‘Reclaim the dance’ as changemakers for justice, Otis Moss lll urges in webinar, book
There was a time when the Rev. Otis Moss III’s children painted all over the basement walls. They were so proud of redecorating the space that Moss had to reconsider his upset feelings before he reacted.
“Spirit was saying, ‘You need to pause in the midst of this chaos and see the pattern and the beauty,’” Moss said, as he related the story on Jan. 7 during a UCC Thursdays for the Soul webinar. “This is the same type of spiritual principle that we’re to use in the world today – pausing and silence and taking moments instead of allowing the chaos to control us.”
The senior pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago noted that taking this kind of pause is what people did by organizing Black Lives Matter in response to “the chaos of weaponization of people of color and police brutality.”
Moss shared several stories like this – interwoven with metaphor and reflections on faith and justice work – in conversation with the Rev. Traci Blackmon, UCC Associate General Minister of Justice & Local Church Ministries. She and Moss, pastor, author, and co-chair of the Join the Movement capital campaign — covered topics inspired by his latest book “Dancing in the Darkness: Spiritual Lessons for Thriving in Turbulent Times.”
Reclaiming a tradition
The two faith leaders spoke about Moss’ faith convictions rooted in Black spirituality and influenced by the Ethiopian Orthodox tradition, which, he said, is interested in finding ways to “do the dance and the work of God through our actions.” This tradition of being changemakers includes people like Frederick Douglass, Ida B. Wells and Jo Ann Robinson, and creates the “roux” of his book, Moss said.
“We have to reclaim this incredibly hopeful, powerful, critiquing, truthful, respectful, lovely, dancing tradition that is unafraid of tragedy, but refuses to fall into despair.”
For Moss, this reclamation involves embodiment and dancing. He shared that the title image of “Dancing in the Darkness” was inspired by a particularly fearsome moment in the middle of the night when he found his daughter joyfully dancing in her dark bedroom.
This discovery led him to preach and write about “reclaiming the dance for our democracy, reclaiming the dance so we can pass and lay to rest this thing called white supremacy, lay to rest these things that keep us from flourishing as human beings. We need to learn how to dance again in the dark.”
MLK Day celebration, book launch
Themes from the webinar, which Blackmon said also appear in Moss’ book, include developing spiritual sustenance, beauty and the ability to act in such a way that can impact change within negative environments. The book, released Jan. 3, is a collection of stories. “Otis has a unique gift to see through stories the deeper meaning of what is happening in life,” she said.
Rev. Moss III plans to officially launch his book as the featured speaker at Hear Our Voices: Annual MLK Day Celebration Monday, Jan. 16. The 1 p.m. ET event at Temple Tifereth-Israel in the Cleveland suburb of Beachwood, Ohio, is hosted by the Maltz Museum. The event is free, but registration is required.
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