S2 – Episode 1 – Friends for Life

Silver and Gold: Friends New And Eternal With Rev. Dr. Emma Jordan Simpson

Welcome to Season 2 of Friends For Life! Today we are speaking with Rev. Dr. Emma Jordan-Simpson, the new president of Auburn. Emma is a new friend to Macky  and a longtime friend to Lisa. We explore the question, what does it mean to make new friends? How do we draw our Circles wide? How do communities change over time and how do we bring people in?  How do we talk about friendship in a time of great loneliness? What does it mean to be a good friend? Plus, we dive into Emma’s most beloved songs. Subscribe wherever you get your podcasts.

LISA ANDERSON: Welcome to the Friends for Life podcast.  My name is Lisa Anderson.

MACKY ALSTON:  And I’m Macky Alston.

LA:  And we are beloved friends and co-conspirators interviewing other friends and co-conspirators.

MA:  Thanks for being with us as we explore the ways in which friendship helps us create a world of love and justice.

LA:  Oh, so good morning, good afternoon, good evening, beloved humans out there in the world.  My name is Lisa Anderson, and I’m welcoming you here, with more enthusiasm than I can actually contain in this little screen, to the second season of the Friends for Life podcast.  And here are my friends who I’m here with.

MA:  So I’m Macky Alston, Lisa Anderson’s friend and the Reverend Doctor Emma Jordan-Simpson’s new friend, our new president [00:01:00] at Auburn Seminary.  What’s better than having a new friend?  It is such a thrill to be with you here as we start this next season, as we think about this coming new year and this brand-new chapter in Auburn’s story.

LA:  So for those of us who have never been on this podcast before or for those of you who’ve never been on this podcast before, Macky and I came up with this wonderful idea for this podcast in collaboration with a bunch of friends.  And in our first season we just wanted to talk with people during the election, during the time when the pandemic first started.  And we were trying to think about how we get through hard times.  Now I think we’re still in a season of hard times, but we want to go deeper.  We want to go deeper into exploring all the things, what it means to make new friends, [00:02:00] what it means to talk about friendship in light of grief and loss and laughter and love.  So we’re inviting you in to that conversation.  Making new friends is just about right, right now because our new president Emma Jordan Simpson of Auburn Seminary is here with us.  So I’m going to stop talking and just let Emma say something wonderful.

EMMA JORDAN-SIMPSON:     I’m so glad to see the both of you.  I wish that we were in person so that we could hug, hug, hug.  But it’s so good to see your faces today.  And I’m just glad to be here.  Hello.

LA:  Hello.  So, Emma, our format’s really easy.  We just ask a few questions about what friendship means to you as a leader , as a [00:03:00] person, as a mom, as a sister friend, from all the ways that you kind of show up in the world.  We always start by having some lovely way to get into the body.  We want to have fun.  We want to be serious when it’s right to be serious.  And just conversate.  So by way of beginning, what flavor delights you, Emma?

EJ:  Ooh, chocolate.  Deep, deep chocolate.

LA:  Say a little more.

EJ:  Absolutely.  So all of the senses.  There’s something about the color, the deep richness of it.  So not milk chocolate but deep, dark chocolate.  There’s something about the smell [00:04:00] that I’m in anticipation already.  Then of course the taste.  It makes me feel like I’m doing something dangerous.

LA:  Say it.  Say it.

EJ:  Illegal.  It is so delicious.  I feel like am I supposed to be doing this?  It is such a good, good, good, good flavor.  Chocolate.  I live in a house where folks like vanilla and strawberry.  The older I have gotten, I have to confess, there are days when I am absolutely a Black auntie and butter pecan is the flavor of —

LA:  Oh, my God.  I totally recognize it.

EJ:  I’m an absolute Black auntie sitting there looking at everyone with just [00:05:00] great joy and approval and having my wonderful butter pecan ice cream.

LA:  That is such a Black auntie thing.  Just know in this conversation you’re going to be initiated into a particular realm of Black auntie, Black girlfriend, Black womanness.

EJ:  Oh, yeah.  I welcome my initiation.  I welcomed it into that category of Black womanhood.  And I love young people who that’s how they respond.  In fact, I was at the post office.  It was the middle of the summer.  We were still doing like physical distancing.  And I was at the post office and waiting in line.  A woman came behind me and was standing really close.  A young guy came in.  He couldn’t have been more than like 22 or [00:06:00] 23.  I don’t know this kid.  He looked at the woman standing behind me, and he said, “Are you just going to be up on my auntie like that?  Give her some space!”

