Encountering Silence and Contemplating Now

This week of Encountering Silence, we’re listening in on co-host Cassidy Hall’s new podcast, Contemplating Now: A Podcast about the Intersection of Contemplation and Social Justice.
Don’t worry—Encountering Silence is still here and we will continue to bring you episodes exploring the beauty and importance of silence from many angles. Stick around for some very exciting upcoming interviews and conversations!
In this very first Episode of Contemplating Now, Cassidy Hall interviews previous guest of Encountering SilenceTherese Taylor-Stinson in a conversation titled, “Everybody Can Be A Mystic.”

I think everybody can be a mystic… Mystic means you’re living with a certain amount of uncertainty. –Therese Taylor-Stinson

Therese is the co-editor of “Embodied Spirits: Stories of Spiritual Directors of Color,” and the editor of “Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around — Stories of Contemplation and Justice.” She is an ordained deacon and elder in the Presbyterian Church (PCUSA), a lay pastoral caregiver, and a graduate of and an associate faculty member of the Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation, where she previously served as a member of the board.

She is the founder of the Spiritual Directors of Color Network, an international, ecumenical/interfaith association of persons of color with a ministry of spiritual accompaniment. A native of Washington DC, she now lives in Maryland. Her ministry, like her books, explores the intersection of contemplative spirituality and the ongoing struggle for social justice and the dismantling of racism.

We can all be getting in some trouble if we aren’t going along with the status quo. –Therese Taylor-Stinson

Join us in subscribing to Contemplating Now at Apple PodcastsSpotify, Google Podcasts, Amazon Music, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts. Find out more about the podcast at the Christian Century

Contemplating Now music: Trapezoid Instrumental, by EmmoLei Sankofa Introduction music: First Steps, by Cast Of Characters

Silence in Sound: A Collection of Ambient Field Recordings

This episode of Encountering Silence is a little different from our regular format. Carl McColman gives co-hosts Cassidy Hall and Kevin Johnson the week off, and shares an assortment of field recordings — mostly, but not entirely, recordings of nature from a variety of locations, times of day, and times of year. All of these recordings were captured by either Carl or his wife Fran, using their iphones. These are recordings of birds in South Carolina, a waterfall in North Carolina, the surf on the Pacific coast of California, the wind whistling in Scotland, and many more. While mostly recordings of the natural world, there are human-made sounds as well, from the traffic of Atlanta, to an almost mystical art installation in London’s Kew Gardens.

Fran and Carl McColman, McClures Beach, California, December 2018

So why, on a podcast devoted to speaking about silence, are we opting this episode for a collection of sound recordings? Even though they were recorded by amateurs, hopefully these ambient recordings are interesting and maybe even beautiful. But this is meant to be more than just an aesthetic experience.

Poster promoting the Hive at Kew Gardens

Carl notes, “I believe that silence is more than just the absence of sound — that silence is also a state of mind, or perhaps a state of the heart. Silence is that place where we can be truly receptive to what life has to offer us, show us, and teach us. We need silence to listen to each other, and to listen to the still small voice of God within. My hope is that these field recordings will represent, for you, a chance to listen for the silence that exists even in the midst of nature’s sounds and songs. There’s silence in between the notes of a bird’s song, in the pause of the rhythm of the surf, and in the midst of a babbling brook. So I invite you to listen for the silence between the sound waves — and maybe even in the midst of these ambient sounds.”

McClures Beach, California, video by Fran McColman — one of the ambient field recordings collected in this episode of Encountering Silence.

Some resources related to places, etc. mentioned in this episode:

Episode 128: Encountering Silence in Sound: A Collection of Ambient Field Recordings
Hosted by: Carl McColman
Date Recorded: February 14, 2021 (field recordings at various dates)

Featured image: Santa Rosa Beach, Florida; photo by Carl McColman

Sarah Griffith Lund: Silence, Marriage and Mental Health (Part Two)

Today Sarah Griffith Lund returns to Encountering Silence. She is the senior pastor of First Congregational United Church of Christ in Indianapolis, and serves the United Church of Christ on a national level as the Minister for Disabilities and Mental Health Justice. She holds degrees from Trinity University, Princeton Theological Seminary, Rutgers University and McCormick Theological Seminary.

