My guest for today’s podcast episode is Erin Hayes-Cook, a Presbyterian minister based in Rahway, New Jersey – a short commute away from New York City. I’ve known Erin for about two decades now – we were shocked to realize! – and I was interested to get back in touch to hear about some of her current work around building resilience in her congregation’s spiritual lives as well as the broader community during these wearying times. In this conversation, we explore marking time through rituals, creating space to meet with God, and poetry as a creative process in understanding who we are. Serendipitously, this podcast coincided perfectly with the launch of Erin’s new project River of Resilience, which offers practices in resilience for people of color traumatized by racism. Through this project, Erin seeks ways to offer healing for people whose bodies, minds and spirits have been affected not only by the pandemic but by the pervasive racism that has been all the more exposed in this past year.
In January of 2013 Rev. Hayes-Cook accepted the call to be the pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Rahway, NJ. Her subsequent ordination was on April 7, 2013 at Westminster Presbyterian Church. She has served First Rahway for 8 years as the first woman of color to pastor the community in its 275 year history. Gaining great joy in walking alongside the diverse community she serves through her local presbytery and synod.She looks forward to the the River of Resilience initiative to help offer healing practices in the face of racism. Rev. Hayes-Cook and her husband Lawrence welcomed their first child in June of 2019. She loves a good cup of coffee, writing, and working out with her Crossfit community.
Today’s guest is Pádraig Swan, trained in the Jesuit tradition and serving as the Director of Faith and Service Programmes at Belvedere College in Dublin, Ireland. Pádraig and I would usually get into interesting conversations about spirituality while our families are visiting each other – kids racing around the room or climbing on us while we talked, amid good food and cups of coffee and tea. Not only that, but when Pádraig brought a group to the Corrymeela residential center on their annual retreat, I had the privilege of leading them in a Taizé evening worship that was always a very special and memorable experience. In our conversation, Pádraig weaves together his background in Ignation spirituality, and in particularly the practice of the daily examen prayer, as well as his experience of living with the Taizé community in France, as we explore together how the Psalms help us to examine our spirits in the mess of our everyday life.
I’m grateful to the Taizé community for making available some of their beautiful recordings of Taizé chants, and also to Pádraig for his lovely singing at the end of the episode.
Pádraig Swan is originally from Carlow, but has lived and worked in Dublin for many years. He is married to Colleen, and they have two children, Saoirse (8), and Seán (4).Pádraig has a long relationship with matters of faith and how faith meets the reality of human life. His own faith is influenced by time spent at the Taizé community, Corrymeela, 3 years studying for the Roman Catholic priesthood, working in business for over 20 years, transitioning to young adult ministry, deepening encounters with Jesuit Spirituality, and now as Director of Faith and Service Programmes at Belvedere College SJ, a Jesuit Secondary School in Dublin. Padraig is a member of the Corrymeela Community and serves on the parish council of his local parish.
My guest today is Brian Hehn, the Director of The Center for Congregational Song with the Hymn Society in the United States and Canada. He is an accomplished song leader and musician, and has a huge heart for getting people to sing together. Here, he reflects on the power of singing to transform us into better people, and how not singing together through COVID has been difficult but may lead to some necessary shifts in our singing culture.
I thoroughly enjoyed reconnecting with Brian through recording this podcast episode. While I expected that his reflections on singing would be meaningful, I was struck by his insights into the silence that we find ourselves in right now. I hope and pray that his vision will come to pass – that when we can sing together again, our songs would reflect more clearly and fully God’s way of justice for this world.
Brian is an inspiring song-leader equally comfortable leading an acapella singing of “It Is Well” as he is drumming and dancing to “Sizohamba Naye.” Experienced using a variety of genres and instrumentations, he has lead worship for Baptists, Roman Catholics, United Methodists, Presbyterians, and many more across the U.S. and Canada. He received his Bachelor of Music Education from Wingate University, his Master of Sacred Music from Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University, and is certified in children’s church music (K-12) by Choristers Guild. He has articles published on sacred music and congregational song in multiple journals and co-authored two books under the title “All Hands In” published by Choristers Guild. While working for The Hymn Society as the Director of The Center for Congregational Song he also serves as adjunct professor of church music at Wingate University in Wingate, North Carolina. Brian lives in Baltimore, Maryland, with his wife, Eve, and son, Jakob.
The second podcast episode is ready to go! This week my guest is Sara Cook, a social worker who offers trainings in trauma resilience. She is such a wealth of knowledge and I’m so delighted that she agreed to talk with me on this podcast to share some of the practical skills she teaches in her trainings, and I found it fascinating to explore with her how we find resilience through spiritual resources like the Psalms. I’ve listened to this many times in getting it into podcast form, and I’m still learning new things from what she says every time! I hope you can take away some new skills for building resilience in your lives, or that it reminds you of things you already know, and that you also appreciate looking at the Psalms and our spiritual lives in a fresh way, as I did.
Sara Cook is a social worker and conflict response specialist who has extensive experience working with people affected by conflict in Northern Ireland and internationally. Her peace building work includes mediation, dialogue and storytelling encounters between conflict-affected populations, including victims and survivors of violence, security forces and paramilitaries. Much of her work addresses the psychosocial impact of conflict, including the impact of mediation and peace building work on practitioners. For 20 years, Sara has designed and implemented methodologies to address conflict-related impact and provides training and facilitation in mediation, dialogue, trauma intervention and resiliency. She has trained people from over 30 countries, including humanitarian aid workers supporting the resettlement of Syrian refugees in both Turkey and Lebanon. She is a UK representative to Women Mediators Across the Commonwealth and is a board member of Mediation Norther Ireland and the VSB Foundation.
My first podcast guest is the Rev. Dr. Amy Ruth Schacht – a Presbyterian Church USA minister who has served in Laurel, MD for the past 20 years. Amy has studied neuroscience and its connection to the life of faith. In this conversation, she discusses how the psalms have helped her – and her congregation – through difficult times, and how the psalms have helped her carve a new map toward her true home.