MA:  Wow.

EJ:  I was like, “Thank you, baby.  Just thank you for thinking of me.”  Yes, I’m an auntie.

LA:  I love that.  I love that.  So on that note of being an auntie, being a friend, we want to kind of explore with you.  In some ways, you’re making new friends being here at Auburn.  Some of us have known you for many years, myself included.  So we’re not new friends, but we are [00:07:00] making something new in this space as work colleagues for the first time in our lives.

EJ:  Mm-hmm.

LA:  So that requires some newness inside of friendship.  I know Macky are you are just sort of entering into something.  What does it mean to you to make new friends?

EJ:  I love my friends.  I have good friends, folks who have been with me for years.  I have a wonderful group of women called the reverend sister girlfriends, all these Black women clergy.  And regular girlfriends.  Friendship to me is about looking in the same direction.  So it is not [00:08:00] the relationship of we agree on everything.  In fact, you know, spice it up a bit.  It is not about that.  It is about being in relationship with people who are looking in the same direction and walking together.  No matter how we’re looking in the same direction, we always have our own sort of vantage point.  I am six feet tall.  So there’s a space that I see.  For my girlfriends who are a bit shorter, there’s a space that they see.  But we’re looking in the same direction.  So then the opportunity to connect around the things that are distinct [00:09:00] about us, unique even.  Yeah, I consider that to be special and holy, these kinds of relationships.  So, yeah, that’s what I’m anticipating also with all of the folks that I will be meeting with Auburn, folks who are looking in the same direction, the future, ahead, on the horizon, being pulled that way.

MA:  It’s funny.  Upon this occasion — I’m even holding it — this bracelet, there was a time when all of the facilitators of workshops that I was involved in coordinating came together, and we gifted each other [00:10:00] bracelets.  And each bead would represent one of us as we went out and did the work of Auburn, thinking that we’re not alone and that we’re inspired by the work of our friend colleagues.  So as you join us and step into lead and facilitate this next chapter, I do feel the friends.  Like even on this call as I look at Lisa and me.  We’re oldtimers.  So we have a memory of people who have died, who loved Auburn and were loved by Auburn, people who broke away — because friendship is hard.  And misunderstanding comes with the territory, a sense of broken trust.  I think of the people who [00:11:00] would never have left but knew it was time to go and yet are in for life.  There’s an excitement that I say I want you to know Naomi, and I want you to know Kelly.  And I want you to know each of these folks.  And I want them to know you.  And I wonder also about the friends that you bring into this new fold.  That’s sisterhood that you named, I’m excited about how a place changes.  How community change all the time, but the ancestors, the saints, the folks that have been, we don’t go away.  We want to come, too.

EJ:  There’s a song in my head that plays when I think about friends.  Mark Miller, who is at Drew, wrote a song [00:12:00] “Draw the Circle Wide.”  I get incredibly emotional when I hear that song, when I hear the choir singing that song because it is about just drawing your circles wide and wider and wider and wider and the holy act that that is of bringing people in.  It doesn’t stop.  There’s no end of that.  So I always have a soundtrack in my head around various events and circumstances.  But when I think about my friends and I think about like the possibility of walking with new people, that’s the song I hear in my head, “Draw the Circle Wide.”  Mark Miller.  We should even give him a shout-out right now.

LA:  I know Mark Miller.

EJ:  You do?

LA:  I do know [00:13:00] Mark Miller.  I was Mark Miller’s tutor [in?] seminary back in the day.

MA:  There you go.

EJ:  Such a wonderful musician.  A wonderful, wonderful musician.

LA:  It’s so interesting to bring up this old friendship.  There was a time when we did a program — Macky knows this.  We were doing something on prison re-entry.  And it came out of a movie that Macky did around that theme.  And we invited Mark there to do a program.  He composed original music for us that was lifting up the lives and the leadership and the contribution of folks who were re-entering.  It’s so interesting when you’re talking about drawing the circle wide.  And at the same that the circle’s wide, the circle is intimate.  People come in —

EJ:  Yes.

LA:  — and out of it.

EJ:  Yes.

LA:  [00:14:00] I want to know where did this come from?  Where did your feeling about friendship come from?  Did you grow up inside of this knowledge of the importance of friends?

