Stories from the Soil

Two news stories caught my eye last week, both about lynching. The first was about Emmett Till, the 14-year-old boy lynched in Mississippi in 1955, whose murder helped galvanize the Civil Rights Movement after his mother insisted that his tortured body be on display in an open casket so that the world could see what had been done to her son.

Fifty years after Till’s murder, signs memorializing the lynching were erected in Mississippi, including the renaming of a 32-mile stretch of road as the Emmett Till Memorial Highway.

The signs were immediately desecrated. Dave Tell, the author of a book about Till, said the memorials “unleashed white supremacist rage.”

The original sign was spray painted with the letters KKK. Signs have been stolen, thrown in the river, replaced, shot, replaced again, shot again, and defaced with acid. Earlier this year, a photo was posted online of University of Mississippi fraternity brothers holding weapons in front of a bullet-riddled sign.

Last week a new sign was dedicated in Till’s memory. This one is bullet proof, made of inch thick steel and weighs 500 pounds. Hopes are that it will deter even the most determined desecrators.

The memory of Emmett Till and all other lynching victims was desecrated in another way last week by politicians who claimed that an impeachment inquiry was “a lynching in every meaning of the word.”

Let’s be clear. These are not the same things. An impeachment inquiry, whether you agree with it or not, is a lawful, Constitutional process of holding those in power accountable.

A lynching is an act of racial terrorism, an action totally outside of the law. Last spring several of us from St. Dunstan’s participated in a series of events designed to remember the 35 African American men and women lynched in Fulton County between 1877 and 1950 (the time period after Reconstruction and before the Civil Rights Movement). These 35 souls are among the 4,400 black citizens lynched in the South during that time frame.

We collected soil from the site of each of the lynchings in the county. Those jars of soil will be part of a permanent exhibit at the Auburn Avenue Research Library. The exhibit opens Sunday, November 3, at 2:30 p.m.

Each jar of soil tells a story of terror, pain, and suffering – suffering that is passed on through generations.

Many of us would just as soon forget the stories of lynching and racial terror that haunt our country. But as Americans we need to remember that dark part of our history.

And as Christians we need to remember that those who carried out these acts of terror were often back in church on Sunday morning, giving lip service to the worship of a God who was himself lynched, hung from a tree to die, while an angry mob shouted “crucify him.”

The cross is a poignant reminder to the victims of injustice everywhere that God is present with them and on their side.

“Because God was present with Jesus on the cross, God was also present at every lynching in this country,” theologian James Cone says. “Every time a white mob lynched a black person, they lynched Jesus.

“The lynching tree is the cross in America.” Just as Germans should never forget the Holocaust, we should never forget the atrocities and sins of slavery, segregation, and the lynching tree. The ongoing legacy of white supremacy still holds us all – black and white – in its thrall.

If we are to be liberated, if we are to heal as children of God and as a nation, we must remember. We must tell the stories without flinching at their hard truths. We must honor the victims and those who fought and continue to fight for justice.

If God could take the evil of the cross and transform it into victory over evil and death, then God can work through us, too, to transform the evil of white supremacy and bring justice, healing, and hope to all of God’s people.

Exhibit Opening

Please join us for the opening of the Stories from the Soil exhibit, Sunday, November 3, 2:30 p.m. at the Auburn Avenue Research Library, 101 Auburn Avenue.

Choir Director Search

We are beginning our search for a new organist/choir director. Tricia has listed the position on two websites – the Diocese of Atlanta and the American Guild of Organists. We’ve asked that applications be submitted by December 8. After that Tricia and the search committee (Shirley Morgan, Lee Morris, and Lori Westphal) will go through the applications and choose applicants to interview. The final applicants will also be asked to lead a choir practice, and choir members will be able to give Tricia their feedback. The length of the process will depend on how many applicants we have. And, of course, the holidays will slow things down a bit. But we hope to have someone in place before the new year is too old. Please keep the search in your prayers.

