Tag: nicole morgan

Prayers4Peace: Grieving the Loss of a Prophetic Peace Activist

Grieving the Loss of a Prophetic Peace Activist – Dr. Ron Sider 
by Nicole Morgan, CMEP Executive Administrator

Dr. Ron Sider was a prophetic voice in the name of peacemaking and the founder of a CMEP board organization (Christians for Social Action). In addition, he served as an advisor and teacher to two CMEP staff members. He was the D.Min. Thesis Advisor to Executive Director, Rev. Dr. Mae Elise Cannon, and during the completion of my Master of Theological Studies, Dr. Sider was a Professor to myself (Nicole Morgan) – a former Sider Scholar and current CMEP Executive Administrator.

I learned of Ron Sider’s death as I was finishing up work last Friday afternoon and was hit by a wave of sadness. The world is more peaceful because Ron existed in it. The loss of his presence with us is a grief so many of us share.

Rev. Dr. Mae Elise Cannon remembers his influence, “It is hard to put to words the profound impact Ron Sider has had on my life both academically and spiritually. He and I would regularly discuss and often disagree about ideas like James Cone’s theology of the cross and whether or not pacifism was the only answer to living out the Gospel in a violent world. As my dissertation advisor, Ron advised me and heavily edited my thesis on ‘the spiritually transformative process of learning to love your enemy.’ His memory will live on in the ministry and efforts of myself and so many as we continue to work toward peace and advocate against injustice. Ron will be greatly missed!”

As a student at Palmer Theological Seminary of Eastern University a decade ago I studied the intersection of theology and Public Policy and took several of Dr. Sider’s courses. I served as a Sider Scholar with Evangelicals (now Christians) for Social Action/Sider Center on Public Policy.

When I began seminary, I was not familiar with Dr. Sider or his work (having grown up in a more conservative evangelical environment). The first time I met him I was immediately aware of his kindness and humbleness. He greeted me while I was on a tour of the seminary. He wore a simple suit jacket with elbow patches and carried a briefcase with worn corners. I researched him later and learned of his most famous work: the book Rich Christians in the Age of Hunger published decades earlier. It was easy to imagine that the man I had only briefly met at that time was still living the principles of those convictions.

Once I was a student of his and had the chance to interact with him, that first instinct proved true. He welcomed debate in the classroom, shared reasons we should be cautious of putting too much into the scholarship of any one theologian, and challenged us to dig deeper.

In the class on Just War and Pacifism I took with Dr. Sider, he talked to us about how non-violence has not been tried. Not really. Nations devote billions of dollars to war. There are military schools and a large number of the population are trained to enforce the violent and deadly methods of using war to settle disputes. But non-violent direct action does not have government-funded training centers at that scale. National budgets are not prioritized to really try non-violent direct activism. In 1984, Sider spoke to the Mennonite World Conference along this same idea, and eventually, the Christian Peacemakers Team formed. Still not to the scale of the resources the world gives to wage war, but once again Sider’s prophetic vision was part of what set in motion a call to live by what many consider “radical” principles of peace and faithfulness.

Today the [now] Community Peacemakers Teams work in several locations around the world, including Palestine, where they are working to build “partnerships to transform violence and oppression.” CMEP’s former board chair Nate Hosler and our Executive Director traveled in 2019 to Northern Iraq with Christian Peacemaker Teams and learned directly about their impact on the border communities in Iraqi Kurdistan.

While Sider’s work and leadership have had such an impact on broad Christian culture, I most remember him for the significant impact he had on me. Because of the context of my religious upbringing in which men were the ones to lead, Ron was one of the first people to affirm in me my right to study theology and Christian leadership. I don’t think he knew he did that or that it was a goal of his, but the simple fruit of his authentic faith that viewed women as equals spoke volumes to me. When Ron spoke of his beloved wife, Arbutus, he talked about her work and her passions and the hobbies they did together. I was so used to hearing wives praised first and most often for their beauty and domestic skills. The pride in his voice for who his wife was as an individual felt like freedom for me.

I am grateful to Dr. Sider for his prophetic voice to Christianity, and for his quiet humble witness that made such a difference to me and to the world.

God of peace:

we thank you for the lives of faithful Christians
who have dedicated their lives to the mission of seeing
your kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven.
We ask for your comfort for those who grieve.
Teach us to have the courage and patience
to live the radical truths of peace and holiness,
to invest our time and resources into feeding the hungry
and settling disputes without violence.

In the holy name of Jesus,

If you would like to share a memory of Dr. Ron Sider, please use the comment section to share your thoughts, comments, or prayers.

Any views or opinions contained herein are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP).

