BikeToWork (ecology/theology)

Being a bike commuter is a way to live out my ecological and theological beliefs to take care of the planet and to care for people.

I’ve always liked bike riding. From childhood to college & grad school I’ve biked occasionally for recreation, transportation, exercise, and fun. This year I’ve been able to take on a new adventure: biking to work 2 days of my 4 day work week. I’m riding a bike rented from an innovative program Bike Emorya unique partnership between Emory University & our local shop Bicycle South that encourages/equips students, faculty, and staff to learn bicycle care, make community connections, and ride safely.emory bike

I believe in bike commuting as a way to lessen my impact on the environment, improve traffic, and see the world in a more people-centric, community kind of way. Riding to work allows me to lessen the amount of greenhouse gases I’m contributing to the atmosphere, take one single-commuter car off the road, and to see different side streets, neighborhoods, people, and communities that I otherwise wouldn’t see.

We have amazing Sustainability Initiatives at Emory, which really help our community to engage in greener ways of living and enjoy the world around us. In my work as the United Methodist Campus Minister at Emory I have had so many good conversations with students about how we are called to take care of the environment as a matter of justice, stewardship, and a way to care for people. In my faith tradition we have 3 simple ‘rules’: “Do Good, Do No Harm, and Stay in the Love of God and Neighbor.” These seemingly simple rules are more complex once we take them beyond simple platitudes and ask how to live out these ideals–especially when we consider how we live, act, and use/consume resources.

Socrates got it right when he said that “an unexamined life is not worth living.” This is one of the greatest challenges for Americans: to think beyond our own needs and to consider the needs, situations, and hopes of others in our communities and in other communities in our nation and around the world. A step towards understanding the hopes and needs of others is to get to know people who are in different ages, stages, and economic places in your community. In the context of relationship we can learn much about the hopes, dreams, and ideals of others and, in turn, discover much about ourselves.

Riding a bike makes one physically and philosophically closer to world around us: there is no emory road blurredglass/metal cage to separate us, no radio to distract us, no anonymity of a car to shield us. Riding my bike to work gives me time to take in and ponder the people and scenes I’m seeing and hearing–not to mention the hills that I’m feeling in my legs. I’m thankful to be able to bike to work to better understand and appreciate the world around me. Being a bike commuter is a way to live out my ecological and theological beliefs to take care of the planet and to care for people.

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twitter bio shot 2012 3Rev. Joseph McBrayer works as Director of Emory Wesley Fellowship, the United Methodist Campus Ministry at Emory University in Atlanta, Ga, where he helps build community on campus to provide a place for students to think through their beliefs and put them into practice. He and his spouse live in the North Decatur area and have been a part of the Atlanta/Emory Community for the past 8 years. You may contact him at jmcbray@gmail.com or connect on twitter @jmcbray.

Bishop White’s Letter to Martin Luther King, Jr.

Each year retired United Methodist Bishop Woodie W. White writes a letter to Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on the anniversary of his birthday about the progress of racial equality. This year I asked Bishop White if he would allow me to video a reading of the letter. It was a unique opportunity and honor to work with Bishop White on this project. Below is Bishop White’s 2013 Letter in video format, entitled “50 Years On: The Dream is Becoming the New Reality.”  The text of the Letter can be found at UM Reporter here. Bishop White is the Bishop in Residence at Candler School of Theology at Emory University in Atlanta, Ga and more about Bishop White can be found here.

This video may be downloaded for use in school/civic/church services, may be embedded or posted freely, and is free for use under Creative Commons for non-commercial, non-modified use.

Special thanks to Bishop White for his permission and time, Rev. Dr. Bill Britt and staff of Peachtree Road UMC in Atlanta, Ga, for filming location, Stan Taylor at Candler School of Theology for his wealth of technical expertise and materials, and friends Josh Amerson and Rev. Brian Tillman for their advising, direction, and encouragement.bishop white filming

Emory Wesley Orientation Video

Orientation Video 2012: Students sharing about the importance of Emory Wesley Fellowship, the United Methodist Campus Ministry at Emory University.

Here is the quick video introduction to Emory Wesley Fellowship, the United Methodist Campus Ministry at Emory University: (students on Facebook here  ||  Twitter here  || Alumni, friends, parents, supporters FB page

music: “Festival” by Sigur Ros used under fair use regulations and this statement by the band: http://www.sigur-ros.co.uk/banda/faq.php#13

“This is My Song” (July 4th)

The hymn “This is My Song” serves as a reminder of the love God has for all people–not just for this nation or another nation. On this July 4th, may we be mindful of all the people in this nation and other nations who are still striving for justice and for peace.

