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Featured Book for August 2023

In My Grandmother’s House: Black Women, Faith, and the Stories We Inherit

by Yolanda Pierce

What if the most steadfast faith you’ll ever encounter comes from a Black grandmother?

The church mothers who raised Yolanda Pierce, dean of Howard University School of Divinity, were busily focused on her survival. In a world hostile to Black women’s bodies and spirits, they had to be. Born on a former cotton plantation and having fled the terrors of the South, Pierce’s grandmother raised her in the faith inherited from those who were enslaved. Now, in the pages of In My Grandmother’s House, Pierce reckons with that tradition, building an everyday womanist theology rooted in liberating scriptures, experiences in the Black church, and truths from Black women’s lives. Pierce tells stories that center the experiences of those living on the underside of history, teasing out the tensions of race, spirituality, trauma, freedom, resistance, and memory.

A grandmother’s theology carries wisdom strong enough for future generations. The Divine has been showing up at the kitchen tables of Black women for a long time. It’s time to get to know that God.

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Community Questions

Community Questions from Claudia Love Mair

Week 1

  1. Pierce honors the wisdom of the grandmothers, as many of our guests have. Why do you think the grannies and the wisdom of elders are being brought forward now?
  2. Pierce’s early life was formed in the Black Church, stealthily run by the “church mothers.” What role did/do older women play in your spiritual formation?
  3. A picture of a Black Jesus was prominently displayed in Dr. Pierce’s grandparents' home. If there was an image of the divine in your home, what was it like, and how did it influence you?

Week 2

  1. Pierce described prayer as a contradiction, intercession, celebration, and a primary form of speech. What words would you use to describe prayer?
  2. “Sometimes God’s grace and our own growth are in leaving things behind,” Dr. Pierce writes. What have you had to leave behind for your own growth?
  3. In the chapter on Being Present, Dr. Pierce describes theological work as taking place in worship, where questions are raised about the nature and reality of God and in community. She shares about the songs sung in her congregation during worship as pointing to new understandings of the divine. What has music taught you about the divine?

Week 3

  1. In chapter 7, Tender Love, Dr. Pierce asks, “Can a Black woman ever truly love God when we have never been taught to love ourselves?” Self-love is a challenge that seems to know few barriers, even to people who are not marginalized. How does self-love influence your ability to love God?
  2. In her chapter, The Question of Safety, Dr. Pierce discusses the privilege of not having to think about one’s own race in contemplating daily decisions. How does the thought of your own race play into the decisions you make, if indeed it does?
  3. Pierce writes about the individualistic understanding of salvation held in the question, “Are you saved,” often asked by church mothers, and how she needed a way of salvation with the community at its core. Where does community come in when you contemplate the meaning of salvation?

Week 4

  1. Pierce says, “When I am spiritually and physically well, and when I am spiritually and physically safe, l have a responsibility to work so other communities can also be safe and whole.” Name some actions you’ve seen that resulted in making other communities safe and whole.
  2. In the chapter on the sacraments, Dr. Pierce beautifully describes how they involve ordinary things “to perform extraordinary acts of service.” She recounts the story of a foot washing she experienced. Name a time that a sacrament featuring something ordinary used in an act of service revealed something meaningful to you.
  3. Pierce writes about her practice of calling the names of her ancestors, both of flesh and of spirit in her chapter Notes on the State of Virginia. What role do your ancestors play in your spirituality?