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Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Back to the Future with John Wesley and Ernest Lyght and Companions

“Have You Faith in Christ?: A Bishop’s Insight into The Historic Questions Asked of Those Seeking Admission into Full Connection in The United Methodist Church” By Bishop Ernest S. Lyght  (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2015)

Review by David James Randolph, Author “The Renewal of Preaching in the 21st Century,” Former Pastor of Christ Church Manhattan UMC and Babylon UMC in New York and former President of Olivet University, San Francisco, California

Here is a mustard seed of a book that is small in size but has a huge potential to help renew the church and its ministry. The immediate value of this book is that it is a vital and valid guide to those seeking ordination in the United Methodist ministry and those who lead, examine and approve them. But the way in which Bishop Lyght relates the historic questions of John Wesley to the contemporary situation is so rich that it speaks to those who are already ordained as a refresher course in essentials and everyone concerned with ministry in seminary and parish.

Lay people will find in it a way to better understand what their ministers are called to be and do and how they may participate more fully and constructively in the total ministry of the church.  For example, the discussion of the question about the pastor visiting from house to house in this age of working households and social media is invaluable for pastor and people alike.

The answers to Wesley’s Historic Questions as approached here are not like those found in the back of some textbooks but like those found in the depths of our lives.
In this sense, dealing with crucial questions is more powerful than memorizing correct answers. We must answer the questions when they arise at the beginning of ministry but the deeper response is found a lifetime of engaging them with the intensity with which Jacob wrestled the Angel. For Wesley Question One is, “Have You Faith in Jesus Christ?” The potential to renew the ministry, church and world may be found in asking, What if this were truly Question One for ministers and laity alike today in the existential sense offered here?  

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Angels We Have Heard On High…And Low

"Call Down the Angel" at BFUU, Berkeley, CA, Saturday, Jul 18th. From left to right: Justin Coletti on guitar, Ed Coletti, Steve Shain on bass, David Madgalene and Kirk Lumpkin. Pictured above is Susan Mashiyama on harp.

"Angels we have heard on high" at the birth of Jesus, and in Caregivers amid catastrophe and in "Call Down the Angel" presentation in Berkeley shown above. David Randolph and David Madgalene give thanks for all those who have shared the message of New Way Media Fest this year. We invite you to join us in 2016 as we continue to celebrate new ways of seeing and being. We look forward likewise to celebrating you and your journey in art, music and poetry. 

Monday, November 16, 2015

Prayer for Peace after Paris November 2015

Painting by John Skaggs
O God of life, we come to you in the rubble of death.
We come asking for new life to find peaceful solutions
For ourselves, for our brothers and sisters, our world.
For in the rubble we find signs of renewal,
Heroes and heroines serving in the dust.
O God, come like a breath of fresh air
And breathe new life in us.
Come like a cleansing rain and wash away our hate.
Come like a fire to forge our swords into plowshares.
Come like the embrace of returning prodigals.
May it be said of us that in the rubble of death
We helped bring peaceful solutions
Heralded by angels and artists
To one another, to the streets, to the environment,
To the world through our service, art, poetry, music
And all we are and do with the Prince of Peace. Amen

Prayer by David James Randolph
For more with David Madgalene and Clara Bellino see October 5th post below

Tuesday, November 10, 2015


“Saint Kurt: The Gospel According to Vonnegut”
 by David James Randolph (C) 2012  

Question: What Survives The Worst?

Answer: The story.

How do we know what survives the worst? Because the survivor tells us.

The primal evidence of this is the Book of Job from the messenger to Job who after the catastrophe says, “I only I am left alone to tell thee” (See Job, Chapter 1).

It is all there in those few words: the story, the storyteller and the audience. This DNA of literature is confirmed by Herman Melville in Moby Dick whose narrator, Ishmael, echoes the Book of Job.

In our time no writer demonstrates this truth better than Kurt Vonnegut. The bombing of Dresden in WWII was the worst bombing of a city in history to that time. Kurt Vonnegut survived that catastrophe. How do we know? Because he wrote about it in “Slaughterhouse Five.”

Read Kurt Vonnegut if you want to know what survives the worst. “Slaughterhouse Five” is a novel and not a tract yet the moral message is powerful. Without explicitly arguing against it the book is one of the most compelling antiwar messages ever written. Wars have continued thanks to the readers and not to the story and its teller.

What survives the worst is the person who keeps going through the catastrophe one step at a time. Billy Pilgrim tells what kept him going early in the book in the realistic citation of a prayer which is pictured surrealistically later: “God grant me the serenity always to accept the things I can not change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.”

The phrase and theme most associated with Vonnegut is “And so it goes.” This is often taken as a stoical acquiescence. However in the light of this prayer it may better be taken as an affirmation that a higher power is granting this serenity and courage and wisdom as we journey through the catastrophic events one step at a time.

