This is not a book review; this is a book recommendation. A review, by definition, provides a critical analysis of a book’s style, content and merit. But this blog is not Kirkus Reviews and I am not in a position to judge how Black authors present their lives’ stories to the world. Instead, I am simply highly recommending that you read Osheta Moore’s book on “living wholeheartedly in a brokenhearted world.” You may remember that my recipe for a good spiritual memoir requires honesty, good theology, a healthy amount of humor and the ability to glean spiritual insight from the everyday moments. I first read Shalom Sistas about six months ago and it sure ticked all the boxes. I knew immediately that I wanted Osheta Moore to be one of my teachers. I am grateful I have her book to return to in these days when the brokenness of the world is on full, heart wrenching display. Honestly, you should see how many sections of her book I have underlined and starred. I had to stop myself from quoting her whole book right here in this blog post.
I just called this book a spiritual memoir and the publisher classifies it as “Christian Life.” But it really goes beyond either label. In many ways, if I had to categorize this book (here comes the librarian in me), I think I would call it “Community Building.” Moore’s blog, Shalom in the City, that preceded her book, the book itself and her podcast, Shalom Ya’ll, are ways in which this peacemaker is gathering people together to do the work of what Martin Luther King Jr. called the “Beloved Community”. She likes the imagery of the city of God, but whether you call it that, the Beloved Community, or the Biblical “Kingdom of God,” Osheta Moore is giving us the tools we need to find peace for ourselves and then bring that peace out into our world.
In her adult life, Moore has lived in New Orleans, Boston, Los Angeles and Saint Paul Minnesota. Before Hurricane Katrina, her job involved doing specific peacemaking work in New Orleans. After being displaced by the storm when she was eight months pregnant, she and her family found refuge in Boston. A mother of three young children, separated from the city she loved and no longer doing professional peace work, Moore found herself feeling adrift. Like so many of us, she had fallen prey to the lie that our accomplishments give us our worth. Happily for all of us, she was brave enough to reject this fallacy and do the work to find a “third way of peacemaking that doesn’t require us to be peaceful by disposition or by occupation.” This books shares her path so we too can follow it.
The spreading of shalom (which she defines as God’s dream for the world) that Osheta Moore feels called to is, in fact, what all followers of Jesus are called to. Moore describes it this way: “That ache you feel, the sense that the world is not right? That’s the shalom in the city of God calling us back home.” To help her fellow shalom seekers, she has crafted a manifesto that focuses on finding shalom in our relationships with God, ourselves, each other and the world.
Each of her manifesto points is fleshed out into a chapter of her book. The first time I read this book, I had recently left a full time job that formed a huge part of my identity. In many ways, my performance in that job determined my own sense of worth. Rather suddenly, I found myself working part-time from home while caring for my children. It was a change I wanted with all my heart, but I found myself struggling with how I could make still make a difference in the larger world when my days were filled with Legos, playgrounds, read alouds and snacks. So. many. snacks. From this vantage point, Shalom Sistas had many lessons to teach me. Moore’s personal story, her focus on everyday acts of peacemaking and the concrete Shalom Steps at the end of the book were just what I needed.
As I reread the book now, it is point number 8 that stands out to me. I will serve before I speak. From where I stand as a White woman, this is a message I think I need to remember. Yes, sometimes I need to speak up for justice, but the world needs to hear from Black people about their experiences with race America. I need to listen and discover how I can best serve in this area. Moore’s podcast is about to launch a series called Dear White Peacemakers. And I will be listening to each episode closely. Episode number six in the series is going to address racism and parenting. I am particularly eager to learn in this area because as the mother of two white children, I think this is where I can have the most impact at this moment in my life.
Early on in Shalom Sistas Moore says, “The world needs more imaginative theologians who can connect us to the heart of God in brave, new ways.” She is the theologian she is wishing for and gosh, does our world need her!