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Leavings - Final Words from Claiborne

Leavings

They’re all different, aren’t they?

Leaving…

for the first day of school

after a poor audition

for deployment overseas

after a child’s wedding

for a vacation

after a hospital stay

for a trial

after a sports loss

for a baby shower

after a good day’s work

for a blind date

after a funeral

Leaving is all about coming and going, or so it seems. But I think it’s actually about leavings (with an s).  What are we leaving behind as gift or burden, known or even unknown?  What are we carrying forward, all that is wonderful or worrisome which is left on our hearts?  And what will become of our leavings, those left behind and those carried forward?

“I will not leave you comfortless,” Jesus tells the disciples before the Ascension. In seminary, I was taught that comfort isn’t about soothing, but that it means, “to strengthen with” (from the Latin).  In all our arrivals and departures, we are strengthened by the power of God with us.  I know this about my own life as it unfolds, and I know it about the life of the beloved communities known as Emmaus House and Emmaus House Chapel.  Sometimes we call this God’s providence.  This does not mean that what is happening is because of a grand plan in which we are merely puppets.  No, God’s providence means that in whatever circumstance we find ourselves, God provides enough for us to act in faith.  Yep.  I learned that in seminary too and I still draw on those leavings from 40 years ago, just as I will be sustained by the leavings I take with me from this holy place.  And so we all rejoice, give thanks and sing, called into the future by the One who is our strength and our greatest joy and who continually sustains us with Comfort and Love.

 

 
BlogJason McKissic
What a Priest Learned about Gratitude at Emmaus House

The following was written by Claiborne Jones, retiring Executive Director and Vicar of Emmaus House and included in the Summer 2014 issue of Pathways, the journal of the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta (reprinted with permission).The boys were shot a little after nine o’clock on Palm Sunday night.

That morning, walking the thoroughly pollenated gardens of Emmaus House for our procession, we sang Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory of the Coming of the Lord, Gonna Lay Down My Sword and Shield and When the Saints Go Marching In. When it came time to chant Psalm 118, there were no mellifluous sounds to be heard. Just a scratchy, dry sound like an old LP came out of my mouth. Andre, a big, strong, quick, playful, dimpled 15 year old, got the giggles. And I mean the uncontrollable giggles. I almost got the giggles too. As folks were entering the church I poked my index finger at his chest. “Okay, buddy roe,” I smiled. “Next year you’re chanting the psalm.” More giggles.

Monday around 9 a.m., I got a call that Andre Johnson and his half-brother Nick Martin were at Grady ICU, both shot in the head, and that a third friend had been shot in the ankle. Disbelief. Anguish. Rage. Confusion. On the drive to the hospital, I raged at God with tears and screams I didn’t know were in me. At Grady the waiting room was filled with distraught teenagers and parents. We prayed, probably 80 of us, in a big circle. People shared what they knew.

Our boys had gotten an ice cream at Mr. McGruder’s Store beside Emmaus House, then walked across the street towards Nick’s mom’s apartment. A former police car was driven up and another vehicle filled with older men. There were sassy words. Then a man got out and began shooting our boys as another trained the police car spotlight on them, tracking them in the darkness. They drove off. An ambulance came for Nick. Andre ran home and got to the hospital in the back of a neighbor’s pick-up truck.

Monday afternoon, while I sat with the Martin family whose son was close to death, the waiting room attendant came in with a portable phone. “This lady says she is your auntie and she doesn’t have your cell number.” Puzzled, Mrs. Martin took the call. It was a reporter from a major local TV news show. I kid you not. By the end of the day, Nick had died, Andre had lost an eye, and their friend had gone home in a cast. Tuesday morning, at the Renewal of Vows at the Cathedral, I simply collapsed in babbling grief, held by a wonderful priest.

A year passed. A trial was held. I went every day. The alleged perpetrator was acquitted unanimously. I reckon it was hard for middle class jurors to believe the guys from the ‘hood’ who gave testimony were telling the truth. After the verdict was read, the judge made the accused wait for the jurors to leave before telling the man how unbelievably lucky he was not to be going to prison.

