Along the Way

These reflections illuminating areas of church, Christian and spiritual life are offered in each Friday email by our Plymouth clergy.

The Big Hope

Rev. Dr. DeWayne L. Davis

This Week at Plymouth, November 24, 2023

I linger over the meaning of my own life and the commitment to which I give the loyalty of my heart and mind . . . The big hope that never quite deserts me, that I and my kind will study war no more, that love and tenderness and all the inner graces of Almighty affection will cover the life of the children of God as the waters cover the sea.—Howard Thurman

During this Thanksgiving Holiday season, as I try mightily to keep my mind focused on gratitude and thanksgiving and sustain a hope that counters despair, I cannot deny that humanity must face the fell forces that have the potential to destroy. One word that keeps coming to mind when I worry about domestic political radicalization, economic uncertainty and insecurity, and the conflicts in Ukraine, Israel, and Palestine is enmity. Enmity is the active and mutual hatred or hostility among various parts of our electorate and the world family. We have seen on full display attacks and aggression among the people of this nation toward fellow citizens and among the nations of the world against other peoples, leaving death and destruction that frustrate our hope for peace.

But when I allow myself to return to a posture of gratitude and thanksgiving, I remember that the very foundation of our existence as koinonia, the gathered body of believers formed in response to the “love and tenderness and all the inner graces of Almighty affection,” is love and communion. It is the very nature of the church as being the body of Christ, of Jesus breaking down the dividing walls that separate us from each other, of being and proclaiming peace in our midst, that gives us a chance to overcome the grim and bitter hatred that prevails in our churches, in our politics, and in the world. From the fights between us in church to the fights among citizens of this world, we know the power of reconciliation, unity, and harmony. I know there will be people who will never be able to put aside their hatred, their pettiness, and their abuse. But we do not have to give into enmity ourselves. We do not have to be the source of bitterness and antipathy. We can be the revelation of a new social reality, the new beginning that unconditional love everlasting makes for all God’s children, no matter who they are.

So, we take the opportunity of this season to rejoice in God’s love and gifts, offering expressions of gratitude and thanksgiving as we gather with friends and loved ones. We hold on to the vital connection to Divine love, grace, and peace that fills us with a hope that never deserts us. I pray that we embark on a time of prayer, reflection, and discernment in anticipation of the seasons of Thanksgiving, Advent, and Christmas to give life to the big hope for peace for all.

Yes, We Are All Stewards

Rev. Dr. DeWayne L. Davis

This Week at Plymouth, November 17, 2023

“Yes, stewardship is about church financial practices, but it is also about God’s sovereignty and human responsibility.” —Sheryl Johnson, Serving Money, Serving God

During this season of our church’s annual giving campaign, you can imagine how much I’ve been thinking about our role as stewards. Biblically and theologically, I’ve confidently proclaimed that we are the stewards of great blessings entrusted to us. Look all around us. All these great gifts and blessings—the air we breathe, the beauties of nature we enjoy, our relationships, our callings, our ministries, our building, and our very lives—are generously and graciously showered upon us. Do they serve only us, or do we manage these gifts and blessings faithfully to serve the purposes of God’s reign right here right now?

Over the last several weeks, we have heard from members of Plymouth the powerful impact of these gifts and blessings on their lives and communities. And yet, in reading our “Plymouth Reads” book selection, Serving Money, Serving God, I appreciate Sheryl Johnson’s invitation to examine our assumptions about stewardship, being mindful of the idols that could “prevent our pursuit of important values that arise from our faith, such as justice, equality, redistribution, reconciliation, and sustainability.” We have been shaped and conditioned by a Western capitalist economy that has tamed, domesticated, and commodified God’s abundant act of creation: We have made the bounty of the harvest into a scarce commodity, declaring that there isn’t enough to feed the hungry and provide for the needs of the weakest among us; we have distorted God’s call to humanity to serve the earth as a call to have dominion over it, causing us to exploit the earth and her resources. How can we confront this prevailing economic mindset that has the potential to divert us from our best intentions and most heartfelt aspirations for our beloved community? How do we avoid the stewardship idols (e.g., thinking more is better or embracing a rigid scarcity versus abundance binary) that make discussing finances difficult and divisive?

Yes, we are all stewards entrusted with everything that we have. What we do with the abundance that God generously gifted to us matters. We cannot ignore the reality of the hardness and idolatry of current economic arrangements, nor can we dismiss our differing orientations and ideologies about money, wealth, and abundance. However, we can discern what it means to love, serve, and give in ways that reflect the reign of God. With all that we have, we have a critical role to play in using our gifts and blessings to demonstrate to the world our commitments to justice, equality, redistribution, reconciliation, and sustainability. May the Holy One prompt us to imagine stewardship practices that draw us closer together, inspire new ways of loving, serving, and giving, and motivate us to pursue justice and beloved community.

