Tag Archives: African-American spirituality

Barbara A. Holmes: Silence as Unspeakable Joy (Episode 26)

How does the encounter with silence usher us into mystery? And how is our relationship with silence shaped by, or challenged by, the challenges and dynamics of social difference and privilege? What is the relationship between contemplation and community, and how is community actually essential to authentic contemplation? How are tears, and moaning, and dancing, and lament, essential to contemplation — especially among those persons and communities who experience oppression?

“Silence has power, positively, it’s life-giving… and it also can be a hiding place for people of the dominant culture.” — Dr. Barbara A. Holmes

These are just a few of the questions we explore in today’s episode, a conversation with scholar and contemplative the Reverend Dr. Barbara A. Holmes. Dr. Holmes is the author of Joy Unspeakable: Contemplative Practices of the Black Church, and has emerged as a leading voice calling for affirming and celebrating contemplation as it emerges in the lives of all people, regardless of ethnicity, gender, or religious affiliation.

“The women in my family were the ones who really seeded contemplation into my very being. I watched them — I saw that mysticism didn’t have to be weird. It was very weird, but you could still make biscuits! You didn’t have to go berserk; you could do your normal life, be loving,  kind, help others, and still host these magical moments, wondrous moments, awe-inducing moments, and still do ordinary things like meet your kids at the stop on the school bus.” — Dr. Barbara A. Holmes

Her thoughtful and insightful reflection on silence and contemplation is grounded in her family of origin — coming from the Gullah people of the SC/GA low country — and her work which explores the intersection between spirituality, stillness, and social justice.

“Silence isn’t the word that I often use. Just simply because of the problem for people of color, and women, who have been silenced… I tend to use the language of stillness, of centering, and of embodied ineffability.” — Dr. Barbara A. Holmes

Some of the resources and authors we mention in this episode:

“The willingness to listen, on both sides, is the beginning of reconciliation.” — Dr. Barbara A. Holmes

Episode 26: Silence as Unspeakable Joy: A Conversation with Dr. Barbara A. Holmes
Hosted by: Cassidy Hall
With: Kevin Johnson, Carl McColman
Guest: Barbara Holmes
Date Recorded: May 24, 2018