Sarah Griffith Lund received the Bob and Joyce Dell Award for Mental Health Education from the United Church of Christ Mental Health Network in 2015 for “her outstanding authorship and leadership in breaking the silence about mental illness in family and in church and offering healing and hope.”

Her latest book is Blessed Union: Breaking the Silence About Mental Illness and Marriage. She is also the author of Blessed Are the Crazy: Breaking the Silence about Mental Illness, Family and Church. She also maintains a blog at www.sarahgriffithlund.com.

The biggest barrier to receiving treatment, care and support is not money, it’s not access to quality health care… it’s the stigma and shame associated with mental health challenges. — Sarah Griffith Lund

This is part two of a two part interview. To hear part one, click here.

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

Episode 127: Silence, Marriage and Mental Heath: A Conversation with Sarah Griffith Lund (Part Two)
Hosted by: Carl McColman
With: Cassidy Hall and Kevin Johnson
Guest: Sarah Griffith Lund
Date Recorded: January 11, 2021

Featured photo by Adrienne Holton on Unsplash.

Sarah Griffith Lund: Silence, Marriage and Mental Health (Part One)

Today Sarah Griffith Lund returns to Encountering Silence. She is the senior pastor of First Congregational United Church of Christ in Indianapolis, and serves the United Church of Christ on a national level as the Minister for Disabilities and Mental Health Justice. She holds degrees from Trinity University, Princeton Theological Seminary, Rutgers University and McCormick Theological Seminary.

Sarah Griffith Lund received the Bob and Joyce Dell Award for Mental Health Education from the United Church of Christ Mental Health Network in 2015 for “her outstanding authorship and leadership in breaking the silence about mental illness in family and in church and offering healing and hope.”

Her latest book is Blessed Union: Breaking the Silence About Mental Illness and Marriage. She is also the author of Blessed Are the Crazy: Breaking the Silence about Mental Illness, Family and Church. She also maintains a blog at www.sarahgriffithlund.com.

The biggest barrier to receiving treatment, care and support is not money, it’s not access to quality health care… it’s the stigma and shame associated with mental health challenges. — Sarah Griffith Lund

This is part one of a two part interview. The conclusion to this interview will be released as our next episode.

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

Episode 126: Silence, Marriage and Mental Heath: A Conversation with Sarah Griffith Lund (Part One)
Hosted by: Carl McColman
With: Cassidy Hall and Kevin Johnson
Guest: Sarah Griffith Lund
Date Recorded: January 11, 2021

Featured image photo by Sandy Millar on Unsplash.

Patrick Shen: Silence and the Dawn Chorus

Patrick Shen, filmmaker, lover of silence, and good friend of this podcast, returns to share with us the news of his latest project: The Dawn Chorus.

On May 3, 2020, thirty-five filmmakers in thirteen countries banded together to capture the first light and sounds of the day from their unique perspectives in the midst of the Covid-19 lockdown. The Dawn Chorus is the result of this global collaboration.

Watch the film’s trailer above. And then we invite you to take advantage of this limited-time, special offer for listeners of Encountering Silence: watch The Dawn Chorus for free. Just visit watch.dawnchorusfilm.com and enter the password encounteringsilence. This offer is only available through January 17, 2020, so take advantage of it now!

Patrick Shen (lower left) speaks with Encountering Silence (clockwise from upper left: Carl McColman, Cassidy Hall and Kevin Johnson).

Patrick is the director of several acclaimed films, most notably  In Pursuit of Silence (Cassidy Hall was the co-producer). His other titles include  Flight from Death: The Quest for ImmortalityThe Philosopher Kings, and La Source. Patrick’s films have been screened at over a hundred and twenty film festivals across the globe and broadcast in over twenty-five territories. He was the recipient of the 2009 Emerging Cinematic Vision Award from Camden International Film Festival.

Patrick and Cassidy are the co-authors of a companion book to In Pursuit of Silence,  Notes from Silence which is available on the Kindle.

