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Here are five things worth paying attention to this week. These are designed to expose you to a perspective you may not normally come across in your daily lives.
1. “Have we no decency?” The escalation of racialized rhetoric from the president of the United States has evoked responses from all sides of the political world. African American leaders led the way in expressing outrage, other voices joined in and even the clergy of Washington National Cathedral published a statement that is a landmark for the institution that considers itself the place where the nation gathers to pray, worship and celebrate.
2. The Farewell. This weekend we will see this movie by director Lulu Wang that explores anticipatory grief at a faux wedding that enables a family to gather to say goodbye to their dying matriarch. The food crawl in the nearby San Gabriel Valley, Los Angeles, an Asian food mecca, may inspire us to a similar pilgrimage if the film lives up to the reviews and trailers (see below). Food and family dynamics around the dinner table should make for a case study in family systems and human emotion. “The Farewell paid delightful, insightful homage to the façade of pretenses nearly everyone adopts in the name of compassion,” says Anne Hornaday in the Washington Post.
3. Slaves in the Family. This book, a thrift store find, is the 1998 National Book Award-winning account of a Charleston family’s history of enslaved prosperity, by Edward Ball. Somehow we missed it 20 years ago and now it is even more relevant. The author, a scholar-journalist becomes a sleuth in his own family history, reunions, mythology, documentation and photographs to expose the heinous atrocity that was the legacy of our “founding fathers.” Some defended, some capitulated, some covertly profited from and few condemned the inhumanity that became the accepted “normal.” All too familiar. Today. Now.
4. We are constantly thinking about how our inhumane immigration policies affect families. This week we sat around a picnic table with Gloria Villatoro and heard her story. She and their three daughters are moving to Baja, Mexico, to join husband Max who was deported four years ago. Max and Gloria founded the Iglesia Torre Fuerte congregation in Iowa City, Iowa, in 2010 (Central Plains Mennonite Conference), and pastored until Max’s deportation to Honduras in 2015. He has moved to Baja, Mexico, and is ministering to deportees and nurturing three separate cell groups meeting in homes. Pacific Southwest and Central Plains conferences are supporting this church plant.
5. Reel Theology. Our annual July-August film festival at Peace Mennonite Church in Claremont, California, addresses issues of justice and relationship for women. The theme is the Chinese proverb “Women hold up half the sky,” and at many moments it seems like the other half is pulling it down. We gather to watch, discuss, followed by potluck and then worship around the table. The conversations may go deep into personal stories evoked by the filmed narrative. Every film reveals something of the human condition, of human possibilities, of the meaning of being truly human with one another.
David and Leann Augsburger are two semiretired people who co-lead a home-based church (Peace Mennonite Church, Claremont, California) and volunteer to welcome, care and connect people in the San Gabriel valley.
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