July 5th, 2011


On Heidi Neumark's Breathing Space: A Spiritual Journey in the South Bronx

Duke Divinity School (of which I am a graduate) has a new summer reading program. All of the Divinity School students are required to read a book during the summer before fall semester begins. For fun I decided to read this year's pick "Breathing Space: A Spiritual Journey in the South Bronx."

I'll admit my expectations were low. I teach college and we have had similar programs. The books are not always the kind of books I like to read. But this book follow's The Rev. Heidi Neumark's experience of Urban Ministry as she settles into her first church in the drug infested, crime and poverty ridden neighborhood in the South Bronx. When she arrives, her church is falling down around her and her congregation has dwindled to the point that the governing body is thinking of closing the doors for good. The challenge before her is daunting, and the daily tasks are overwhelming. Yet bit by bit, grace by grace, and hope by hope, she forges a path that leads her deeper into the suffering of the world. Then on 9/11/2001 the planes hit the towers. Her world, already on shaky ground, literally begins to crumble.

Heidi's journey is from the depths of loss and despair to the discovery of hope and of joy, even in the midst of unbearable pain and suffering. She is truly an inspiration. She reminded me of why I attended Duke Divinity School years ago: to try to find the meaning of life in a seemingly meaningless world.

Thank you, Heidi.

(photo above is my photo taken at the Holiday Inn Bordeaux. I've combined it with graphics and a quote from Heidi Neumark's book, Breathing Space.)