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AbbeyChurch hosts this discussion series on Wednesdays (to Nov. 30) to allow you to sink into This Here Flesh: Spirituality, Liberation and the Stories That Make Us by Cole Arthur Riley. 

The title is a nod to the character Baby Suggs, in Toni Morrison’s epic novel, Beloved.   Suggs, the matriarch, gathers an enslaved, freedom-seeking family as they dwell in a ghost-haunted home. She leads them in a set of embodied actions – icluding dancing, crying, and laughter – and then delivers to them a sermon of sorts.   Bailey quotes from her words, “In this here place, we flesh; flesh that weeps, laughs; flesh that dances on bare feet in grass. Love it. Love it hard” (4).

These words are central to Riley's project - which is part memoir, part contemplative meditation, and part storytelling. Riley attends to a spirituality that is both embodied and contemplative, a spirituality rooted in the past of her ancestors and rooted in a present and future liberation.

She explores some of the most urgent questions of life and faith:

  • How can spirituality not silence the body, but instead allow it to come alive?
  • How do we honour, lament, and heal from the stories we inherit?
  • How can we find peace in a world overtaken with dislocation, noise, and unrest?

In this indelible work of contemplative storytelling, Arthur Riley invites us to descend into our own stories, examine our capacity to rest, wonder, joy, rage, and repair, and find that our humanity is not an enemy to faith but evidence of it.