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Scripture and Blackout Poetry

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The PHPC pastoral team was sitting around a table at Tacodeli a few weeks ago brainstorming ways that we could be creative in the Worship at Five space with our new sermon series: “Reading Between the Lines”, an exploration of how we read scripture inspired by Rob Bell’s What is the Bible? (which we highly encourage you to read!).

Kathy Lee-Cornell suggested that we utilize blackout poetry as a means of creatively exploring this theme, as a way of “reading between the lines” of scripture to find new meaning for our lives today.

What’s amazing about scripture is that we can come back to the same passage time and time again and read it completely differently based on the season of life we find ourselves in. Scripture consistently presents new messages of hope and grace, no matter what’s going on- we just have to be able to listen and to pay attention.

The practice of blackout poetry offers us one way to hear these new messages in scripture. By blacking out words and phrases in text that are not speaking to you in that particular moment, and circling or boxing words and phrases that are speaking to you, new meaning springs forth from the page.

On Sunday night, Matthew led the Worship at Five congregation through creating blackout poems using Luke 4:14-21, the story of Jesus reading from Isaiah 61 in the synagogue in Nazareth (see pictures below). To encourage continued creation, we have a prayer station set up in the space with additional texts (scriptures, creeds, and even hymns!) for people to engage with at home or during worship. Join us for Worship at Five in the next three weeks to make your own poem!

Additionally, Kathy found a website that prints text on large pieces of felt and so we printed Genesis 1:1-7 on fabric – one felt print is on the children’s table in Founder’s with smaller pieces of black felt to blackout words, and we hung the other print on a whiteboard where people can use blue tape to mark out words; it’s a work in progress and all are invited to participate. We also used four completed blackout poems to adorn our communion table.

So now it’s your turn! Take some time to create your own blackout poem using these step by step instructions.

+ Select a text. Copy the text (from Bible Gateway, or another online resources) into a word document and format it how you want it, then print. On Sunday evening, we used Luke 4:14-21. Here are some other texts you might use:

  • Psalm 121
  • Matthew 5: 1-12
  • Psalm 23
  • John 1: 1-9
  • Psalm 139
  • Mark 14: 22-25
  • The Apostles Creed
  • Hymns or songs that are meaningful to you/your community

+ Using a black marker (we used chisel tip Sharpies), first read through the text and circle or box words and phrases that speak to you, words that give you hope, phrases that whisper good news, things that you latch onto.

+ Next, begin to black out/strike through words and phrases that do not speak to you,
words that confuse you or rub you the wrong way, phrases that don’t sit right with you at this particular moment.

+ Alternatively, you might form your poem first (like I did in the adjacent image) – linking words into a phrase or sentence that creates meaning, and then blacking out the rest of the reading. This is the way that I typically approach this activity.

+ Get creative! Rather than simply blacking everything out, create a design around the words, forming images or patterns.

May all your endeavors be creative! I hope that this will provide you with a new way to read and reflect on scripture. If you want to practice blackout poetry in community, join us for Worship at Five, Sunday evenings at 5 p.m. in Founder’s Hall—we would love to see you there!



Posted by Jessie Light-Wells with
in Youth

Celebrate Martin Luther King's Legacy This Weekend

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On Monday we celebrate the life and legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr.. Dr. King was a man of faith, who did more for justice in our country, than almost any other individual. He was radical, peaceful, and persistently hopeful, and we have much to learn from that.

We will celebrate his life on Monday by nationally taking a day off from work and school. However, instead of taking a day “off” in honor of this man, I invite you to take a day “on.” To help, I have compiled a list of ten things you can do, together as a family, to celebrate the life and work of Dr. King.  

Here they are!  