EJ:  I grew into the knowledge of the importance of friends.  My upbringing was very interesting.  I have a couple of friends from my childhood, one from high school and lots of associates.  But one really good friend that we have been friends from high school.  But I grew into this sort of perspective on friends.  It really is like from a biblical story.  It is in the Gospel of John where Jesus is talking to His disciples.  That very [00:15:00] long, long, long goodbye kind of thing.  But he says to them that, “I no longer call you servants.  I call you friends.  Because I’ve shared with you basically everything I know.  And y’all going to go on, do some great, amazing things.  But we are friends.”  I think about like what that means to intentionally connect and in that way and for that connection to be about the kinds of things that I’m sharing with you, the commitment that — like I’m not holding anything back.  And you can trust that.  And I will hold sacred what you share.  The expectation that you’ll hold sacred what I share.

[00:16:00] And that you’ll be looking in the same direction as we move out in the world.  We’re doing different things, but we are moving in the same direction, which is forward.  I grew into that understanding of friendship.  Really it is the theology, the perspective of — the vision of the church where I had been for 30 years, this community of friends witnessing for Christ.  That wasn’t my upbringing.  We moved a lot.  And it was hard to be so young and to not have the consistency to develop friends.  And so when I finally did settle down, the friendships that I developed were very important [00:17:00] to me.  And this one in particular, just my amazing girlfriend [LaMyra?].  On the first day of high school, she was sitting in back of me, I think.  We were in Music.  We went to a magnet high school.  Sitting in Music.  I had a pack of gum.  She’s going to kill me for sharing this.  I took out the gum.  I ate the gum.  And I put the wrapper back in, and I put it on her desk.  I said, “Don’t say I never gave you anything.”

LA:  What?

EJ:  She said, “Give me that gum!”  We’ve been sharing gum ever since.  Yeah.

LA:  Well, now I have a thousand questions.  So many things that you said [00:18:00] made me think a couple of things.  First of all when you said you came into friendship, that it was hard, that you moved a lot, that you learned a particular way of being friends 30 years in the church — and I’m assuming you mean Concord.

EJ:  Yes.

LA:  Where you are now.  So I’d love to hear more about that.  But the other thing I was thinking even before we got there is I experience you as introverted but also the introvert extrovert —

EJ:  Right on that cusp.  (inaudible), yeah —

LA:  We’ve been thinking about how we talk about friendship in a way that leaves space for those of us who may have more difficulty connecting around friendship either because your personality needs that away time or simply because [00:19:00] loneliness is a part of life also.  So how do we even talk about friendship inside of the fact that folks are lonely, folks are introverted, folks pull away sometimes?  Do you have any reflection on that?

EJ:  I relate well with people because I love people.  And so most folks will not know that I am a bit introverted.  And I recharge.  There are times when I recharge in the presence of people and with the activity of people, and there are times when I just really need to like be by myself.  But when you try to see people for who they are, like allow people to let you see them for who they are as opposed to [00:20:00] our own sort of like projections — the slow relating, the slow sort of relationships and let people work at their own pace, I think that’s more authentic than the immediate sort of fast friends kind of phenomena.  Some people really do that, and that works for them.  But I like to see people.  I hope that people feel seen.  You asked what do we — you should be patient.  You should be absolutely patient.  There’s a young woman in my congregation, young person who when I first met them — also from a circumstance of difficulty — [00:21:00] I would say hello, stand at the door in the church, “Hello.  Hello,” and just anger coming into the building, anger coming into the building.

That went on for about a year, this young person coming in to participate in the activities and rebuffing affection.  But what am I supposed to do?  Every time I saw — I’m standing at the door, “Hello, hello, hello.”  And there came a time when I came into the building, and I was on the phone.  And I had some stuff in my hand.  I just hurried to get to my office.  I’m there.  I’m sitting in my office, and I’m having this conversation on the phone.  I see this little head peek around the corner to say, “Uh, hello.  Uh.”  Then after that sort of like year of patience, like this young person would come and [00:22:00] just fall into my arms and to be held.  So I have photographs of me just holding this young person because that’s really what they needed, but it took some time to get there and to know that there was some safety in my arms and in my hello.

MA:  One of the things that inspired Lisa and I are our friend Caitlin to think about friendship as a lens, as a practice, as a critical value and in particular for the three of us, friendship as queer people and a history of that, a particular set of expressions of that, was that there’s [00:23:00] something about how should we be treating one another?  How is it that we are meant to treat one another?  What does it mean to be a good friend?  In that equation is not just love or is love in the most expansive sense, there’s justice.

