Tag Archives: Howard Thurman

Therese Taylor-Stinson: Silence, Contemplation, and Justice (Part One)

Therese Taylor-Stinson 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.

I’ve always loved nature, I love trees… I love the ocean, I love the sunrise and the moonrise… those kinds of things bring me into silence in a kind of pondering and sitting with what we call ‘God’, but to me is more ‘Mystery’.” — Therese Taylor-Stinson

In this first part of a two-part episode, Therese shares with us her early experience of contemplative silence, formed by her education in Catholic schools as well as her early encounters with the silence of nature. She goes on to show how her journey as a contemplative and a spiritual director has impacted her experience as a woman of color. Of particular interest is her insights into the contemplative dimension of the civil rights movement, particularly in terms of the under-appreciated contribution of Howard Thurman.

“For some people of color, silence is uncomfortable — it feels oppressive or imposing,  it makes them go places or feel things they’re not ready for, or that they aren’t ready to express to me. We have to be really careful with silence… I don’t know that silence is a requirement to find that still place within.” — Therese Taylor-Stinson

In the second half of today’s episode, Therese offers insight into the contribution of people of color, not only to contemplative spirituality, but to Christianity as a whole — and how those contributions have been erased from history through the dynamics of racism — leading to a “silencing” toxic in its nature.

This is part one of a two-part interview; to hear the second part of this conversation, click here.

To learn more about the Spiritual Directors of Color Network, visit www.sdcnetwork.org.

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

Episode 60: Silence, Contemplation, and Justice: A Conversation with Therese Taylor-Stinson (Part One)
Hosted by: Carl McColman
With: Cassidy Hall, Kevin Johnson
Guest: Therese Taylor-Stinson
Date Recorded: March 25, 2019

Lerita Coleman Brown, PhD: Howard Thurman and the Inner Authority of Silence (Episode 9)

It’s easy to see the connection between silence and spirituality — but how does silence support the quest for justice, for a world that moves beyond racism, sexism, or the other social barriers that divide us?

Anyone familiar with the wisdom and words of the great American preacher and writer, Howard Thurman, knows that the silence of contemplation and the silence that empowers the struggle for justice is, in fact, one silence.

God is always speaking, Spirit is always speaking to us. And we can only hear that in the silence. I think that’s a very difficult concept for people to understand because they think of hearing things as in words. But we can connect to things that are beyond words. — Lerita Coleman Brown, PhD

Lerita Coleman Brown, PhD

Our guest this week is Professor Lerita Coleman Brown, professor emerita of psychology at Agnes Scott College and self-described “devotee” of Howard Thurman. A natural contemplative who recognized the importance of silence while still a child, Professor Brown’s remarkable life as a distinguished scholar, heart and kidney transplant recipient, and spiritual director, has been shaped not only by her longstanding commitment to a interior growth and the love of quiet, but also by her own experience as woman of color. Like Thurman, she recognizes that silence and contemplation are not only essential practices for a meaningful spiritual life, but are also profound gifts to a truly effective and life-affirming struggle for nonviolent, sustainable social change.

Our conversation explores a wide range of silence-related topics, from Professor Brown’s childhood (encountering silence in the Santa Ana winds) to her first exploration of meditation in college, finding the value of silence in the midst of an academic career, the power of stillness even in the midst of a hospital stay, ultimately leading to her discovery of the towering genius of Howard Thurman, mentor to Martin Luther King, Jr. and one of the most important (if under-appreciated) contemplatives of the twentieth century.

I think that there are so many opportunities for silence that we often don’t take because we’re in our heads chattering about why we are uncomfortable about being in the situation we’re in. — Lerita Coleman Brown, PhD

An important chapter of Dr. Brown’s story is her journey with heart disease which led to receiving a heart transplant in her early 40s. The process of her discernment to receive the transplant (along with a key career decision she had made years earlier) all point to how the power of silence literally saved her life.

Discovering Thurman while in formation as a spiritual director, Dr. Brown recognized one of the great (if under-appreciated) contemplatives of the twentieth century: grandson of a slave, child of the Jim Crow south, who went on to become a distinguished Baptist preacher, writer, speaker, and of course, inspiration to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr and other key figures in the Civil Rights movement. But at the heart of Thurman’s genius was his deep and lasting commitment to silence, where he recognized we find eternity and, indeed, the presence of the living God.

But silence not only reveals God to us, but also reveals what Thurman calls the “inner authority” — that place within each of our hearts, where we discover who we are created to be, the strength and purpose that enables us to live the lives we are called to live — and, just possibly, to change the world in the meantime.

And I tell people all the time that ‘listen’ and ‘silent’ are the exact same letters just rearranged. So you cannot listen if you’re not silent, they’re just connected. — Lerita Coleman Brown, PhD

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

Find Dr. Lerita Coleman Brown online at her website, www.peaceforhearts.com.

To learn more about Howard Thurman (and to hear online audio files of his sermons), visit the website for the Howard and Sue Bailey Thurman Center at Boston University.

Professor Brown speaking on Howard Thurman at the 2017 Wild Goose Festival. Photo by Fran McColman.

Episode 9: Howard Thurman and the Inner Authority of Silence: A Conversation with Dr. Lerita Coleman Brown
Hosted by: Carl McColman
With: Cassidy Hall and Kevin Johnson
Guest: Lerita Coleman Brown, PhD
Date Recorded: January 22, 2018