Lent 2022: 3rd Sunday of Lent

Good Light 
Nicole Morgan, Executive Administrator at CMEP

My mother has a collection of potted plants inside her home and a garden full of flowers designed to attract butterflies and bees to her yard. She always has an aloe plant on hand for scrapes or burns. I didn’t know you could buy aloe gel in a plastic container until I was in college. My father grew up on a farm and can coax food out of the ground or mix fertilizer into the red Georgia earth to balance out the nutrients needed for whatever they desire to grow.

Me? I can’t keep kitchen herbs alive and once killed an aloe plant (in less than a week) that my mom had propagated for me. Recently I sat a vase of flowers in front of the window in my office, delighting at how the light shone on the small vase of delicate pink roses and small yellow wildflowers that looked like little puffballs. The next day I sat down at my desk and noticed that while the wildflowers were still strong and tall, the pale pink roses looked positively roasted – their petals wilted and withered. The light was good, or at least bearable, for one flower and absolutely crushing for another.

I often first think of light as universally good. And that its goodness exists on a scale of “the more light, the better.” So often when I think of plants and growth I think of the light it needs, not the need to protect it from the light.

But seeds start in darkness and some blooms are delicate.

The Psalmist exclaims: “O God, you are my God, I seek you, my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.” (Psalm 63:1) A bright light is most likely to be detrimental to one who is already parched, in a dry land. The Psalmist continues: “My soul is satisfied . . when I think of you on my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night; for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I sing for joy.”  They have found comfort in darkness and shade. It is this cool and quiet place where they are able to find rest and express joy and satisfaction.

The harshness of all the injustices in the world seems ever more scorching and destructive: the pandemic still kills thousands a day, racial injustice is rampant, the economy seems designed to reward only a few and destitute others, wars begin and stretch on, people live without basic human rights, and our political advocacy on behalf of justice and human rights in the Middle East and elsewhere can so often seem like we are throwing drops of water at a plant that is wilting in this blistering heat.

I’m asking myself what it means to “meditate in the watches of the night” and to “rest in the shadow.” What does it mean for me as an individual human to acknowledge that at times I and my communities are more delicate blooms than hardy wildflowers and we can’t be in the harsh light forever without some respite? How do I resist the myth of a resilient people especially qualified to suffer and demand that we find a way to offer relief from the searing heat of injustice? What does it mean for all these hopeful seeds of justice we seek to plant? Where do I need to rest in darkness until there is good light and what does it look like to think about our work for justice and peace with a knowledge that darkness and soft warm light is part of the process? How do we shade those seeds and soft blooms of hope?

Each plant is different. Mature wildflowers and cacti exist. We are in different phases of growth. We are different seeds and blooms. The light that is oppressive or endurable is different for all of us and our work for justice.

Those are a lot of questions without any answers. But the questions keep me motivated in my work as they remind me of the possibility that darkness is good in the growing process. I was recently asked how we approach burn-out and despair in our work at Churches for Middle East Peace. My answer is that we celebrate small progress and we acknowledge that it won’t be bright and sunny and victorious looking often. This acknowledgment of small things is not a consolation prize. It is a vital way that plants grow and thrive. It is part of the process. We are planting seeds and they are resting in the cool darkness. They will find the light when it is a good light. 

I’m giving my office window and its bright, harsh light another chance. I bought an aloe growing kit and dutifully filled the bottom of the container with small stones, topped with wet soil, and finally carefully buried a few tiny seeds just under the surface. The kit calls for the whole thing to be covered in plastic and sat in a warm place for a couple of weeks until it starts germinating. I sent pictures of my set-up to my mother, asking her about what would be a good light for this plant. She advised me on moving the table back from the window a bit, closing the white curtains to diffuse the light, and paying attention to which hours of the day the curtains are open or closed. Even this desert-dwelling aloe plant can be sensitive to the bright light and harsh heat of the direct sun, she said. If I want this plant to root and sprout, to grow and flourish – I’m going to have to be mindful of a good light versus any light. The seeds are covered for now under the dark soil. I’m going to try my best to ration out the sun and the shadow and learn what amount of each will help this plant to thrive.

Creator God, We thank you for light and we thank you for shadow. We pray that we will find respite in shadows and darkness. That we will not yearn to be in a light that will ultimately whither the fruit of our work, but that we will know what light is good for the work you have created in and for us. 


J. Nicole Morgan is CMEP’s Executive Administrator. She endures the bright summer sun near her home in Atlanta, GA but much prefers the shade. Her writing has been published in Christianity Today, Religion News Service, The Christian Century, Sojourners, and others. She is the author of Fat and Faithful: Learning to Love Our Bodies, Our Neighbors, and Ourselves (Fortress Press). Nicole earned her Masters in Theological Studies from Palmer Seminary at Eastern University.