My People and the 19th Hole

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How we look at the world is a matter of personal experiences and how we integrate them. Each new experience confirms or changes how we see and what we see. Reading exchanges about Baltimore took me back to a shattering of perception at the end of a summer internship as a street outreach worker with Corinthian Avenue Chapel in North Philadelphia. The acknowledgements of Be Still! Departure from Collective Madness take the reader back to “the Brothers of Opal Street”:

Last, but by no means least, is a group of men who would be shocked to find themselves mentioned anywhere but in a courtroom. “The Brothers of Opal Street,” as they called themselves — eight black homeless former inmates of Eastern State Penitentiary in North Philadelphia — had a farewell conversation in late August 1962, with me, a naive nineteen year-old street outreach worker. As we sat on the stoop of a boarded up tenement on Opal Street, they said good-bye with a startling instruction not to return to the ghetto. “Go back to ‘your people’ and change things there. Only when things change there will there be hope for the people here.”

What they called “my people” lived in the white western suburbs of Philadelphia. I have come to believe that last day on Opal Street was its own kind of ordination. This book is in memory of them.

Be Still! Departure from Collective Madness (2017 Wipf and Stock), p. xiv

Opal Street was one-block long with no traffic. The far end of the street was boarded in the same way the street’s tenements were. At the far end was the yellow chalk outline of a body. Half way between the entrance to Opal Street and the police chalk mark sat the men on wood orange crates, passing the bottle or the jug to numb themselves against the world that had no regard for their dignity or the stories that had brought them there.

“‘Go back to your people and change things there” sent me home and off to college asking existential questions about who ‘my people’ were and what the relationship was between the manicured lawns, rash-free streets, and country clubs of the Mainline western suburbs and the “rat and rodent infested mess” I had left behind in North Philadelphia.

entrance gate to Mar-a-Largo

Some moments last a lifetime. Some experiences forever change what we see as much as how we see. It’s hard to see Opal Street over drinks at the 19th hole.

Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, July 29, 2019.

The World as a Waiting Room

ERB-logo-Color-SmallToday The Englewood Review of Books published its book review of Be Still! Departure from Collective Madness.

Click The World as a Waiting Room to read the review.

Thanks to Chris Smith, The Englewood Review‘s editor, for including Be Still!, and to Madeline Cramer, the reviewer, for close attention to its themes and substance.

Be StillMs. Cramer’s review is the first to lift up the deep affinity between the book’s cover, Vincent Van Gogh’s “Prisoners Exercising”, and the book’s elaboration of the less obvious forms of imprisonment, and our searches, alone and together, for sanity and stillness.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, September 7, 2017.

 

 

Reviews as a dating service

Reviews and re-republication do for books what dating services do. They match books and readers who might like each other.

Thanks to James A. Cox, publisher of Midwest Book Review and MBR reviewer Able Greenspan for this review in the April 2017 edition:

Synopsis: “Be Still! Departure from Collective Madness” by Gordon C. Stewart (a public theologian and an ordained minister of the Presbyterian Church USA) echoes the call of the Navajo sage and the psalmist who invited their hearers to stop — “If we keep going this way, we’re going to get where we’re going” — and be still — “Be still, and know. . . .”

Like pictures in a photo album taken from a unique lens, these essays zoom in on singular moments of time where the world is making headlines, drawing attention to the sin of exceptionalism in its national, racial, religious, cultural, and species manifestations. Informed by Japanese Christian theologian Kosuke Koyama, Elie Wiesel, Wendell Berry, and others, Stewart invites the reader to slow down, be still, and depart from “collective madness” before the Navajo sage is right.

Told in the voice familiar to listeners of All Things Considered and Minnesota Public Radio, these poetic essays sometimes feel as familiar as an old family photo album, but the pictures themselves are taken from a thought-provoking angle.

Critique: Informed and informative, thoughtful and thought-provoking, inspired and inspiring, “Be Still!: Departure from Collective Madness” is a consistently engaging and impressively memorable read from cover to cover. Thoroughly ‘reader friendly’ in organization and presentation, “Be Still!: Departure from Collective Madness” is unreservedly recommended and will prove to be an enduringly popular addition to community and academic library Religion/Spirituality collections and supplemental studies reading lists. It should be noted for seminary students and the general reading public with an interest in the subject that “Be Still!: Departure from Collective Madness” is also available in a paperback edition (9781532600654, $20.98) and in a Kindle format ($9.99).