And then, a month or so after that, our whole Chapel congregation went to Holy Innocents’ for Mother’s Day. Five wonderful mothers in our congregation sat with Michael Sullivan to talk in the adult forum. The moms in the audience began smiling, nodding their heads, some surprise on a few faces, experiencing that maternal sisterhood across race and class. Then Andre’s mother quietly spoke. “Sometimes people are mothers who haven’t had their own kids. When I was going through the worst day of my life, when I though my son was on the point of death and the people at the hospital said everyone but immediately family had to leave, my friend hid behind a column so the attendant couldn’t see her. And she came back with us to the room and stayed with us. We just told the staff she was part of our family. She is a mother to me.” I was deeply touched. I am that friend. But also I wanted to say, “How can you be grateful for anything after what happened to Andre, to the boys?”

What I have learned about gratitude at Emmaus House is that it is not simply feeling thankfulness for safe children, enough food, shelter, good grades, justice, a job, a loving family, staying away from drugs. Christian gratitude is also an act of the will, a refiner’s fire, which forges out of the most awful circumstances eyes to see and hearts to give thanks for Love writ large, Christ’s eyes, fiercely weeping with us and blessing us at the same time. “How can we not be grateful, Claiborne?” a parishioner asked after the tragedy. “God has been so good to us. Of course we are grateful. Of course.”

-The Reverend E. Claiborne Jones

 
BlogJason McKissic
Internship Opportunities

Two of our partner organizations have internship opportunities available this summer.The American Friends Service Committee is a Quaker organization, which includes people of various faiths who are committed to social justice, peace and humanitarian service. Its work is based on the Quaker belief in the worth of every person and faith in the power of love to overcome violence and injustice.

Job Title: AFSC Housing Justice Intern Location: Atlanta, GA Length of Internship: 12 weeks Compensation: $12 per hour/20 hours per week

Learn more here.

Occupy Our Homes Atlanta is a grassroots, member-led organization that seeks to build power in Metro Atlanta neighborhoods highly impacted by the housing crisis. We believe that housing is a human right regardless of race, national or ethnic origin, economic background, religion, disability, sexual orientation, gender identification, or immigration status.

Job Title: OOHA Housing Justice Intern

Location:  Atlanta, GA

Length of Internship:  3 months

Compensation:  $500/month

Learn more here.

 
BlogJason McKissic
Ann Fowler Named Director of Lokey Center

We are very pleased to introduce Ann Fowler, the new Director of the Emmaus House Lokey Center (our drop in help center). Ann has five years of experience working with volunteers and citizens of Peoplestown as the founding Art and After School Program Director at Emmaus House (2001-2005), and as the Co-Chair of the Emmaus House 40th Anniversary Celebration committee. As Art and After School Program Director, she became familiar with not only the children in the neighborhood, but also their families. She visited their homes, and learned their stories. Ann grew close to several of the elders in the seniors program, heard about their struggles and joys, and involved them in the after school and Saturday programs. She attended monthly community meetings and made several presentations to the Annie Casey Atlanta Civic Site for neighborhood grants. Ann have served as the Director of Communications at the Cathedral of St. Philip since 2007.

BlogJason McKissic
A Letter of Farewell from Claiborne

June 6, 2014

Dear Friends of Emmaus House,

My heart is full of gratitude and hope as I send along the wonderful news of Joseph Mole’s appointment to be the next Executive Director of Emmaus House. A brief biography is elsewhere on this blog. You will see that Joseph brings a wonderful combination of gifts and experience to our work. And having enjoyed a long conversation with him by phone, I could not be happier or more optimistic about the future of Emmaus House. Joseph will begin on July 7, after returning to Atlanta from his work in Chicago.

