}.

spread love + light xx

you are you. and i am me.

quote of the day:

“they say the most important days in your life are the day you were born and the day you realize why you were born.” ~ Viola Davis, 2012 Critic’s Choice Best Actress Winner and Academy Award winner.

taking it a step further:

  • FAST from discriminatory behavior today towards other people (no matter where they’re from, who they are, what religion they belong to, political affiliation, or the way they look.)
  • PRAY for the inner strength that comes from knowing who you are and the conviction to pursue your goals no matter what others think.
  • GIVE at least 15 minutes to thinking about a long-term goal and a definitive step you can take toward it this week.

today’s words & challenges have got my brain running around in circles. my thoughts are all over the place, and i haven’t the time to write down everything i’m thinking. so, i’m just gonna spit stuff out…

when i think about discrimination today, i immediately think of the story of trayvon martin, a 17 year old teenager from florida who was murdered in february. why? most likely because he was black. by who? a police officer, nonetheless. seriously. it’s 2012 and discrimination is alive & well. regardless of whether the police officer is guilty of a hate crime or not (and it looks like he is), the outcry from american citizens and the flood of tough questions found all over social media sites points out the truth that discrimination is still around. even today. and that makes me sad. and freaking angry. read this news article to find out more about trayvon’s story.

i could be in danger for being married to a woman were i living in another country that punished or killed people for being in same-sex relationships (not to say that hate crimes against LGBT people don’t happen here or everywhere. they do). but, i have been lucky and blessed so far.

in high school, i was thrown against a wall of lockers by big guys who were not white because my high school was having horrible issues with race relations at one point. there were protests and people refused to go to school, including me after that incident. there was discrimination all over the place that year.

and, of course, i have met some people who questioned my ability to be a minister because either i was a woman, or married to a woman, or both. those people say things like: women should be silent. women can’t be ministers. don’t’ have authority. don’t command respect. can’t be used by God. and, in some churches, women who love women are immediately cast from ministry, regardless of their gifts for ministry; even if they had been in ministry before. like me.

so, yes. i have been affected by discrimination in different ways. i’m sure you all have your own stories too. but, i don’t think i’ve ever been hunted down because i who i am. for most of us, i dare say that being true to ourselves does not involve us putting our lives on the line on a daily basis. or maybe it does & i’m just oblivious. for me, at least at this point in my life, it’s more of an inner struggle with myself. i can’t do anything about the fact that i am a white woman in love with a woman. that’s just me. but, what i can choose, is how i live my life… from my soul, reaching for my goals. or not.

so, today, i’m gonna spend some time thinking about those goals and recommitting myself to one of them. and make a plan to see that goal through. and all along the way, i am going to remember that each of us have our own goals, each of us are unique, and we all (and i mean all!) deserve a chance to listen to our souls, find support & love from people around us, dream big and chase our goals… as we seek to become who we were meant to be.

so, go ahead. start pondering why you were born… what amazing gift do you have to share with the world?

love for all. peace.