This prayer was first offered by the theologian Reinhold Niebuhr and adopted by Alcoholics Anonymous and other groups helping people get through the worst times of their lives. It stands as a foundation for recovery personal and social.

Read Kurt Vonnegut’s more recent writing such as “Armageddon in Retrospect”  for his wisdom on the tragic response to the War in Iraq and “Like Shaking Hands with God“ for his courage to change the life of a homeless man through writing.

It may seem strange to cite Kurt Vonnegut as a source of wisdom. During his lifetime he was often depicted as a bad boy of American literature some of whose books were banned and since his death his reputation has suffered by tales of nastiness in his “authoritative biography.” But if this is the public Vonnegut then he had a secret life in which he was a decent human being, a contributive member of society and a creative interpreter of Christian faith and traditional values.

How do I know this? Because I knew Kurt Vonnegut and have the experience, the records and letters to prove it. I met Kurt when I was a minister in New York City and he approached me to ask about performing the wedding ceremony for him and Jill Krementz. I agreed, we became friends and later founded Writers Day together. We corresponded and in 1998 when I was invited to come to California to teach at the Graduate Theological Union he wrote this letter.

Read a letter from Kurt Vonnegut to David Randolph like this dated Oct 18 1998:

“Dear Skypilot –
There is a God in Heaven after all, and His eye is indeed on the sparrow. About all that makes life worthwhile  for me is the saints I meet here and there, almost anywhere. A saint is a person who behaves decently in an indecent society. Yours is a case in point. I also get my rocks off when a saint is given public recognition. Again in your case. BINGO! …”

Kurt Vonnegut not only survived the catastrophic bombing of Dresden but lived to tell the story and write it in a book for the world to read. He shows us how to survive the worst through prayer, work and by behaving decently in an indecent society. Saint Kurt!

What survives the worst? The survivor who keeps going through the worst of times because of the best of faith, courage, work and wisdom. How do we know this? Because of the story, the storyteller, and we the audience. The storyteller may be a writer like Vonnegut, a poet, a performer, painter, actor filmmaker or homemaker but always an artist who creates anew out of their own sufferings and those of others.

What survives the worst? Read Kurt Vonnegut.
And he would say, write your story.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

An Open Letter to the President: Selma and the Renewal of Faith and Preaching

Dear President Obama,   
The award of the Congressional Gold Medal of Honor to those who marched in Selma, Alabama in 1965 has special meaning because it calls for renewal as well as remembrance. You have told us often how important Selma and the Bridge are to you. As one who marched in Selma I want to tell you how important you are to us.
You embody many of the hopes for which we marched one of which was for a messenger who could deliver the Word. In Brown Chapel preparing for the Tuesday march one of the speaker’s declared that he was a preacher and today the Edmund Pettus Bridge would be his pulpit. I remembered that as I listened to your message at that bridge on the 50th anniversary which was a powerful fulfillment of that hope enriched by fifty years of preparation: the Sermon From Selma. The text from Isaiah 40 on renewing our strength as we face new challenges was the word of the Lord and you brought it home to us as has Dr. King and John Lewis and others.
I was a professor of preaching at Drew University in New Jersey when I saw on television John Lewis and others being crushed by police and horses and a great NO went through me. Then I heard Dr. King call out to join him and I felt the great YES. I said goodbye to my wife and two children and marched on Turnaround Tuesday and then in New Jersey. I referred to the importance of preaching at Selma and the Civil Rights Movement when I presented the opening lecture at the founding meeting of what was to become the Academy of Homiletics in Princeton later that same year. I claimed this witness as essential to the New Homiletic we needed and it has surely empowered the renewal of preaching. 
The Academy of Homiletics is meeting this year for its 50th anniversary and I hope we continue to learn from Selma and the lessons taught in the concrete classrooms of places like Ferguson, Missouri and New York. The renewal of preaching in the 21st Century calls for better interpretation of the Bible into our social and structural as well as personal and cultural contexts. We will benefit from the interpretation of sacred texts in secular settings that you teach. At Selma, in your Inaugural Speeches and throughout your presidency your spoken words have lifted President Theodore Roosevelt’s Bully Pulpit with an eloquence and theological dimension rarely reached with lessons to be studied for years to come.
Mr. President, I also learned in Selma as we knelt to pray that day that the glory comes not only in those bright moments when the victors enter the city but also in those dark times when we commit ourselves to the Cause whatever the outcome.
Thank you for all you and others have accomplished on the way so far. And as my son David says, Let us keep going, 
David James Randolph  
Host New Way Media Fest
Author, “The Renewal of Preaching in the 21st Century,” Cascade Books

Thursday, January 8, 2015

March from Selma Changed History and Still Does Says Marcher David Randolph as Film Opens Widely

John Lewis and David Randolph in San Rafael, CA on August 2nd, 2009, International Forgiveness Day
ALBANY, Calif., Jan. 8, 2015 /Christian Newswire/ -- The film "Selma" makes visible the march that changed history and continues today, according to David James Randolph who marched in Selma on "Turnaround Tuesday." Randolph met with John Lewis more recently to thank him for his leadership and renew their commitment to march on in the great parade for love and justice.