  1. Have a movie night: watch the movie Selma! Selma came out in 2014, and tells the story of the the Selma bridge march, which took place in the height of civil rights tensions. The movie is rated PG-13, as there is some violence, but can be a powerful education point for students still learning about the civil rights movement. If you watch it as a family, save some time to discuss it together, after the movie! You can get Selma on Amazon Video and Google Play for $2.99.
  2. Have a meal at Cafe Momentum!: Cafe Momentum is a non-profit restaurant which provides a 12-month paid, post-release internship program for kids coming out of juvenile detention. This program provides job experience, life stability, and positive work opportunities for some of our most at-risk youth. The church is supporting Cafe Momentum this month, as part of our Every Dollar Counts offering. Thus, make a reservation for MLK weekend, and go support the cafe yourself, as it is surely something that MLK would have been proud of! The restaurant is open for dinner, Thursday through Saturday, from 5:30 pm-11 pm. Reservations can be made online.
  3. Go to the Holocaust Museum: Not only did MLK fight for human rights here in the states, but he worked for the dignity and safety of all people, world wide. Thus, consider spending an afternoon at the Dallas Holocaust Museum, Center for Education and Tolerance as a family. The museum will be open from 11 am- 5 pm on MLK Day, and costs $10 for adults, and $8 for students. This museum is not recommended for children under 11, but can be a powerful for older students. In the words of Dr. King, “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
  4. Go to the bookstore: Congressmen and Civil Rights activist, John Lewis, has recently published an autobiographical trilogy of books about his work in the Civil Rights movement, titled “March.” The books are are written in the form of comic strips, to echo the way civil rights education was often shared long-distance through comic strips. The books are a quick read, and incredibly powerful, giving readers a first hand view of the civil rights movement. You can purchase March at any major bookstore, or here on Amazon.
  5. Attend the MLK Day Parade!: There will be a parade at 10 am on Monday morning, that begins at MLK Blvd. at Holmes St., and proceeds east on MLK Blvd. to Fair Park. This is a free event, sponsored by the Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Center. Learn more information here.
  6. Make Cookies for the Soup Mobile!: In Dr. King’s final years, he began focusing his energy on the issue of poverty in our nation. Thus, a beautiful way to celebrate MLK Day, would be to support a group in town, such as the Soup Mobile, which directly works with some of our most impoverished brothers and sisters, providing thousands of meals annually. All you have to do is make a batch of your family favorite cookies, and bag them up- 2-3 cookies in individual zip lock bags. Then, deliver the cookies to the Soup Mobile, which is located at 3017 Commerce Street, Dallas, TX, 75226, between 7am and 11am, Monday through friday. You do not need an appointment to deliver cookies, but may consider calling the Soup Mobile if you intent to deliver on MLK day itself, in case their hours are different. That number is 214-655-6396. Happy baking!
  7. Read the Letter from the Birmingham Jail: This letter is one of MLK’s more famous writings, written to white clergy who were criticising him. The letter is lengthy, but could provide some powerful table conversation around our responsibility to respond to injustice as people of faith.
  8. Interview your grandparent: Many of us were not alive during the Civil Rights movement, but we know people who were! Thus, call up your grandparent and ask to interview them about the Civil Rights movement. What were they afraid of, what did they hope for? Were they involved, would they be now? What did they learn from Dr. King? What do they want you to learn today?
  9. Read the Confession of Belhar together: The Confession of Belhar is the most recent confession added to the Presbyterian Church USA’s confession book. This confession was written in South Africa in response to the apartheid movement there, which had deep similarities to our own civil rights issues as a nation. Pick one section of this confession and use it as your dinner table prayer for the night! This confession speaks more directly about social justice than any other one in the book, and is good to be familiar with.
  10. Have important conversations about race and privilege: Parents have been found to play the most significant impact in the faith development of a child. Similarly, parents play a huge role in helping teach young people think about things such as race, white privilege, tolerance, activism, non-violence work, etc. If you as a family have not discussed some of these topics recently, I would encourage you to do so, leaning on honesty and personal stories. The most important thing, is to simply begin the conversation.

 In the words of Dr. King, “If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”

May this year’s MLK day feel like a day forward for our community.

Grace and peace,

Sarah Are

Posted by Rev. Sarah Are with

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