Faith of A Mustard Seed

Barbara Woods Washington

Barbara Woods-Washington, M. Div.

In his ‘Epilogue’ to ‘Jesus And The Disinherited’, Dr. Howard Thurman has managed to give critical direction and purpose to life in these words: “When a solitary individual is able to mingle his strength with the forces of history and emerge with a name, a character, a personality,…  it means that against the background of anonymity he has emerged articulate…”  In defining a major point of departure for Bible-Life Study, I am convinced that the concept ‘articulate’ must be examined.

I recall my year at Boston University in 1971-72 and the fact that in my movement through the city’s public transportation system to and from campus to my work study job teaching sewing at the Harriet Tubman House on Holyoke St., I was plagued by brothers who, in their zealousness for the Black Muslim faith in which they had found deliverance, hurled at me doctrines which were disturbing to me at the time.  It was not a question of ‘smugness’ for I had not darkened the door of a single church in Boston.  But, I suspect, a question of ‘articulation of faith’.

Later in my life while in ministry at Salem, in Harlem, I was making hospital rounds and stopped in a clothing store on Delancy Street.  The Jewish shop owner looked at the clergy collar that I was wearing and began to question me about my faith.  His questions went to the very heart, the very gut of Christianity.  The kind of questions that make for warfare in the Bible Study classes of the traditional Church!  By the time I broke away we had spent over two hours in dialogue and he said to me that I was the most intelligent Christian that he had met.  At first I thought this to be quite an honor.  But, the more I think about it, how many Christians had ever spent the time with him, (or any Jewish fellow) on the grounds and meaning of our belief system? I knew then that I was learning to articulate my faith.  Time and time again I came to know in the streets of New York City that a troubled life is stopped in it’s tracks in the midst of an articulate faith statement.

When I began teaching Philosophy of Religion at Bennett College, I came to terms with the demonic environment that Christian/religious education settings breed.  As Ibegan to develop the skill for diffusing the condemnation, in order that each could be free to express their faith views without fear of attack, I soon realized that this was for the vast majority of college aged students, the very first public religious education environment.

The power of FaceBook as a platform for any and all individuals across the planet; from every walk, every land, every race, every language, every culture, any and all persuasions towards any and every ideology and -ism, partisan or practice proves time and time again the lack of ability to articulate a faith based life… or no.  So many resort to the language of distain… cursing; everything and everybody in their natural human instinct to “Fight’ when their insecurities and inadequacies’ for dialogue begins to take over.  When ‘Facebook Friends’ become ‘Facebook Foes’.

It is Biblical Truth… proven and time tested that “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.”  How do we affect the ever changing global community when our personal Church traditions, our oh so personal lives and motives are (as smug as so many of those we face are) is all that we bring?

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