The Boston Declaration: More on Sackcloth and Ashes

This article is an important read for all of us. This is how clergy make the front page in intentional ways that demonstrate moral clarity, courage and theologically-informed leadership.

Today I am not rejoicing over Doug Jones’ narrow win in Alabama. I’m stunned and tired, sitting at my computer coughing through the end of a nasty cold, wearing leggings, a nightgown, a hoodie over the nightgown, and a big scarf. I’m resting my voice, my mind and my body.

Well, I’m trying to rest my mind. Hard to do these days, innit. Silences are being broken all over the place as victims of abusive, entitled men with filthy mouths, degraded minds and groping hands speak out and say, “ME TOO.”

More on that in a bit.

Roy Moore got too close, gang. And those of you in Alabama have a world of work to do with the white churchfolk you might be able to get through to. Take a gander at the numbers of white women who voted for Moore.

The Boston Declaration is a resource. It is full of talking points, good churchly admonition and exhortation and strong public witness. Let’s all use it. You can find it at the libraries in Boston.

And now, since image is what we do here at BTFM, let’s take a look at the use of sackcloth and ashes that went along with the article. As always, click to enlarge:


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I find this image to be quite effective. Here’s why:

It’s POSED WELL. Almost everyone is holding the same intensity, the same attitude, and communicating the same non-verbal message. These people are unified. You can tell. We call ourselves The Body of Christ, and in this image, you can see the body as a body despite incarnational differences.

The setting, Old South Church in Boston, is beautiful, traditional, formal, and ornately austere (if that isn’t too much of an oxymoron). It has a bold design element in the architecture but the palette is neutral, muted, perfect for the message. Wood also has a warmth that stone or metal can never convey.

For a fun experiment, imagine this same photo with a vareity of different backgrounds — for instance, in a public space with curious onlookers be-bopping by. It wouldn’t have the same impact.

The attire worn by the participants is almost entirely non-distracting from the sackcloth and ashes, which are draped and applied uniformly across bodies and faces. Again, this was a group statement and a collective witness. I would have done some tweaking of a few outfits and nametags that pull focus, and I’m sorry that one woman on the far left was caught looking at her phone instead of at the camera but the photographer did a very fine job. It’s very hard to get a group that large to “say cheese” at the same time.

This was well-planned, well-coordinated and well-executed artistically, aesthetically and politically. It has ancient resonances and contemporary impact.

What do you think? And what do you think of the Boston Declaration? Are you using it in preaching, teaching, and justice work? How so?

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