Why? We live in a world that values some lives more than others. We also view ecosystems as property. I believe that God dwells within each person and has given sacred worth to the whole of creation. This work is my calling. It constitutes my best response to dehumanization across difference and environmental degradation.
Who are you exactly? My name is Jennifer. I am the pastor of Beloved Community Church in Birmingham, Alabama in the United States. That role draws on the components of efforts established here – ministry in the community, independent scholarship, community organizing, preaching and writing, and spiritual/pastoral care to diverse people. This site, however, contains my own independent thought and work and does not speak for the church.
My background is varied, but centers on a common thread of working with diverse people with the goal of making the world a better place. In the past I worked in refugee resettlement, Medicaid eligibility and outreach, botanical education, and community and medical settings as an occupational therapist for people with disabilities and acute illnesses.
Because I’m inviting you into conversation with me, let me also note my social location: I am a white (Scotch-Irish/Anglo descent), cisgender, Southern, lesbian, urban, economically comfortable (though a couple of generations removed from my rural, small-farmer people), progressive Protestant Christian who has studied Buddhism with some care, at this moment non-disabled, educated woman. I am a mother of a teenage daughter and a partner in an interfaith relationship. Our household also includes several dogs (who found us), 2 guinea pigs, and a frog.
That’s where I’m coming from, but I find just about everybody – whether you share any of these traits with me or not – interesting in their own right. I am a Christian, but also committed to pluralism in our world and to meaningful inter-religious engagement.
How do you deal with people who disagree with you? I welcome respectful dialogue across difference. I realize that various traditions and individuals may take issue with my approach. I respect different opinions and interpretations, even though I may disagree with them. I am committed to intra-faith as well as inter-faith engagement about substantive matters of belief and practice.
Who are your major influences? Dorothy Soelle, Dorothy Day, James Cone, John Wesley, Jane Addams, Saint Ignatius of Loyola, Ida B Wells-Barnett, Howard Thurman, and Brad Warner come to mind at the moment. Poetry also nourishes my mind and spirit and my favorite poets include Martin Espada, Marge Piercy, June Jordan, Adrienne Rich, Naomi Shabib Nye, Mary Oliver, and William Wordsworth.
If you’d like to support my work, please make a contribution to my church. You can do so here. Other questions or comments? Send me a message using the following form.