From our school chaplain, David Kitch
About Agapé and Verna Dozier
Following Sunday's sermon there were several questions about the use of agapé love and the references to Ms. Verna Dozier. I am happy to pass on some thoughts.
The Greek word agapé is translated as "love" in the vast majority of contemporary English translations. A few key references on agapé love are Jesus own use of the term, including Matthew 22:36-40 (the summary of the law) and John 13:34 (the new commandment). And then Paul's use in 1 Corinthians 13, and throughout the First Letter of John. Beyond that, C.S. Lewis wrote a fine book on the subject entitled THE FOUR LOVES. He reflects on the four Greek words for love and their relationship to the New Testament and the Christian life. One should be able to find a used copy very inexpensively.
Verna J. Dozier was a gift and a wonder. Born in the District of Colombia in 1917, she would be a Washingtonian all her life. Growing up under segregation, she was the product of the "colored schools" of D.C. and Howard University. She became one of the leading educators of her time, navigating the D.C. school system through desegregation and reform.
As a young activist she became involved with the work of Gordon Cosby and the multidenominational mission community the Church of the Savior in Washington D.C. After completing a five year commitment immersed in the formation of that community, members were expected to move on into a specific church to serve there. Verna chose to move to St. Mark's Episcopal Church on Capitol Hill, which was then a small, declining inner-city parish. The then rector, Bill Baxter, told her that he thought St. Mark's was "ready for a black." Her joining the church in 1955 was controversial – and a watershed for the church and Verna.
She would become a great Christian educator, a lay theologian and preacher, and beloved of many. The sermon used several references from Verna's work.
Her use of the phrase "The Dream of God" as a way to express the Kingdom of God.
Her analogy to looking at the Biblical narrative as a painting, where one must not lose the view of the painting as a whole by isolating one small part with a magnifying glass.
Her dictum that in any New Testament passage you should ask yourself "Where is the Good News here for me? For us?"
The quote, "If we have no faith that God is acting then we have no way of seeing God's actions."
I recommend two books. THE DREAM OF GOD by Verna J. Dozier, Seabury Books, NY, 2006 (originally published by Cowley Publications in 1991). CONFRONTED BY GOD – THE ESSENTIAL VERNA DOZIER, edited by Cynthia L. Shattuck and Fredrica Harris Thompsett, Church Publishing, NY, 2006.