Lewis and Randolph are "two thumbs up" on the film. Both men independently praise its fidelity to the event and relevance to the present. Both affirm the quality of interaction between Dr. King and President Johnson as positive. Randolph returned to his teaching at Drew University where he led the faculty of the school of theology to send a delegation to Montgomery for the conclusion of the march that had far reaching effects on theological education at Drew and beyond.

Randolph details his experience in his book "The Great Parade: Life, Love, Work:"

"Lessons learned then (in Selma) have meaning now. In the face of overpowering odds the action of a committed minority can transform society. Religious leaders can provide the spiritual and moral foundations for action while religious and educational institutions can inform and mobilize people. Media can draw attention to injustice and bring pressure for change. The President of the United States can use his 'bully pulpit' as did Lyndon Johnson. Legislators can pass better laws, courts justly interpret them and police humanely enforce them. Ordinary people can do extraordinary things when called upon by true leaders.

"As we face new challenges it's good to know that history is transformed not only in shining events when the victors enter the city but also in those shadowy moments when people commit themselves to the Cause whatever the outcome."

On Sunday, January 18th, events planned to renew the Selma spirit include a reading hosted by David Madgalene, editor of "World of Change," an anthology of poetry showing the relevance of the civil rights movement of the '60s today. Jym Marks contributed "I'm Not As Black As You Think I Am" and Julio Rodriguez calls for the community and the police to work together in "Dear Badge Man." Other local presenters at the Healdsburg California Literary Salon include Vilma Ginzberg.

"The Great Parade" and "World of Change" are published by New Way Media and available from

David Randolph writes:

“I first crossed paths with John Lewis when he spoke at the March on Washington in 1963 and again in Selma in 1965. When we met in California in 2009 it was to give thanks for the march thus far and to commit ourselves to march on in God's Great Parade for love and justice for all.  
 The March on Washington in 1963 was the outward and visible sign of the inner and spiritual transformation, which would change the world through one of history's greatest events. This leads to the March from Washington which for me meant back home to New Jersey and to jail in Jackson Mississippi in 1964 and the Bridge in Selma Alabama in 1965 with the landmark legislation which continued to change the world until June 25, 2013 when it was nullified in effect by the Supreme Court.  The greatness of the March on Washington in 1963 is that it symbolizes the universal quest for freedom while embodying the specific accomplishments of an objective historical event and movement for individuals and society.

         Back on the bus afterwards in conversation with Drew University colleague John Godsey and others, we agreed that Dr. Martin Luther King’s dream speech summed up the day. I was not surprised by this but by the over-whelming spectacle of the event, especially the music of Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Peter, Paul and Mary and Mahalia Jackson that lifted us so high. To his day I can hear the voice of Joan Baez soaring like the soul above he crowd. Suddenly those of us who can do so little alone believe we can do everything together, and a consciousness begins to form that we can change he world. The torch of Pres. Kennedy is passed to a new generation of Americans. Here is a new frontier and we are on it.
All this coalesces in an invisible energy supply, which will fuel us as we go back home and beyond. Lessons learned then have meaning now. In the face of overpowering odds the action of a committed minority can transform society. Religious leaders can provide the spiritual and moral foundations for action while religious and educational institutions can inform and mobilize people. Media can draw attention to injustice and bring pressure for change. The President of the United States can use his “bully pulpit” as did John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson. Legislators can pass better laws, courts justly interpret them and police humanely enforce them. Ordinary people can do extraordinary things when called upon by true leaders. As we face new challenges it is good to know that history is transformed not only in those shining events when the victors enter the city but also in those shadowy moments when people commit themselves to the Cause whatever the outcome.”(The above is an excerpt from “The Great Parade: Life, Love, Work” by David James Randolph available from

Dear Friends—
for your Calendar:
Poetry by David Beckman, Vilma Ginzberg, Katherine Hastings, Elizabeth Herron, Kirk Lumpkin, Juanita Martin, Jim Miller, Gwynn O'Gara, Mike Tuggle, Bill Vartnaw, and Gor Yaswen. Series Host: Jeane Slone. Guest MC: David Madgalene. Minimum $5 food purchase.  Gaia’s Garden International Vegetarian Buffet, 1899 Mendocino Ave., Santa Rosa. 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm. For reservations: or 544-2491.
Join Sonoma County Poets plus Special Guests as they share their poetry and how they’re helping to make the world a better place!


David Madgalene