This Friday, April 28, Day1 will feature “Homeland Militarization,” a chapter from the book.

Day1 describes itself as “the voice of the mainline Protestant churches, presenting outstanding preachers from the mainline Protestant denominations, including the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, the Episcopal Church, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), United Church of Christ, United Methodist Church, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), American Baptist Churches, and others.” It began as “The Protestant Hour” in 1945.

Thanks to Peter Wallace, Day1’s executive producer and host, for introducing “Be Still! to a new audience. And thanks to Bob Todd of Bob Todd Publicity for making the connections.

And, if you haven’t yet dated “Be Still!” . . . . make a lonely author happy over steak with the paperback for $20.98 or over an expensive cup of coffee with the Kindle/eNook, only $9.99 on AmazonBarnes & Noble or your local bookstore.

Grace and Peace,

Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, April 25, 2017.

To all my cheap friends . . .

display-graeters01With nothing else to say today, I take this anniversary eve (see below) to beg all my cheap friends: “Get out your credit card and spring for Be Still! Departure from Collective Madness, and I’ll buy you a Graeter’s ice cream Sundae next time I’m in a state that has Graeter’s.” Otherwise, I’ll just owe you. I’m as cheap as I am vain.

Be Still! costs $20.98 in paperback or $9.99 on kindle. But if you subtract the cost of a free Graeter’s Sundae ($5.25 + tax), the kindle would only cost you a net $4.74 (even less when including the tax on the Sundae)!

Publishers increasingly depend on their authors’ vanity – the sinful self-promotion that has consumed me since Be Still!‘s release January 6, 2017, three months ago tomorrow.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, begging in vain without apology from Chaska, MN, April 5, 2017.

 

Mia Culpa in the A.T. Era

Be Still! Departure from Collective Madness, now available on Amazon, is gaining attention from professional journals, magazines, TV/radio stations, and professors interested in reviewing it or including it in college, university, and seminary courses, thanks to the good work of Bob Todd of Bob Todd Publicity.

Apologies to readers for this blatant act of author self-promotion. It is, after all, the second month in the A.T. (“After Trump”) Era.

Mea Culpa! But not too much! -:)

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, March 3, 2017.

Book Launch Invitation

Those of you who live in the Twin Cities Area of Minnesota are invited to breathe deeply and celebrate the launch of Be Still! Departure from Collective Madness. Books will be available at a friendly price! The evening begins with brief remarks and a short reading, followed by a lively Q and A, ending with refreshments and a author book signing.

Click HERE to view the invitation from Shepherd of the Hill Church and The Sower Gallery, and let them know you’re coming. Or . . . just come! at the last minute.

Date: Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2017

Time: 7:00 – 8:30 p.m. Doors open at 6:30

Location: Shepherd of the Hill Presbyterian Church is located at the southeast corner of State Highway 41 (Chestnut Street) and Engler Boulevard in Chaska.

The gracious people of Shepherd of the Hill, the Sower Gallery, and I would love to see you there!

Grace and Peace,

  • Gordon, Chaska, MN, January 24, 2017.

Be Still!

Yesterday was a day to celebrate. The publisher of BE STILL! Departure from Collective Madness graciously agreed to used Vincent van Gogh‘s painting from the asylum of Saint-Rimy as the Be Still! Departure from Collective Madness’s cover.

van gogh prisoners exercising

“Prisoners Exercising (After Dore)” – Vincent van Gogh, 1890. Also called “The Prisoners’ Round”

Today Be Still! is going through the final steps before publication by Wipf and Stock Publishers in Eugene, Oregon.

It will take two to three weeks before Be Still! will appear on Amazon. You will find it sooner on the Wipf and Stock site at reduced price. Those in the Greater Twin Cities will be invited to a book launch and book signing party where Be Still! Departure from Collective Madness will be available at reduced cost.

Grace and Peace,

Gordon