The Fourth of July brings up many themes of patriotism: we celebrate our United States of America and demonstrate our pride in our nation–there are some instances of appropriately and carefully crafted celebration and pride, while other instances seem to exalt our nation over and against all other nations. The hymn, “This is my song” reminds us that ALL nations are loved by God and that we as individuals or as a nation do not have any more or less favor in God’s eyes. As the author puts it, it is “a song of peace for lands afar and mine.” The familiar tune Finlandia , by Finnish composer Jean Sibelius, was written in 1899, as a covert protest against the oppressive Russian forces, and is a much beloved symphonic piece.

The 4th of July began as a day of celebration of our independence from the tyranny of the British empire upon the American colonies. Those many years ago our forefathers and foremothers gave birth to a land where religious and political freedoms were guaranteed and that all people had civil rights (although we are *still* working on getting these parts right some MANY years later).

The first two verses were written by American poet Lloyd Stone who wrote a number of books of poetry, two children’s books, and served as chapter president of the National Society of Arts and Letters. The final verse was written by Methodist theologian Georgia Harkness, who was one of the first women to hold a full professorship at a U.S. theological seminary--she taught at Garrett & Pacific School of Religion to name a few. Harkness was a leader in the ecumenical movement and was important in securing ordination for women in the Methodist Church. Most of her hymn writing was in the form of prayers and the final verse of “This is My Song” is a fine example of her work and her prayer for God’s peace to be known in “all earth’s kingdoms.”

Below is my own arrangement of “This is My Song,” which serves as a reminder of the love God has for all peoplenot just for this nation or another nation. On this July 4th, may we be mindful of all the people in this nation and other nations who are still striving for justice and for peace. “Si quieres paz, lucha por la justica” “If you want peace, work for justice.” –Pope John Paul II

“This is My Song” Lloyd Stone/Georgia Harkness, 1939 // UMHymnal #437, Finlandia, 1899 , J. Sibelius
This is my song, Oh God of all the nations,
A song of peace for lands afar and mine.
This is my home, the country where my heart is;
Here are my hopes, my dreams, my sacred shrine.
But other hearts in other lands are beating,
With hopes and dreams as true and high as mine.

My country’s skies are bluer than the ocean,
And sunlight beams on cloverleaf and pine.
But other lands have sunlight too and clover,
And skies are everywhere as blue as mine.
Oh hear my song, oh God of all the nations,
A song of peace for their land and for mine.

This is my prayer, O Lord of all earth’s kingdoms:
Thy kingdom come; on earth thy will be done.
Let Christ be lifted up till all shall serve him,
And hearts united learn to live as one.
O hear my prayer, thou God of all the nations;
Myself I give thee, let thy will be done.

the chord sheet of this arrangement: This Is My Song (Finlandia in C)
(fair use)

*resources used:
the Commentary on the United Methodist Hymnal by Carlton Young
The Hymns of the United Methodist Hymnal by Diana Sanchez
Wikipedia (mostly the sources in the footnotes!)

Wade In the Water (live)

A live recording of a bluesy version of this beautiful spiritual from this past Sunday.

A live recording of a bluesy version of this beautiful spiritual from this past Sunday (04.29) at The Gathering @5:50pm ( a new worship service at Glenn Memorial UMC where I’m helping to coordinate the music for the worship).

When I Survey the Wondrous Cross

This musical arrangement carries melodies which convey the solemn, yet hopeful words and tone of this hymn, which many consider to be Watts’ finest & most recognized hymn.

This is by far one of my favorite hymns for the season of Lent in the Christian tradition. The original hymn text was written by Isaac Watts (1674-1748)–one of the greatest hymn writers of the English language (more info here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isaac_Watts). The modern refrain in this version was co-written in the year 2000 by JD Walt (Theologian, musician, professor of worship at Asbury Seminary–link here) along with Chris Tomlin and Jesse Reeves (two rather popular christian musicians–link here). The refrain adds a humble call to action and submission to ‘come and die’ with Christ during this season of lenten preparation for Holy Week. There is also an amount of light shining ever so slightly with hints of the resurrection Christ and resurrection for us–the promise of Easter.

Although a variety of tunes can be used for this Long Meter tune (8.8.8.8–that’s 8 syllables in 4 lines), the original tune ‘Hamburg’ (#298 in the United Methodist Hymnal) is still my favorite. Hamburg tune was written by Lowell Mason a prolific hymn tune composer who is responsible for many advancements in music education (wikipedia info here). For me, this musical setting carries with it the more helpful melodies and notes which convey the solemn, yet hopeful words and tone of this hymn, which many consider to be Watts’ finest and most recognized hymn.

This is my own arrangement with the guitar tuned to DADGAG: a common Irish/Scottish/bluegrass tuning which allows for the playing of ‘melody’ while playing ‘rhythm.’

verse D Bm G D     D G A    D Bm G D    D G A D //  refrain  G  D/F# G  D/F# G  D/F# A  D