07 February 2013
Now in Beyond the Possible, the two founders, Reverend Cecil Williams and Janice Mirikitani, show how Glide transformed a dwindling all-white congregation into a diverse and energetic community of the poor, the disenfranchised, the homeless, the addicted, the mentally ill, the newly immigrated, and the politically passionate.
A vivid storyteller, Cecil describes removing the trappings of conventional religion to make way for a new spirituality—one that embraces gay rights, jazz in the sanctuary, the antiwar movement, and Celebrations that fill the church to this day. In prose as gripping as her acclaimed poetry, Janice recalls starting out at Glide as a nonbeliever in the 1960s who found herself drawn to Cecil’s vision for social justice.
Soon we see how Cecil’s charismatic power, combined with Janice’s organizing genius, created a model for wraparound health care, a million free meals for the hungry each year, apartments for the homeless, and a stand-up pride that confronted police brutality, riots, racism, and institutional bigotry. And we discover that Glide’s insistence on inviting rather than avoiding controversy has revolutionized approaches to drug addiction, racial conflict, and domestic violence.
Both a personal love story and a riveting view of American history, Beyond the Possible demonstrates what is truly possible for all of us. Here is Obamacare with a human face. Here is Martin Luther King Jr.’s vision of “the beloved community” come to life at last. And here is a courageous couple facing impossible odds—and discovering the power of unconditional love time and time again.
The above description is from the inside cover. I chose to do this in part because I am (gasp) not finished with the book quite yet. The publisher ran a bit behind on getting the books out, and then I was on vacation when the book arrived, leaving me only three days before my scheduled post. Back in the old days, I could have rolled my sleeves up - errr...thrown on some lazy pants - and had a reading marathon, but these days that just isn't possible.
I have gotten about half-way through though, and I am loving it. The book is episodic and jumps back and forth in time - both of which are conventions I adore, for some unknown reason, in memoirs. I am also enjoying both Cecil's and Janice's voice. The tone is conversational and intimate for both. To add to the sense of intimacy, there are two sections of pictures in the book with images ranging from Cecil's and Janice's childhood through the present. For me, being able to see them grow, to see them work, really adds to my enjoyment of the book.
More than anything though, I am enjoying reading about two people with big ideas who actually followed through. They knew something was wrong - a lot of somethings - and instead of just talking about it, they went out and did something, something amazing. One day I would like to visit Glide and see this church in action.
I highly recommend reading this book, not just for the inspiring content but also for the artful construction. Yeah, I require both content and form in my reading. :)