Durham CAN

It has been brought to my attention that what I have written about politicians in this summer’s Sunday school quarterly could leave some folks with the impression that I don’t believe it is possible for elected officials to act in the public interest.

I could make the excuse that Amos and Micah both are occupied with oracles against the leaders of Judah and Israel. However, their own words are not intended to be a condemnation of any who would govern. Instead, they objected to how these leaders governed. I had not by any means meant to suggest that “politician” and “public servant” are necessarily mutually exclusive terms. Neither do Amos and Micah seem to support the idea that those who would lead are necessarily unjust and self-serving.

So in the midst of the more readily found stories of malfeasance, I would like to share a hopeful example of what community leadership can be: Durham CAN. (“Congregations, Associations, and Neighborhoods.”)

Last night, my husband joined folks from all over Durham for a meeting convened by Durham CAN. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss plans to make Durham a better place for everyone. Not vague plans, but concrete policy suggestions – specific proposals for affordable housing (including proposed building sites and blueprints), specific proposals for fair paying jobs, and specific proposals for improving police-community relations. Government officials came to the meeting, having already been briefed by Durham CAN (so that they wouldn’t be blind-sided by any of the proposals). They came prepared to share their own commitments with the assembled body. Among those who spoke were Bill Bell (the mayor), Ellen Reckhow (a County Supervisor) and Steve Schewel and Cora Cole-McFadden (members of the City Council.)

My husband came home from the meeting feeling glad that we live in Durham, and feeling actually excited about certain of our elected officials. Excited on the level of, “I can’t wait to vote for that person again. They really do care about _____.”

There are some politicians who do indeed work for “justice for all.” Some of them do it once in awhile, some of them do it more often than not. Praise God! Let us pray that there would be even more of them.

Welcome!

I have been noticing an increase in traffic to my blog over the past week, and I’m supposing that it might be driven by readers of the Adult Bible Studies Sunday School curriculum.

For those unfamiliar with this series, it is a United Methodist curriculum for adult Sunday school classes, based on the scripture selections of the Uniform Series. This summer, the theme is the prophets (beginning in June with Amos.) And I wrote the student booklet for the summer quarter. In the “Meet the Writer” section, at the end of a brief bio, this blog’s address is printed.

So – if you are here for the first time because you saw my blog address in your Sunday school book, and you were curious – welcome!

From time to time I will be posting things here that might be helpful to teachers preparing these Sunday school lessons, but I hope that they will prove to be of general interest as well. Like my post earlier today about sycamore figs. Enjoy!

A dresser of sycamore trees

Tonight, people from hundreds of churches across the United States are brushing up on the prophet Amos, whose eponymous Biblical book is the subject of a series of Sunday school lessons for the month of June. Amos describes himself: “I am no prophet, nor a prophet’s son; but I am a herdsman and a dresser of sycamore trees.” (Amos 7:14, NRSV) But how could a person’s job be tending sycamore trees?

“Sycamore tree” means something very different in Africa and the Arabian peninsula than it does in the United States! People living in the U.S. probably think of the American Sycamore when they hear the word “Sycamore” – but the sycamore tree of the Bible is a fruit tree!

If you want to know more about the sort of tree that Amos tended, click here for a brief article about the Sycamore Fig, which includes some lovely photographs and a (short) embedded YouTube video. Many thanks to Woody Davis, a Sunday school teacher in Mississippi, who found this article when preparing for tomorrow’s class, and shared it with me.

If you are studying the UMC Adult Bible Studies series this summer, and you find something you’d like to share, let me know! Maybe (with your permission) it will end up being shared in this space.