Email Facebook Twitter


What if you had to live with all the trash you ever created?

Most of the streets in Lusaka are paved. The main arteries of the capital are nicely paved with asphalt. The rocky, pot-holed, dirt roads in the compounds are paved with plastic bags.

This street in a compound in Lusaka is lined with trash. Plastic bags "pave" the dirt street.

This makes me begin to wonder: What if you had to live with all the trash you ever created? What if there was no garbage collection service to remove, hide away, bury all our waste? What if every water bottle, every Styrofoam take-a-way box, every milk jug, every cereal box we ever bought, we had to somehow dispose of in our own house or yard? How would your home look different? How would your buying choices change?

When I first think about this, images come to mind from Shel Silverstien’s classic children’s poem, “Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout Would Not Take the Garbage Out!” The poem describes a little girl who happily does her other chores, but hates taking out the garbage, so never does. And it piles up to the ceilings, then it “raised the roof, it broke the wall”… until finally the poem ends:

At last the garbage reached so high
That it finally touched the sky.
And all the neighbors moved away,
And none of her friends would come to play.
And finally Sarah Cynthia Stout said,
OK, I'll take the garbage out!"
But then, of course, it was too late. . .

The garbage reached across the state,
From New York to the Golden Gate.
And there, in the garbage she did hate,
Poor Sarah met an awful fate,

That I cannot now relate

Because the hour is much too late.
But children, remember Sarah Stout
And always take the garbage out!
--Shel Silverstein, 1974

What a disturbing image! Silverstein again succeeds in frightening adults and kids alike into doing their chores, with wry wit and crafty images of the everyday becoming the very monster that leads to our demise.

read the rest of Molly's post...

Posted May 19, 2011
Thoughts on the Ordination of Gays and Lesbians in the Presbyterian Church (USA)

DISCLAIMER: The opinions expressed in the following post are those of the author and not necessarily those of Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church or the Presbytery of New York City.

A majority of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s 173 presbyteries have ratified an amendment to the church’s constitution that removes a provision flatly prohibiting the ordination of sexually active unmarried Presbyterians as church officers....

The action replaces the current G-6.0106b in The Book of Order with new language. That provision, which was placed in the constitution following the 1996 Assembly, requires of church officers “fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman or chastity in singleness.”

As a result of the vote, ordaining bodies ― local church sessions for elders and deacons and presbyteries for ministers ― will have more flexibility in determining individual candidates’ fitness for ordained office in the denomination....

The new G-6.0106b states: “Standards for ordained service reflect the church’s desire to submit joyfully to the Lordship of Jesus Christ in all aspects of life. The governing body responsible for ordination and/or installation shall examine each candidate’s calling, gifts, preparation and suitability for the responsibilities of office. The examination shall include, but not be limited to, a determination of the candidate’s ability and commitment to fulfill all the requirements as expressed in the constitutional questions for ordination and installation. Governing bodies shall be guided by Scripture and the confessions in applying standards to individual candidates.”

-from the PC(USA) website
This decision is not sudden, and it’s not particularly unexpected. The notion that non-celibate gay and lesbian people should be eligible for ordained ministry has been steadily gaining ground in the Presbyterian Church (USA) for some time now; one pastor described it as more like tectonic plates slowly shifting than a sudden massive earthquake. Still, the official change will be difficult for many, and the fact that the denomination as a whole has given more explicit and official (rather than merely tacit) approval of LGBT people in ministry will no doubt cause many to wonder whether they can in good conscience stay in a church that has, as they see it, willfully contradicted in its policy the clear teachings of Holy Scripture.

For my progressive, secular-minded friends and family, it may be difficult to see why anyone would give more weight to the words of a collection of two- to five-millennium-old documents like the Bible than to the assumptions of modern, Western, “enlightened,” scientific culture. For them, it may be easier to write off people on the conservative side of this debate as unenlightened and self-deluded, having surrendered their wills and their minds to a pious fiction. But to my Christian sisters and brothers, who believe that human beings are not nearly as wise and benevolent as we often think we are, that we need guidance—especially in ethical matters—from the Author of life and Creator of humankind, and that such guidance can be found in that infamous collection of ancient documents known as the Bible, this issue is fraught with difficulties and dilemmas, and it requires careful thought and speech as well as disciplined respect for those on both sides of the debate.

Let me acknowledge from the outset that I am an outsider to the Presbyterian Church (USA), a member of a denomination (the United Church of Christ) which has a reputation for being notoriously liberal on social issues (though I myself no longer identify as a liberal Christian). My denomination has been ordaining gay and lesbian ministers of Word and Sacrament since the 1970s, and that fact has something to do with why I became a member. As a person with beloved gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender friends and family, this issue has always been extremely important to me, and I cannot pretend to be unbiased in my ethical assessment of it. But I also want to say that as the spouse of an ordained Presbyterian minister, I have come to see the Presbyterian Church (USA) as one of my communities of faith, and have grown to respect and love many Presbyterians (even “conservative” ones!) as members of my Christian family. What happens in and to the PC(USA) matters a great deal to me.