Find Patrick Shen online at www.patrickshen.com or

 

A lot of us when we step into silence, at least initially, find our narratives or identity stripped away, and it’s a lot like a little death of sorts, and it’s terrifying. — Patrick Shen

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

Episode 125: Silence and the Dawn Chorus: A Conversation with Patrick Shen
Hosted by: 
Cassidy Hall
With: 
Carl McColman and Kevin Johnson
Guest: Patrick Shen
Date Recorded: 
January 5, 2021
Featured photo by Patrick Shen

Kaya Oakes, Silence, the Body, and Women Mystics (Part Two)

The conclusion of our conversation with writer Kaya Oakes. Click here to listen to part one.

Essayist and journalist Kaya Oakes is the author of The Nones Are Alright: A New Generation of Believers, Seekers, and Those in Between, Radical Reinvention: An Unlikely Return to the Catholic ChurchSlanted and Enchanted: The Evolution of Indie Culture, and a book of poetry, Telegraph. Her next book, Medieval: How Women who Don’t Fit in are Changing the World, is forthcoming from Broadleaf Books in 2021.

Kaya’s essays and journalism have appeared in The New Republic, Slate, Foreign Policy, The Guardian, The Washington Post, Sojourners, National Catholic Reporter, Commonweal, Religion Dispatches, Tricycle, On Being, America, and many other publications. She was the co-founder of the award-winning arts and culture magazine Kitchen Sink, and is currently on the editorial board of the ground-breaking religion website Killing the Buddha.

She teaches creative nonfiction, narrative journalism, expository and research writing at the University of California, Berkeley.

You can find her online at www.oakestown.org.

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

Episode 124: Silence, the Body, and Women Mystics: A Conversation with Kaya Oakes (Part Two)
Hosted by: Carl McColman
With: Cassidy Hall, Kevin Johnson
Guest: Kaya Oakes
Date Recorded: November 30, 2020

Featured photo (University of California, Berkeley) by Eden Rushing.

Kaya Oakes, Silence, the Body, and Women Mystics (Part One)

Essayist and journalist Kaya Oakes is the author of The Nones Are Alright: A New Generation of Believers, Seekers, and Those in Between, Radical Reinvention: An Unlikely Return to the Catholic ChurchSlanted and Enchanted: The Evolution of Indie Culture, and a book of poetry, Telegraph. Her next book, Medieval: How Women who Don’t Fit in are Changing the World, is forthcoming from Broadleaf Books in 2021.

This episode is part one of a two-part conversation with writer Kaya Oakes. Click here to listen to part two.

Kaya’s essays and journalism have appeared in The New Republic, Slate, Foreign Policy, The Guardian, The Washington Post, Sojourners, National Catholic Reporter, Commonweal, Religion Dispatches, Tricycle, On Being, America, and many other publications. She was the co-founder of the award-winning arts and culture magazine Kitchen Sink, and is currently on the editorial board of the ground-breaking religion website Killing the Buddha.

She teaches creative nonfiction, narrative journalism, expository and research writing at the University of California, Berkeley.

You can find her online at www.oakestown.org.

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

Episode 123: Silence, the Body, and Women Mystics: A Conversation with Kaya Oakes (Part One)
Hosted by: Carl McColman
With: Cassidy Hall, Kevin Johnson
Guest: Kaya Oakes
Date Recorded: November 30, 2020

Featured photo (St. Julian’s Cell, Norwich England) by Carl McColman.

Zenju Earthlyn Manuel: Silence, Ritual, and the Earth (Part Two)

This episode features the conclusion of our conversation with Zen poet Zenju Earthlyn Manuel. Click here to listen to part one of this interview.

Zenju was raised in the Church of Christ where she was an avid reader of the Bible and adored the true teachings on Christ’s path well into adulthood. She also participated in ceremony with Ifá diviners from Dahomey, Africa and studied Yoruba. She holds a Ph.D. and formally worked for decades as a social science researcher, development director for non-profit organizations and those serving women and girls, cultural arts, and mental health.

She is the dharma heir of Buddha and the late Zenkei Blanche Hartman in the Shunryu Suzuki Roshi lineage through the San Francisco Zen Center (SFZC). She was Shuso (head Student) with Kiku Christina Lehnherr and her Dharma Transmission was completed by Shosan Victoria Austin. Zenju’s practice is influenced by Native American and African indigenous traditions.

