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Church pays ‘royalties’ for use of African American spirituals

A Boston news station recently shared a story about a Massachusetts church that came up with a unique reparation idea to undo the injustices to those men and women who authored the great African American spirituals in many a hymn book. Each time the choir sings such a spiritual, the church will pay a royalty. It is common practice for churches to pay royalties to publishers for the use of hymns, but according to the news report, Susan DeSelms, minister of music of the United Parish in Brookline, which came up with the idea, “the enslaved people who created this music were never rewarded for their art.”

God’s vineyard parable exposes privileges taken for granted

In Matthew, Jesus tells the story of a landowner needing workers for his vineyard. Before dawn, he strikes a deal with some workers, promising to pay a full day’s wage for a full day’s work. Apparently needing more help, he finds more laborers midmorning, assuring them that they’ll also be paid fairly. By lunchtime, he’s returned for more help. He goes out again midafternoon for workers and then again, with only an hour before closing time. At dusk, the last to begin working are the first to get paid — and instead of receiving the rate for one hour, they receive enough for a full day. They are ecstatic! The only people happier are those early birds — the first workers of the day — whose imaginations go wild dreaming about what they might do with the pay they will be getting. They might also be thinking that they’ll never show up for work that early again. Their dreams crash when they get paid what they had agreed to at the breaking of dawn’s first light. They shout, “It’s not fair!”

Minute for Mission: Race Relations Day/Racial & Intercultural Justice

I’ve been spending a lot of time with Genesis 11:1–9 lately, or the story of Shinar and the so-called “Tower of Babel.” It’s a popular Sunday School lesson, an etiology we recount to children to explain why humanity is so varied in language and location. We don’t engage it as much when we get older. For that reason, how we read and are taught the story as children often stays with us well into adulthood.