EJ:  Yeah.

MA:  It brings in all the things and certainly issues of possibility and equity and being there.  So one question I have for you is who’s got your back?  Emma.

EJ:  That’s a good question.  I haven’t thought about it in that way, like who’s got my back.  I know absolutely my family does have my back.  I know absolutely [00:24:00] my friends do.  They have my back.  I know my congregation does have my back, that there is a deep love and protection of me.  Sometimes that protection looks like, “Come here.  Let me tell you something,” kind of wisdom that is shared.  But the other part of that question, though, Macky, is — I’m just sitting in the fact that I have not thought about it in that way, like who has my back?  Even as I come from circumstances of vulnerability, that I am a survivor of family violence, of [00:25:00] community violence, of sexual violence and have experienced abuse, to be at a place in my life where I have not had to think about being unsafe in that way is also about a privilege of protection, of family, of friends who have made it possible for me to have some safety in that way.

That’s sort of washing over me right now because I have not thought about that intentionally, but that’s what it is.  That’s what it is.  It’s privilege.  It’s comfort.  It is safety that I have found in the relationships that I have built and developed.  And that’s amazing.  [00:26:00] I can’t say that I’ve always felt that way, given everything that I have just shared.  I do think that that has a lot to do with why I may feel as protective as I do over my friends and over relationships.  Even when I greet people, it’s not an artificial — it is when I greet people, friends.  I try not to do the binaries.  When I’m greeting people, friends, that is my offer also of love and protection and the invitation to the ever-widening circle.  But I’m sitting here thinking about how when that was created for me, this is the result of it.  Safety and love.

LA:  So many powerful [00:27:00] moral, theological, spiritual themes in what you just brought up.  The idea of protection, of harboring each other inside of a world where safe harbor is hard to find and to recognize it was privilege and how we move from it being the privilege of some to the possibility for all of us.

EJ:  Absolutely.

LA:  There was a lot in there that just struck me as really powerful.

EJ:  Yeah.  So my contribution of that being the possibility for all of us, the reality for all of us, like pulling toward, [00:28:00] it is also about not forgetting what it felt like for me to be unsafe, emotionally, psychologically, physically.  You’re remembering what that feels like and what that felt like and certainly not wanting to pledge the next generation into that kind of thing and wanting that thing to stop with me.  But the compassion and the empathy that has to then result in the way that we fight for healthy faith and healthy boundaries and policies and justice and programs and community, that has to translate into that.  I read a book once where the author said that [00:29:00] — he was challenging the church about the commercialization of Christmas, basically saying that we’ve gotten so far away from the manger, gotten so far away from seeing into the manger that we sort of like engage in these empty kinds of things.

And I feel the same way about those of us who have histories, the historically oppressed peoples and the ways in which if we’re not mindful and careful and open to getting our own help in dealing with our stuff, how that then becomes a thing that we pass on.  You’re not close to it anymore.  So far away from it, and you don’t realize [00:30:00] how difficult it was for you and how difficult you’re making it for someone else.  I’m just thinking that that’s why I have the reaction I do when Black folks say that they hit their children and that they’re okay with it because, well, they survived that kind of discipline.  You’re here.  You didn’t survive.  No, like don’t do that.  Let’s not do that to each other.

LA:  It’s so interesting that you went right there because when Macky, Caitlin Breedlove, and I were talking about and have been talking about queer friendship, one of the things that we were reaching toward or wondering about was is it possible to create friendship beyond white supremacy?  And [00:31:00] I want to say — I would speak [for us?], we’re hopeful folks, right, and activist folks.  So we believe it.  But believing it and being able to enact it are not quite the same thing.  And so it’s like it becomes a practice.  And so when you say that thing about Black folks thinking, “Well, I survived being — so there must have been some good in it.  And I’m going to pass that,” on instead of being able to really connect into what the feeling was.  It’s not just that people forget, but there’s actually value in forgetting.  The value in forgetting is that you get to stay — there are perks.  There are perks inside of the system that make forgetting possible, but also it’s hard to confront our own pain.

