Maya Angelou, April 4, 1928 – May 28, 2014, on Mount Zion finishing the Journey

maya angelou on journeyThe world woke up this morning to the news that one of our modern poets, storytellers and activists Maya Angelou passed away. The New York Times confirming reports from her longtime literary agent, Helen Brann. A few days prior she was reported to be in ill health, unable to receive the Major League Baseball Beacon Awards luncheon where she was to be honored.

Maya Angelou spent time at Glide Memorial United Methodist Church in San Francisco. When she was in her home home state of North Carolina she attended a Baptist Church. In an interview with the Los Angeles Times in 1992 Angelou speaks to her faith and finding Glide Memorial United Methodist Church

How did you first learn about Glide Memorial Church?

I can’t even remember. But I have been a member of Glide for 20 odd years. When I am on the coast it is my church. It is a Methodist church. And I belong here (in North Carolina) to a Baptist Church. I simply refuse to be controlled (to one religion).

Do you find that faith is playing a more important part in people’s lives these days?

I think that, strangely enough, faith is more elusive today and more needed today because our lives are in an extreme conflict. I think that Bob Dylan was absolutely right. Years ago he wrote a song called, “You Got to Serve Somebody,” and I think that more and more people are beginning to think that “I better put my money down on something; I better put my faith down and my belief down on something.”

Is that why Glide attracts such a diverse congregation?

(It attracts) elected officials, lawyers, judges, criminals, housewives and house-husbands and many elements of the underworld. Everybody feels it is their church and that is what Cecil wanted to make known, that the church is really home, the church is God’s home. There is no place greater than the home of God, except in our individual selves, than the places where women and men set aside to go and worship, to just come together, and praise of the spirit of God.

Have you always had strong religious beliefs?

Yes. I have always tried to find myself a church. I have studied everything. I spent some time with Zen Buddhism and Judaism and I spent some time with Islam. I am a religious person. It is my spirit, but I found that I really want to be a Christian. That is what my spirit seems to be built on.

I just know that I find the teachings of Christ so accessible. I really believe that Christ made a sacrifice and for those reasons I want to be a Christian. But what kind, I don’t know. I don’t know what time of day I am at.

In December of 2013, Dr. Maya Angelou recorded this message as part of a celebration that Glide Memorial was having for Pastor Emeritus Cecil Williams & Janice Mirikitani. In this video she speaks to her faith and the faith experience through Glide Memorial United Methodist Church and Pastor Williams and Janice Mirikitani’s influence. She closes with singing “I wouldn’t take nothing for my journey now, Mount Zion”.

Dr. Maya Angelou Honoring Cecil Wiliams + Janice Mirikitani: CELEBRATE50 GLIDE Annual Holiday Festival from GLIDE on Vimeo.


When Great Trees Fall

When great trees fall,
rocks on distant hills shudder,
lions hunker down
in tall grasses,
and even elephants
lumber after safety.

When great trees fall
in forests,
small things recoil into silence,
their senses
eroded beyond fear.

When great souls die,
the air around us becomes
light, rare, sterile.
We breathe, briefly.
Our eyes, briefly,
see with
a hurtful clarity.
Our memory, suddenly sharpened,
gnaws on kind words
promised walks
never taken.

Great souls die and
our reality, bound to
them, takes leave of us.
Our souls,
dependent upon their
now shrink, wizened.
Our minds, formed
and informed by their
fall away.
We are not so much maddened
as reduced to the unutterable ignorance
of dark, cold

And when great souls die,
after a period peace blooms,
slowly and always
irregularly. Spaces fill
with a kind of
soothing electric vibration.
Our senses, restored, never
to be the same, whisper to us.
They existed. They existed.
We can be. Be and be
better. For they existed.”

― Maya Angelou

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The United Methodist Reporter wants to encourage lively conversation about The United Methodist Church and our articles in the belief that Christian conversation (what Wesley would call conferencing) is a means of grace. While we support passionate debate, we cannot allow language that demeans or demonizes others, and we reserve the right to delete any comment we believe to be harmful or inappropriate. We encourage all to remember that we are all broken and in need of Christ's grace, and that we all see through the glass darkly until that time we when reach full perfection in love. May your speech here be tempered with love, and reflection of the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. After all, "There is no law against things like this." (Galatians 5:22-23)
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Gil Caldwell

Thank you for your tribute to Maya Angelou. I have not forgotten the poetry she shard at the Million Man March, October 16, 1995 The night has been long, The wounds have been deep, The pit has been dark, The walls have been steep I was at the Million Man March with men from St. Marks United Methodist Church in Harlem and the Harlem community. Maya Angelou was so deeply rooted in her understandings of God-given human inclusivity that she could be “at home” at Glide, at the Million Man March and other places where many persons dared not be.… Read more »

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