Lions, and Zebras, and Bears! Oh My!

Tricia will be sharing stories and pictures from her sabbatical adventures in Africa and Alaska during Sunday School on November 3 (Africa) and 10 (Alaska). Join us at 9:30 a.m. in the Founders’ Room.

Fall Back!!!

Don’t forget to set your clocks back an hour when you go to bed Saturday, November 2. Otherwise, you’ll be early for church!

Angel Yoga Continues

Our own Sibley Fleming, a licensed yoga instructor, will carry on with “Gilda’s Angel Yoga,” on Mondays at 5:30 p.m. This practice is based on stretching for healing, flexibility, and strength. It includes chair yoga and can accommodate people with a wide range of ages and skills. Everyone is welcome. A donation to St. Dunstan’s is suggested, but not required. Dates for the rest of the year: November 4, 11, and 18; December 2, 9, and 16.

Flower Arranging Workshop

Saturday, November 16th Nancy Dillon will lead this fun workshop in the Sanctuary at 10:30. This is a wonderful opportunity to come start a new hobby, exercise your creativity, and explore joining the Flower Guild and help St. Dunstan’s all at the same time. CONTACT: Nancy Dillon – temporary head of Flower Guild.

Creation Christmas Tree

Advent is almost here, with Christmas close on its heels, so it’s time to complete those creation-centered ornaments you’ve been working on and get them ready for the Big Day. Your deadline is December 15 – and don’t forget to add a loop or some other way to hang the ornament on the tree!

Saturday, December 14, will be Finishing Day: if you need help mounting your work or adding a little something to what you’ve already done, the Creation Tree Group will be on hand to help with that from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. There will be snacks to boost your creativity.

On Sunday, December 22, we’ll get to complete the job with a Trim-the-Tree covered-dish luncheon party after the 10:45 Eucharist. Expect wonderful food from St. Dunstan’s many fine cooks, and lots of fun as we decorate our “Creation Tree.”

Advent Quiet Day

St. Dunstan’s Daughters of the King are offering an Advent Quiet Day on Saturday, December 7, from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. Registration begins at 8:30. The day will include meditations on the reflections of divine love shown to Julian of Norwich, a 14th century mystic. Participants should bring a sack lunch. The day will conclude with the Eucharist.

Please RSVP to Mary Kathryn Wolfson at

Time & Talent – Want to be more involved?

Sundays at St. Dunstan’s are not possible without a large number of volunteers. There are plenty of opportunities to lend a hand. Feel free to contact the following people to get more information on ways you can help.



Lay Readers/Lectors



Altar Guild

Bread Guild

Daughters of the King

Flower Guild

Deborah Dee

Lori Westphal

Bruce Lafitte

Bob Wolfson

Max Changus

Cathy Leake

Lori Westphal

Mary Kathryn Wolfson

Nancy Dillon


Vestry 2019 – 2020
Harriett S. Smith, Sr. Warden; Bruce Lafitte, Jr. Warden;
Deborah Dee; Lori Westphal; Misty Bentz;
Jessy Briton Hamilton; Lucy Kaltenbach; Jackie O’Connell

The Reverend Patricia Templeton, Rector
The Reverend Maggie Harney, Priest Associate
Dan Beck, Parish Musician
Claudia Gimson, Parish Administrator

A Prayer of Thanksgiving

O God, we thank you for this earth, our home;
for the wide sky and the blessed sun,
for the salt sea and the running water,
for the everlasting hills and the never resting winds,
for trees and the common grass underfoot. 

We thank you for our senses
by which we hear the songs of birds,
and see the splendor of the summer fields,
and taste of the autumn fruits,
and rejoice in the feel of the snow,
and smell the breath of the spring. 

Grant us a heart wide open to all this beauty;
and save our souls from being so blind
that we pass unseeing
when even the common thorn bush
is aflame with your glory,
O God our creator,
who lives and reigns for ever and ever. 

–Walter Rauschenbusch

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