In a recent conversation with a more conservative Presbyterian brother about the changes afoot in the denomination, he expressed real uncertainty about how Presbyterians could remain united in the face of such major shifts, but also a desire that people of mature Christian faith on both sides of the issue could sit together and dialogue respectfully about their convictions vis-à-vis Christian sexuality. It is in that spirit (and to assist my own clarity of thought on the issue) that I put forward some suggestions for how to think about how followers of Jesus express their human sexuality.

Click to read Ryan's reflections...

Posted May 17, 2011
Easter Sunday Service at St. Michael's Anglican Church

We had an excellent Easter!  We spent the morning at St. Michael's Anglican Church in Kitwe, where we were treated to a beautiful and celebratory Resurrection Sunday service!  After church, we went to a potluck Easter gathering at the Smith abode, where we enjoyed an excellent meal, an Easter egg hunt for the kiddies, and even a session of Easter caroling around the piano!

Gathering around the table for our Easter dinner!

The children begin their Easter egg hunt.

Taliesin finds one up in a tree, while Anika and Dolove watch excitedly!

Anika and Dolove show off their Easter eggs

Julu and Brendan show off theirs

It's a race to the finish, as Julu and Brendan try to grab an egg up in the water tower!

Gathered around the Smith living room, chatting

Ryan, Taliesin, Tsunami, and Jason

Singing Easter carols

Julu, Kathleen and Jenny have fun playing with Kathleen's dollies

Posted April 28, 2011
Preaching Maundy Thursday & Good Friday
We were still in Lusaka, doing a TEEZ tutors training during Holy Week at UCZ St. Bartholomew Congregation. They had prayer services each evening. They asked me (Molly) to preach and serve communion on Maundy Thursday. The lights went out just before I was about to say the words of institution. It was very dramatic. Fortunately, I was at the point in the service where I have the rest memorized. Also, within 30 seconds, the room was full of pinpoints of light from everyone's cellphones. We served everyone (perhaps 600 people or more) by the light of candles and cellphones. Definitely a night to remember!

We had a very good Good Friday- Ryan was invited to preach that morning. We enjoyed the service, Ryan preached a great sermon, and then we said official farewells. They gave us several gifts-- money for fuel and water as we travel back. And they also gave me a necklace & bracelet and earrings! I've been getting lots of gifts like that lately--people like to dress me! in clothes and jewelry. I think Ryan is a little jealous. I asked if he wanted to get a necklace and earrings, he said, "no, but a chitenge shirt would be nice!" :) The church fed us again, lunch after the morning service, then we went to the Lusaka market where I bought Ry some chitenge material to have a shirt made for him. Then we rested the rest of the day, including going to the movies and a nice dinner with Rev. Banda. It was a really nice treat. Saturday we drove back to Kitwe (5+ hours drive, plus stops) just in time for Easter... (coming soon!)

UCZ St. Bartholomew in Lusaka

Ryan preaching at UCZ St. Bartholomew in Lusaka. Rev. Banda is translating.

The congregation listening to Ryan's Good Friday sermon.

Posted April 26, 2011
Palm Sunday

We began Holy Week in Lusaka. On Palm Sunday we joined hundreds of people from four downtown congregations in a huge processional from the Supreme Court lawn through the streets of Lusaka. The Anglican Cathedral of the Holy Cross, Catholic Cathedral of the Child Jesus, Trinity United Church of Zambia, and St. Ignatius Catholic Church began together with an ecumenical prayer service on the Courthouse steps. We read the story of Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem, choirs from each congregation sang, and then we followed the UCZ Boys Brigade brass band into the streets, waving huge palm branches and singing. 

Each congregation’s members peeled off from the group upon reaching their respective places of worship.We worshiped at the Anglican Cathedral, hearing the story of Christ’s passion and sharing communion. We were pleased to be found by Nancy Collins in the procession!She is the PC(USA) Regional Liaison for Southeastern Africa, and lives in Lusaka.We processed together and sat together for worship and then enjoyed a time of fellowship over lunch. (unfortunately we didn't get a picture with Nancy).

This woman has a tiny little palm for her baby too!

the Boys Brigade leads the procession with their brass band

hundreds of people process from the courthouse (left) out into the street)

Molly with a palm

inside the Anglican Cathedral of the Holy Cross

Ryan with a palm

Posted April 22, 2011
Molly & Ryan Dowell Baum

Author: Molly & Ryan Dowell Baum
Created: July 26, 2010

"We are the scatterlings of Africa/On a journey to the stars/Far below, we leave forever/Dreams of what we were ..." -Johnny Clegg

Where are we?
The Dowell Baum Team is at home in Kitwe.
© 2015