Finally, she is a lover of art, music, indie film, literature, and dance.

Poets are insane. — Zenju Earthlyn Manuel

Learn more about Zenju by visiting her website, www.zenju.org.

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

Episode 122: Silence, Ritual, and the Earth: A Conversation with Zenju Earthlyn Manuel (Part Two)
Hosted by: Kevin Johnson
With: Carl McColman, Cassidy Hall
Guest: Zenju Earthlyn Manuel
Date Recorded: November 10, 2020

Featured photo by Carl McColman.

Zenju Earthlyn Manuel: Silence, Ritual and the Earth (Part One)

This episode features part one of our conversation with Zen poet Zenju Earthlyn Manuel.

Zenju was raised in the Church of Christ where she was an avid reader of the Bible and adored the true teachings on Christ’s path well into adulthood. She also participated in ceremony with Ifá diviners from Dahomey, Africa and studied Yoruba. She holds a Ph.D. and formally worked for decades as a social science researcher, development director for non-profit organizations and those serving women and girls, cultural arts, and mental health.

She is the dharma heir of Buddha and the late Zenkei Blanche Hartman in the Shunryu Suzuki Roshi lineage through the San Francisco Zen Center (SFZC). She was Shuso (head Student) with Kiku Christina Lehnherr and her Dharma Transmission was completed by Shosan Victoria Austin. Zenju’s practice is influenced by Native American and African indigenous traditions.

Finally, she is a lover of art, music, indie film, literature, and dance.

Learn more about Zenju by visiting her website, www.zenju.org.

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

Episode 121: Silence, Ritual, and the Earth: A Conversation with Zenju Earthlyn Manuel (Part One)
Hosted by: Kevin Johnson
With: Carl McColman, Cassidy Hall
Guest: Zenju Earthlyn Manuel
Date Recorded: November 10, 2020

We Are Grateful for… You!

Dear lovers of silence,

Just a short note here to wish you a happy Thanksgiving (if you aren’t in the United States, our harvest holiday is celebrated the 4th Thursday of November). We aren’t releasing a new episode this week, but we’ll be back next Tuesday, December 1.

Since Thanksgiving is a time for acknowledging the many blessings in our lives, we (Carl, Cassidy & Kevin) want to express how much gratitude we have for all of you, the many listeners who have joined our podcast’s ongoing conversation about silence. We think of you with every new interview and every new episode. It is our commitment to create a meaningful conversation about silence in all the ways it impacts (or is absent) from our lives. We hope the podcast has been a blessing for you — and we look forward to sharing future installments of this conversation with you!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Emilie Townes: Silence, Storytelling, and Womanist Thought (Part Two)

Today on Encountering Silence we present the conclusion of our two-part interview with womanist theologian Dean Emilie M. Townes. Click here to listen to part one.

Dr. Emilie M. Townes, an American Baptist clergywoman, is a native of Durham, North Carolina. She holds a Doctor of Ministry degree from the University of Chicago Divinity School and a Ph.D. in Religion in Society and Personality from Northwestern University. Dr. Townes is the Dean and Distinguished Professor of Womanist Ethics and Society at Vanderbilt University Divinity School, becoming the first African American to serve as Dean of the Divinity School in 2013.

She is the former Andrew W. Mellon Professor of African American Religion and Theology at Yale University Divinity School and in the fall of 2005, she was the first African American woman elected to the presidential line of the American Academy of Religion (AAR) and served as president in 2008. She was the first African American and first woman to serve as Associate Dean for Academic Affairs in the Yale Divinity School. She is the former Carolyn Williams Beaird Professor of Christian Ethics at Union Theological Seminary and Professor of Social Ethics at Saint Paul School of Theology.

