Enuma Okoro

The American Church in Paris has a nice tradition of welcoming guest authors, resident artists, and visiting theologians to spend a few weeks with us each year.  Recently, ACP welcomed the likes of Keith Ward and Jurgen Moltmann.

This May-June we have the privileged of having Enuma Okoro as our resident theologian.  http://www.enumaokoro.com

Here is the “official” bio:

Enuma Okoro is an award-winning author and widely sought-after speaker. A Nigerian-American living in the African diaspora, Okoro was born on February 6, 1973 in New York City to Ibo parents, Vincent and Enuma Okoro. Though her family is from Imo State in Southern Nigeria, Okoro identifies as a global citizen who was raised in the USA, England, Nigeria and Cote D’Ivoire. Her writing, speaking and teaching interests intersect spirituality, cultural anthropology, women’s studies, race relations, and the visual and literary arts. Okoro receives invitations to speak and teach at colleges, universities, religious institutions, and conferences across the United States, Europe and Australia.

Okoro’s early childhood was spent in Lagos, Nigeria where her father, (now deceased) Barrister Vincent Okoro practiced law and her mother worked in Public Relations at the National Assembly. During her teenage years, Okoro’s family moved to francophone West Africa, Cote D’Ivoire where she attended elementary school. She subsequently left to complete her secondary schooling in Oxford, England. After finishing school she returned to the USA to pursue a BA in Psychology and Communications at St Olaf College in Minnesota.  Okoro then went to graduate work in Marriage and Family Therapy at Northwestern University (Chicago, IL) and then completed a Masters in Theology at Duke University.

Though Okoro’s love of language, words and reading can be traced to her early childhood growing up in Lagos, her professional writing career began in 2004 while Okoro was working at Duke University Divinity School (Durham, NC) as the Director for the Center for Theological Writing (CTW). While teaching writing and directing the CTW she spent a few years writing religious educational curriculum for various publishing houses and freelancing articles to journals and magazines. Her first book, the spiritual memoir,Reluctant Pilgrim: A Moody Somewhat Self-Indulgent Introvert’s Search for Spiritual Community (Fresh Air Books, 2010) was a winning finalist in the 2010 USA Best Books Award and received the 2011 National Indie Excellent Book Awards Winning Finalist in “Spirituality and African-American Non-Fiction.”

She is also co-author with Shane Claiborne and Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove of the widely acclaimed book, Common Prayer: Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals, (Zondervan, 2010).

She has served as a columnist for Sojourners magazine and her writing has been featured on ABC’s Good Morning America, The Huffington Post, Christianity Today, the Christian Century and more. Her next book , Silence, will be released in fall 2012.         (I am hoping to get a sneak preview!)

It has truly been a joy getting to know Enuma and just last night, she shared a bit of her journey with our young adult group.  Life and faith themes, representing in her book include Doubt, the Sacraments, Friends, “Home”, community, what is the “Church”, all shared with the utmost candor, humility, grace, and authenticity.

I hope to write a review on her book, which I highly commend to all readers.  Her writings have a way of breaking through all barriers and speaking across generations, ethnicities, and traditions.

I will conclude by offering to some reflective questions that Enuma offered our group this week.  In small groups sitting around tables adorned with checkered table cloths, we witnessed the beauty and transcendence of God’s presence in community.  The myriad of backgrounds and cultures our group represents is still amazing to me, and having the opportunity for these individuals to reflect and share together was powerful.  I hope you may find inspiration as you reflect upon these questions as well.

Questions on Faith and Community

1) In Reluctant Pilgrim, Enuma writes in Chapter 1, pg. 19 – “I was claimed as a Christian. Whether or not others might call me a Christian is up for grabs, but I belong to a faith tradition formed and steeped in the idea of self-denial for love of the neighbor and rooted in community.”

How do you understand the “self-denial” as it relates to your faith?

Who claims you as a Christian?

Would others call me a Christian? Why or why not?

2) On page 18 Enuma writes, “…my regular life largely includes being a Christian who doesn’t really like church or many of the people I find in church”…” I am also a Christian who believes that Christ calls us to live in the community of the church and to love our neighbors.” If this fits YOUR experience, how do YOU solve the conflict?

3) When have church and community equaled the same thing for you? When has it meant different things?

4) Enuma made many moves in her life, from the US to Nigeria, to Cote D’Ivoire, to England. If YOU have moved, how did it affect your identity?

5) How does one’s family mediate alienation or communion with the church? What childhood or family patterns were you indoctrinated into that helped or hindered your expectation of community and church?

6) Enuma writes a lot about how friendships have helped her see and experience God. What relationships have helped you see and experience God? How?

7) How are you a reluctant pilgrim in your own faith journey?

8) What aspects of the faith life do you find troubling or hard to live into?

9) How would you describe prayer? Why do we do it? What good, if any, does this practice do in our lives?

10) How do you understand the meaning of the word “GRACE?”

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