A book by REV. DR. PAUL SMITH
This is Dr Smith’s personal account, taken directly from his journals, of his experiences in helping others face death. It is told through six powerful stories. Each tells of a unique journey of an individual, and his or her family and friends, and is full of the wisdom of life. The prayers, poems, letters, and deep reflections on the power of being present that Dr. Smith offers will be an inspiration and source of strength to all readers, whether facing their own death, or the death of a loved one.
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Building Beloved Communities: The Life and Work of Rev. Dr. Paul Smith
A biography by Hildi Hendrickson, Ph.D.
This is the life story of an extraordinary pastor, preacher, mediator, family man and fighter for truth and justice. Born in 1935, Paul Smith quickly developed a rare and powerful ability to connect with and inspire people from all walks of life. Under the tutelage of his maternal grandmother in South Bend, Indiana, he learned the art of listening deeply and extending compassion without prejudice. Propelled by his family into college in Alabama in 1953, he joined the civil rights movement in the company of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and a man who became his lifelong friend, statesman Andrew Young. Fresh out of Hartford Seminary in 1960, Rev. Smith began his professional career building bridges across differences in language, denomination, class, gender, race, and ethnicity. In four cities over 60+ years, he has transcended social divisions to create embracing, intercultural spiritual communities. Long after his retirement in 2006, Rev. Smith continues to teach, inspire, mentor and counsel ordinary folks as well as some of the country’s most respected and powerful people.
Researched and written by an anthropologist who has known and worked with him for many years, this biography traces Smith’s lineage from the Civil War period in Kentucky to the present day. It contains his stories of encountering raw bigotry in the deep South, breaking down religious barriers, collaborating across race lines, working for urban renewal, mentoring students, upending racism and marching for social justice. The book is based upon interviews, participant-observation, and historical research. It draws extensively from personal journals Smith has written since the late 1950s. Together, these rich source materials light up the interior world of this fully human, yet highly spiritual man.
This story offers hope for surviving these bitter and polarized times. Rev. Smith’s experience, words and example will affirm and inspire even those who will never meet him. He has learned to confront and subdue the fear, anger and bigotry that threaten to dominate American public life. He can teach us to do the contemplative work necessary to weather corrosive political storms and safeguard our core values. The fabric of our culture will be stronger if we learn from and celebrate his methods and his ideals. In this fresh yet deeply American story, humor conquers ego, compassion dissolves hatred, and emotional honesty defeats fear. Reading this narrative will restore one’s faith humanity and in goodness as an active force in a fractious world.