EJ:  Yeah.  Absolutely.  [00:32:00] It is.  It’s hard.  I’m going to tell you this.  I have an amazing therapist.  So, yes, I have a wonderful community of faith and amazing friends.  But I also have an amazing therapist.  The opportunity to name the things that I have had to struggle with, that’s one thing.  Then building the courage, the practice, the discipline to actually do something about those things and to unlearn ways of being, that is the lifelong struggle.  But it’s one that I personally have committed to because I don’t believe in pledging the next generation and sending forth — I’d say often [00:33:00] I want to send a better letter to the future than the one that I received.  In every relationship, every person that we encounter, that we engage with, that is a letter.  That is a letter that then is sort of like moving into the future.  And that’s hard work.  It is hard work.  But it is so worth it.  It’s worth it.  We have to do that.

MA:  I’m grateful as I get older for the lesson that you named that a friendship is looking in the same direction but you don’t always have to agree.

EJ:  Yeah.

MA:  That friendship can hold honesty, [must?] honesty can sometimes be the vehicle that calls forth honesty, that recognizes [00:34:00] what you don’t see and then in love helps you understand what’s really going on.

EJ:  Absolutely.

MA:  Through the lens of white supremacy, through all the lenses.  I think about that in all the dimensions.  It’s not easy to be the president of a seminary.  Even the promise of friendship can feel like a trick, like a slick strategy.

EJ:  Mm-hmm.

MA:  Unless it’s got integrity.  And that’s going to have to include honesty because that truth-telling — when you talk about friendship beyond white supremacy [00:35:00] we’ve asked a lot at Auburn what is this institution beyond its roots or given its roots of being an institution that was a part of a white colonial project.  There were progressive traditions here at Auburn that we’re super proud of and that we name, and there were real death-dealing traditions like, for example, training up clergy to go separate Native American families and strip them of their culture and raise them in boarding schools and the like.  And that’s just…

EJ:  Using prison labor to build our campuses.

MA:  So this paradigm, when you talk about Jesus saying to the disciples “not servants, [00:36:00] friends” and the framework in which we’re to be in relationship and to know the divine and to maybe even feel what God’s realm’s like between us includes some of this hard stuff.

EJ:  Mm-hmm.  There is no liberation in relationships that are not honest.  There is no liberation where there’s no truth.  That is in systems, in organizations.  That is in the country.  That’s also within ourselves.  As a Black woman I have had to learn first to be honest with myself.  Because I was taught to lie to myself, to say I was okay when I wasn’t okay, right?  So many have been taught to lie to ourselves.  The effort to tell ourselves [00:37:00] the truth meets the — so you begin here.  I’m not going to be able to call anything else into being or to have integrity to not experience that dissonance that I don’t want to feel, if I don’t start here.  Because of what I know here with myself, my relationship with myself, I know that there is no freedom, there’s no liberation, there’s no integrity of relationship without truth.  It is such a difficult thing for all of us, but particularly for nice Christian white folks.

MA:  Can I get an amen?

EJ:  Right.

LA:  [00:38:00] Oh, amen.

EJ:  We have to tell ourselves the truth.  And we have to be in truthful relationship.  And that’s hard.  It’s not just nice Christian white folk.  It is my community and what I have experienced in my community and the difficulty that we have with telling ourselves the truth, not just of our [agenda?] but our relationship to oppression and the kinds of things that we have done to each other and continue to do to each other.  There is no liberation without truth.  And there’s no justice without truth.  So all of the efforts that we have — one of the biggest — and I love Dr.  Chanequa [00:39:00] Walker-Barnes — the Reverend Dr.  Chanequa Walker-Barnes.  Black womanist who also talks about reconciliation.  I believe in reconciliation, and I also know that the project of reconciliation that we are to be engaged in and trying to work into being will never happen if it doesn’t go through the pathway of truth and justice and reparations.  It just won’t happen.

So Dr.  Chanequa Walker-Barnes talks about reconciliation efforts in this country, particularly among Christians, in interracial groups of Christians where it looks like you get a whole bunch of white men and Black [00:40:00] men at a football stadium, and they just hug it out.  Dr.  Onleilove Alston also uses that imagery of that’s what we think it means to be reconciled with one another, to be prepared to be friends.  Except they leave that stadium, and these white men go off to the world that they have created.  And these Black men go off to the world that they’re participating in.  And there’s nothing healthy and whole about that.  that’s not the reconciliation I want.  But I also know that it begins with the relationship that I have with myself.

LA:  I wonder, Emma, when you say that and you’re speaking about truth, how is the way that we get to that sense of truth?  Because people — we live in [00:41:00] a world where people think of truth in terms of pluralities —

EJ:  Yeah.