My heart is also full of gratitude and hope because of your support of Emmaus House. Our various stakeholders, church folk, community partners, donors, consultants, interns, and volunteers have expanded the reach and effectiveness of our work over the last nine years. We have doubled the hours of the Lokey Center, built a new help center and retreat building, provided new parenting classes, refined the focus and outcomes of our Summer Camps and Community Arts, hosted monthly community suppers, held an annual Gala celebration and a yearly Walk the Road learning and service opportunity, moved forward with a challenging Strategic Plan and enlarged our fellowship of friends. All of this can be attributed to our wonderful staff whose care, commitment, and professionalism are superb and who will become a treasure for Joseph. I will miss Emmaus House and I am ready for retirement!

Thank you for what has been, but most of all for what will be as you move with Joseph Mole into a new seedtime and harvest at Emmaus House.

Yours faithfully,

The Rev. E. Claiborne Jones Director and Vicar

BlogJason McKissic
New Executive Director Announced

The Rt. Rev. Robert Wright, Bishop of Atlanta, is pleased to announce the naming of the new Executive Director of Emmaus House, Joseph Mole. The Bishop chose Joseph after a search committee comprised of Emmaus House Advisory Board members presented him with three candidates who they selected from a large pool of qualified applicants. Joseph will begin his work at Emmaus House on July 7.

Here is Joseph's bio:

Joseph D. Mole, LMSW

Throughout his career, Joseph has led efforts to bring about innovative change within nonprofit organizations ranging from regional to national in scope.

During his 10-year career with The Salvation Army, Joseph provided training, oversight and evaluation to a wide range of social service programs in over half of the United States. One of his greatest accomplishments was the development and implementation of a comprehensive child abuse prevention program. Utilizing education, policy alignment and compliance monitoring, he was able to raise the safety standards of the organization to improve outcomes for vulnerable children and youth.

In his most recent role with Cabrini Green Legal Aid in Chicago, Joseph created a holistic model of legal and social work services, the only one of its kind in the Midwest. With attorneys and social workers working side-by-side, lives are transformed as men and women successfully navigate a legal system that has placed countless barriers in their path. Strategic partnerships with social service agencies open doors to employment, housing and social support, giving people tools to create better lives for themselves and their families.

Joseph received his Masters degree in Social Work from the University of Michigan, where his studies focused on management of human service organizations. Prior to that, he earned a BA in Philosophy/Religion & Sociology from Spring Arbor University. Joseph is a licensed social worker in Illinois and Georgia, and has served as an active member of LaSalle Street Church in Chicago for many years.

Joseph is passionate about people, committed to social justice, inspired by the strength of communities, and fueled by copious amounts of good coffee.

On the weekends you’ll likely find him at a dog park with his Rhodesian Ridgeback, Savannah, on his patio reading nonfiction, or dining in a local foodie establishment in the Old Fourth Ward, where he resides.

Joseph Mole

Joseph Mole

BlogJason McKissic
Camp Summer Hope Counselor Training

The Camp Summer Hope college-aged counselors gathered for a retreat over the weekend for orientation and training. The 7-week day camp begins next week (Tuesday May 27). Morgan Faison, a PhD candidate from Emory University, led the training by discussing the Peoplestown context and best practices for caring for children in an urban, low-income setting. The counselors ended the weekend by writing letters to themselves about how they want to influence the lives of the children in their care.

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BlogJason McKissic
Earth Day Clean-Up in Peoplestown

This weekend, on Holy Saturday, there is an Earth Day volunteer opportunity in Peoplestown. This will be a busy weekend for many, but hopefully some of us, whether we now live in Peoplestown or not, will join with our neighbors to help clean up the area around D.H. Stanton Elementary School and to recycle items at the Turner Field lots. Older children and teens are welcomed! A free breakfast begins the day at the school and it concludes at lunch time with good eats prepared by Emmaus House's own wonderful May Helen Johnson. Instead of Easter eggs, you’ll get a star in your crown.More information is available here.

 
BlogJason McKissic