Astonishing the World with Kindness

Rev. Dr. DeWayne L. Davis

This Week at Plymouth, November 10, 2023

My wish for you is that you continue. Continue . . . to astonish a mean world with your acts of kindness. Continue to allow humor to lighten the burden of your tender heart.” ―Maya Angelou

There are times when I remember what my parents and grandparents endured during the darkest years of Jim Crow segregation and discrimination, and I wonder how they were able to keep going. They come to mind often nowadays, especially since the violence erupted in Israel and Gaza, and we see the gruesomeness of war destroy lives, homes, and security. Amid feelings of weariness and helplessness, I can resort to the prerogatives of a privileged people: I can look away. But not for long. Because I know that we are called to do justice. I know there is a word of love, hope, and mercy for a mean world. My ancestors, both at the mercy of racist oppression and a people of profound faith, did not falter. In their bouts of weariness and helplessness, they kept going. Or, as my father used to say, “We keep on keeping on.” And theirs was not just an isolated pursuit of personal salvation. They lightened their burden with service and kindness. They sang, danced, laughed, and worshiped amid the injustice and violence. They never lost their belief in and commitment to human worth, dignity, and possibility.

As we look upon a world that appears to be spiraling ever more chaotically and violently toward a point of no return from ecological devastation, economic exploitation, and military destruction, we may despair that we possess nothing that could turn the tide. The ubiquity of violence and the inevitability of failure can be enough to dishearten the stoutest of constitutions. And yet, we keep going. The poet Maya Angelou turned the idea of “keeping on keeping on” into a prayer: “My wish for you is that you continue.” But the power in her prayer is that it was not a private, personal prayer for just the person needing encouragement. It’s a prayer that we unleash kindness and laughter in the world. It is a prayer that we find the strength to keep looking out for the worth, dignity, and possibility of ourselves and others.

We used to sing a song in the church of my youth based upon the Apostle Paul’s closing admonition to the Galatians. Paul tells the church, “Let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up” (6:9). If we continue to show kindness, continue to pursue justice, and continue to honor the worth, dignity, and possibility of every human life, we will reap a harvest of blessings, showing the world a better way to live and thrive in belovedness. Yes, we are weary, and we will keep on keeping on. Let’s astonish the world with service and kindness.

Previous Articles

The Big Hope


Giving Life

Open to Wonder

Liberated Lives

Seeing God at Work

God Our Mother

The Will to Act

Can I See God?

Say Their Names

Open to All

Choosing Hope

Then What?

Fear Not

October 23, 2020 and Earlier

October 23, 2020 Plagues, Pandemics and Promises

October 16, 2020 The End of Times

October 9, 2020 Rebellion as Sacred Work

October 2, 2020 The Notorious RBG!

September 25, 2020 The Call

September 18, 2020 Dismantling the Silos

September 11, 2020 Revolutionary Love

September 4, 2020 Jesus Is the Answer

August 28, 2020 Worship: God Is the Audience

August 21, 2020 Our Knowledge of God Is Participatory

August 14, 2020 Frederick Douglass, Prophet

August 7, 2020 Do You Want to Be Healed?

July 31, 2020 Vulnerability

July 24, 2020 God’s Backside

July 17, 2020 A Sign of the Times

July 10, 2020 Desiderata

July 3, 2020 A Genius with a Thousand Helpers

June 19, 2020 Unsung Volunteers

June 12, 2020 Our Own Gardens

June 5, 2020 Church Update

May 29, 2020 The Call

May 22, 2020 Scroll Down

May 15, 2020 Don’t Push Send

May 8, 2020 Navigating Mistakes

May 1, 2020 Teach Us to Count Our Days

April 24, 2020 Sitting with Not Knowing

April 17, 2020 Feed My Sheep

April 10, 2020 Life’s Refrain

April 3, 2020 How Do We Show Our Love?

March 27, 2020 Moving through the Fog

March 20, 2020 To Love Kindness

March 13, 2020 The Virus

March 6, 2020  The Seth I Know

February 28, 2020 Triage

February 21, 2020 Impermanence

February 14, 2020 Pruning

February 7, 2020 Inner Life

January 31, 2020 Ask Not

January 24, 2020 Doing Right Things

January 17, 2020 Radical Acceptance

January 10, 2020 The New Year—20/20 Vision

December 27, 2019 Closing the door

December 20, 2019 Winter Solstice and Christmas Day

December 13, 2019 Sacred rest

December 6, 2019  Judge little, forgive much

November 29, 2019 My favorite holiday

November 22, 2019 Making space is spiritual work

November 15, 2019 Looking to the future

November 8, 2019 We stand at the crossroads

November 1, 2019 Ecumenical and Interfaith Connections

October 25, 2019 A Plea for Civility

October 18, 2019 Preacher, Pastor, Prophet

October 11, 2019 . . . to being still