Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Beyond the Possible by Cecil Williams and Janice Mirikitani

Cecil Williams and Janice Mirikitani are the type of church people I would never have heard about growing up. If I had heard of them, it would not have been in a positive light. The people in the pews of the churches my family attended would have found Williams and Mirikitani lacking; some would have thought them reprehensible. Williams and Mirikitani are the founders of Glide Memorial Methodist Church is San Francisco, a church that reached--and reaches--out to the downtrodden, the outcasts, the addicts. A church that loves unconditionally. A church.

Beyond the Possible tells the story of how Glide came to be, starting with the childhood and formative years of Williams and Mirikitani. The early lives of these two are worthy of print on their own. Williams grew up in a segregated Texas town in the 1930s. He was a good student and athlete, and worked hard to get into college. After he graduated from college, he was one of five young men who helped desegregate the all-white Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University. The students at Perkins had made a formal request to desegregate their school. This was the first voluntary desegregation of a major educational institution in the South.

During World War II, when Mirikitani was about two years old, her family was interred at the Rohwer War Relocation Center in Arkansas. Her family never expected her to do much else other than marry and provide a good home life for a husband, but she pushed herself to do much more.

The personal journeys of Williams and Mirikitani, combined with the the revival of a dying church in the middle of San Francisco's Tenderloin neighborhood, make for an extremely compelling narrative. Much like the story of Glide, the story of Williams and Mirikitani is winding and intricate. I feel at a loss when I try to sum up either, not sure of what to leave out. It all seems so integral.

I am quite cynical when it come to religion--particularly religious institutions. And while I still hesitate to call myself an atheist, deep down, I know that label probably fits better than any other. In spite of this, or perhaps it is because of this, I found the story of Glide extremely compelling. A church that is a group of people advocating for social justice and loving others unconditionally is a church that I could see myself attending... occasionally.


Brent Waggoner said...

This is a good review. Surprisingly personal. This book sounds good though.

Anonymous said...

"A church that is a group of people advocating for social justice and loving others unconditionally" - I think we could ALL get behind that idea.

Thanks for being a part of the tour!