She edited two collection of essays, A Troubling in My Soul: Womanist Perspectives on Evil and Suffering and Embracing the Spirit: Womanist Perspectives on Hope, Salvation, and Transformation; she has also authored Womanist Justice, Womanist Hope, In a Blaze of Glory: Womanist Spirituality as Social Witness, Breaking the Fine Rain of Death: African American Health Issues and a Womanist Ethic of Care, and Womanist Ethics and the Cultural Production of Evil. She is co-editor (with Stephanie Y. Mitchem) of Faith, Health, and Healing in African American Life. She also co-edited Womanist Theological Ethics: A Reader in collaboration with the late Katie Geneva Cannon and Angela Sims. Townes was elected a Fellow in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2009. She served a four-year term as president of the Society for the Study of Black Religion from 2012 to 2016.

Silence has been a comfort and also a warning. — Dean Emilie M. Townes

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

Episode 120: Silence, Storytelling, and Womanist Thought: A Conversation with Dr. Emilie M. Townes (Part Two)
Hosted by: Cassidy Hall
With: Carl McColman, Kevin Johnson
Guest: Emilie M. Townes
Date Recorded: November 9, 2020

Emilie Townes: Silence, Storytelling, and Womanist Thought (Part One)

Today on Encountering Silence we present part one of our two-part interview with womanist theologian Dean Emilie M. Townes.

Dr. Emilie M. Townes, an American Baptist clergywoman, is a native of Durham, North Carolina. She holds a Doctor of Ministry degree from the University of Chicago Divinity School and a Ph.D. in Religion in Society and Personality from Northwestern University. Dr. Townes is the Dean and Distinguished Professor of Womanist Ethics and Society at Vanderbilt University Divinity School, becoming the first African American to serve as Dean of the Divinity School in 2013.

She is the former Andrew W. Mellon Professor of African American Religion and Theology at Yale University Divinity School and in the fall of 2005, she was the first African American woman elected to the presidential line of the American Academy of Religion (AAR) and served as president in 2008. She was the first African American and first woman to serve as Associate Dean for Academic Affairs in the Yale Divinity School. She is the former Carolyn Williams Beaird Professor of Christian Ethics at Union Theological Seminary and Professor of Social Ethics at Saint Paul School of Theology.

The Encountering Silence team in conversation with Dean Emilie M. Townes.

She edited two collection of essays, A Troubling in My Soul: Womanist Perspectives on Evil and Suffering and Embracing the Spirit: Womanist Perspectives on Hope, Salvation, and Transformation; she has also authored Womanist Justice, Womanist Hope, In a Blaze of Glory: Womanist Spirituality as Social Witness, Breaking the Fine Rain of Death: African American Health Issues and a Womanist Ethic of Care, and Womanist Ethics and the Cultural Production of Evil. She is co-editor (with Stephanie Y. Mitchem) of Faith, Health, and Healing in African American Life. She also co-edited Womanist Theological Ethics: A Reader in collaboration with the late Katie Geneva Cannon and Angela Sims. Townes was elected a Fellow in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2009. She served a four-year term as president of the Society for the Study of Black Religion from 2012 to 2016.

The act of knowing is always contextual and fraught with our best and worst impulses. — Dean Emilie M. Townes

Dean Townes is featured in this video on the legacy of womanist theologians associated with Union Seminary.

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

Episode 119: Silence, Storytelling, and Womanist Thought: A Conversation with Dr. Emilie M. Townes (Part One)
Hosted by: Cassidy Hall
With: Carl McColman, Kevin Johnson
Guest: Emilie M. Townes
Date Recorded: November 9, 2020

Marie Howe: Silence and the Depth of Poetry (Part Two)

Marie Howe is the former poet laureate of New York and the author of four volumes of poetry: Magdalene, The Kingdom of Ordinary Time, What the Living Do, and The Good Thief. She is also the co-editor of a book of essays, In the Company of My Solitude: American Writing from the AIDS Pandemic. Her poems have appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Poetry, Agni, Ploughshares, Harvard Review, and The Partisan Review, among others.

This is part two of a two-part interview. Listen to part one here.

Being busy is an affliction; I feel I am disabled by it. — Marie Howe

Cassidy says, “In my experience, Marie’s poetry has aways shown me the extraordinary in the moment at hand — whether that points me to pauses and internal silence while on the subway in NYC when I came across her poem ‘The Moment’ reminding me the the rush, slows to silence…” Or the embodied solidarity like I felt when I read ‘Magdalene on Gethsemane’ which reimagines what Jesus was really seeing in the garden the night before his torture and death — she writes that he ‘saw the others the countless in his name raped, burned, lynched, stoned, bombed, beheaded, shot, gassed, gutted and raped again….’”