LA:  — truths that we tell.  But I mean my spirit is resonating with you when you talk about truth and saying as a Black woman, that being true to myself is part of the way.  And it’s also an ongoing process.  Can you say a little about the difference between truth big “T” and the truth that you’re talking about, which I think is maybe a little different.

EJ:  Yeah.

MA:  Let me just add to that.  Auburn has become — maybe — become intentionally a multi-faith, an expansive community.  And there’s Christian supremacy.  You’re a pastor.  [00:42:00] So I wonder how as you step into this role and into this community of friends that’s ever-growing, I trust you make sense of that.

EJ:  Yeah.  You are right that I preface what I’m saying sometimes as “as a Black woman,” right?  Or I’ll preface what I’m saying in whatever sort of identity I am because my truth is my truth, right?  But there are truths.  When we listen to people’s stories, we don’t make time in this country because everything is like a sound bite.  When we create space to hear people’s stories and for them to share their truths, [00:43:00] their truth — I think that that’s what honors people.  But also we should let go of the need to hold the truth, to be the truth.  Like that is the most American thing.  It needs to be sort of like exorcised.  It is the lie that we have been telling ourselves as a country, that there is a truth, one truth.  It is also the lie that we have been telling ourselves I think as Christians, that there is a truth.  The way that I get into that and try to remind myself of that is that there is a truth that white slave owners preached that was not the truth for my ancestors, [00:44:00] right?

But it was the truth of their experience.  It was the truth of it.  That’s what they believed.  But it wasn’t the truth of what my folks believed.  Then I think about like this pluralism.  And we will only be the promise that we could be in this country we have never had the opportunity to be.  If we become a lot more comfortable, pursue, pursue that understanding of pluralism.  It’s not about making room for people’s truth.  Because who am I to make room?  Like I’m not inviting you into something that I own, right?  But it’s showing up and not dominating, which is just being violent [00:45:00] in that way.  So again I remember the path that was made for me and my truth.  And what it then means to do that with others and to not make assumptions about what people hold dear, what their story is or to try to validate or invalidate their stories.  It’s theirs.

LA:  I wanted to know who is Emma bringing with her?  Who are the friends that we’re going to get to meet because we know you?

MA:  So then let me combine it with that.  When I was a little kid in Durham, North Carolina, I was that kid, my parents would go meet friends or — my dad was a preacher, and he’d make a call.  Just they’d put me out, and I’d go down the street and knock on doors and say, “Are there any kids here?  Anybody want to play?”  I want to be that kid again.  [00:46:00] That got scared out of me in different ways as a queer kid and whatever.  But my question is there’s a lot of folks listening in who are a part of the Auburn community who I think to some degree are wondering what games do you like?  What do you want to play?  Inasmuch as you’ve come in to be with us, where are we going, as you say we’re looking in the same direction?  And similarly there are a whole lot of movement partners and organizational partners who have been playing with Auburn for a long time.  And probably they’re wondering, too, what are we going to play?  What do you want to play?  What do you like?  What do you want to do here with us?

EJ:  I affirm [00:47:00] I am a beneficiary of Auburn’s programs, of Auburn’s playing, of Auburn’s work.  And I affirm the work that Auburn has done.  I think Auburn is at a period, not just in this transition but like in the transition of this country, in the transition walking through the portal of this pandemic but then also in this organization’s next iteration.  Auburn needs to be an anchor.  And Auburn needs to have like roots that are deep.  And I don’t mean the 200-year-old sort of — I’m not going there.  I’m going with when you think about the things that Auburn has done in the [00:48:00] last 12 years and those have been the things that shown us that it is possible for communities to heal.  It is possible for differences to be bridged.  It is possibly for people to develop relationships and be in the same room and ask the difficult questions and have the difficult conversations.

Like all of those things that we have shown that progressive faith leaders, progressive voices of faith, spirit-rooted leaders, all of those — the moral courage voices, the people of deep conscience — the ways in which they have tried to show up in this country that has only sort of like made room for, the headlines for other kinds of religions of dominance.  [00:49:00] Those things need to go deep.  We don’t need to keep reinvent the wheel or chase shiny, new objects.  We know what works.  And we need to take what we know and go deep with it.  When I say that I mean we have a bandwidth — an attention span in this country that is so short.  Three years, five years.  Or a year, a grant cycle.  And we don’t have the kind of support the progressive, the prophetic folks don’t have the kind of support to stick with the power, to stick with the communities, to stick with the truth that they’re trying to drive home.  They need to have that support.

So when I say long game, [00:50:00] even though we’re looking out on not just a country but a world that is in peril and we don’t even know how much longer we have on this planet [or forever?] how much longer we have on this planet, we have to act like what we are doing and the stuff that we’ve made a commitment to like it actually really matters.  To hold integrity and to support it, like we expect to win something.  Like we expect for these things to work.  It’s not an experiment anymore.  So that’s the kind of leadership that I want to bring to Auburn.  When I think about Auburn’s team — then I’m going to shut up — I think about Auburn’s team, absolutely amazing people.  I want the world to know these folks.  [00:51:00] I want the work to know these folks.  And I want them to be supported, to bring the kind of leadership that they’ve already proven makes the difference.  So, yeah, I’m not trying to build a platform for myself.  What I’m trying to do is give an on-ramp to those who would be coming behind us and to work and to pray and walk together as friends.

LA:  (inaudible) I feel blessed by that.  I’ve always felt blessed by your voice because it’s the content but it’s also the timbre — is it timbre?  Is that the right word?  The sound [involved?].  That might be the cheesiest way to get to the last question that I’m ever going to pull forward, but [00:52:00] the way that we like to end is to reflect on or ask the question about — we say what song is getting you through, what sound is getting you through.  So can you reflect a little bit on that with us.  Macky and I are willing to share.  And I’ll start.  The sound that’s getting me through.  Because it’s Advent, I have been doing nothing but playing Advent hymns on repeat.  And I’m sure that we will put it in the show notes so people can pull up the particular ones.  But right now I am listening to “Come Thou Redeemer of the World” by the St.  James Cathedral Choir because this is, like so much of what you said, has belonging in it, the Advent season.  I love Advent.  So that’s the sound that’s getting me through, is the songs of the Advent season.  What about you?

EJ:  There’s a song — I don’t [00:53:00] know if — I’ve never heard a recording of it, but I’ve sung it with the Jubilee Singers and with [bi folk].  It’s a song called “Run, Mary, Run.”  I know that it is getting me through because of where we stand like in this moment in time, trying to see beyond this pandemic.  The words are “Run, Mary, run.  I know the other world is not like this.”  And the verses are “Preach, Mary, preach.  I know the other world is not like this.  Love, Mary, love.  I know the other world is not like this.  Sing, Mary, sing.  I know the other world is not like this.”  That is the inspiration I’m holding onto to imagine the other world that is not like this.

LA:  That’s gorgeous.

MA:  I’ll through in my song.  My song is [00:54:00] a new one that popped up on my Spotify, but it’s a kind of liberation anthem.  Do you know it?  Do you know Yola?  The song is called “Stand for Myself.”  As you have so graciously shared about your own story and as we work, as we enter into friendship and community, this song is beautiful.  And it’s vulnerable, but it’s powerful.  The phrase that I’m looking at right now in the lyrics is “It was hard enough to go and live on.  I was so tired trying to belong.  I was lost in the city.  You could see it in my eyes, but I was still a dreamer in the middle of the night.”  I love how that sort of marries with the lyric that you just named of the world is [00:55:00] as we know it must be, can be, should be.

EJ:  Yeah.

MA:  And that we’re striving for.

LA:  That’s right.  We’re longing.

EJ:  Yeah.

LA:  And we’re waiting and we’re working because believe God now.

EJ:  Yeah.  Right now.

LA:  Right now.

EJ:  Right now.

LA:  Thank you so much, Emma.  Oh my gosh.  Oh my gosh.

EJ:  Great to talk with you all.

LA:  Great.  It was great to talk to you.  And so much love and so much support.  I know that you can count us among the people who have your back.

EJ:  Ohh.

MA:  For real.

LA:  Yeah, for real.

EJ:  Not going to cry.

LA:  Thanks for being with us today.  We’ll see you next month as we continue to explore the ways in which friendship helps us to create a world of love and justice.

MA:  We want to send you out with the words of Winnie the Pooh.

LA:  If ever [00:56:00] there is tomorrow when we’re not together…

MA:  There’s something you must always remember…

LA:  You are braver than you believe…

MA:  Stronger than you seem…

LA:  And smarter than you think.

MA:  The most important thing is even if we’re apart…

LA:  I’ll always be with you.

MA:  I’ll always be with you.

LA:  We’ll always be with you.

MA:  We’ll always be together.

LA:  Something like that.

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