The Us and Them just has to stop. — Marie Howe

Marie joined us via Zoom from her home in Greenwich Village last June. With a poet’s eye and for imagery and ear for nuanced language, her thoughts on silence were both perceptive and beautiful.

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

Deep interiority is where we change, where we are changed. — Marie Howe

Episode 118: Silence and the Depth of Poetry: A Conversation with Marie Howe (Part Two)
Hosted by: Cassidy Hall
With: Carl McColman, Kevin Johnson
Guest: Marie Howe
Date Recorded: June 1, 2020

Marie Howe: Silence and the Depth of Poetry (Part One)

Marie Howe is the former poet laureate of New York and the author of four volumes of poetry: Magdalene, The Kingdom of Ordinary Time, What the Living Do, and The Good Thief. She is also the co-editor of a book of essays, In the Company of My Solitude: American Writing from the AIDS Pandemic. Her poems have appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Poetry, Agni, Ploughshares, Harvard Review, and The Partisan Review, among others.

I do feel that people want community, they want to connect with each another. I just don’t think we want dogma; we don’t want anyone saying what something is, what it has to be. — Marie Howe

Cassidy says, “In my experience, Marie’s poetry has aways shown me the extraordinary in the moment at hand — whether that points me to pauses and internal silence while on the subway in NYC when I came across her poem ‘The Moment’ reminding me the the rush, slows to silence…” Or the embodied solidarity like I felt when I read ‘Magdalene on Gethsemane’ which reimagines what Jesus was really seeing in the garden the night before his torture and death — she writes that he ‘saw the others the countless in his name raped, burned, lynched, stoned, bombed, beheaded, shot, gassed, gutted and raped again….’”

How difficult it is to be in the presence of real joy. — Marie Howe

Marie joined us via Zoom from her home in Greenwich Village last June. With a poet’s eye and for imagery and ear for nuanced language, her thoughts on silence were both perceptive and beautiful.

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

I had a lot to learn; I had to learn to sit in a chair… to stay sitting in a chair was a triumph for me. I slowly began to learn that when I wanted to get up, that was the time to stay seated and keep writing. — Marie Howe

Episode 117: Silence and the Depth of Poetry: A Conversation with Marie Howe (Part One)
Hosted by: Cassidy Hall
With: Carl McColman, Kevin Johnson
Guest: Marie Howe
Date Recorded: June 1, 2020

Cynthia Bourgeault: Silence and the Imaginal Realm (Part Two)

Cynthia Bourgeault is a theologian, Episcopal priest, and core faculty member of the Center for Action and Contemplation’s Living School. She also is the founding director of an international network of Wisdom Schools. She is the author of numerous books, including The Heart of Centering PrayerCentering Prayer and Inner Awakening and The Wisdom Jesus. Her latest book is Eye of the Heart: A Spiritual Journey into the Imaginal Realm.

This is part two of a two-part interview. Click here to listen to part one.

Cynthia Bourgeault previously joined us on Encountering Silence (Episodes 58 and 59). As one of the most popular contemplative authors of our time, she offers a unique and distinctive approach to contemplative silence, grounded in Christianity yet radically informed by the wisdom of other traditions.

The purpose of contemplation is to make us responsive and skillful actors at what we must do, not to shield us from action which must happen. — Cynthia Bourgeault

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

The “forthcoming book” that Carl alluded to is Eternal Heart: The Mystical Path to a Joyful Life (scheduled to be published in June 2021).

Contemplative life takes away urgency when you can act spaciously within the instantaneous now. — Cynthia Bourgeault

Episode 116: Silence and the Imaginal Realm: A Conversation with Cynthia Bourgeault (Part Two)
Hosted by: Carl McColman
With: Cassidy Hall, Kevin Johnson
Guest: The Rev. Cynthia Bourgeault, PhD
Date Recorded: September 17, 2020