The Ministry Lab’s Director, Rev. Emily Meyer, made up this Great Idea after being “introduced” to Amanda Gorman in Rev. Elsa Cook’s Pandemic Prayer for Epiphany 3 post on Jan. 19 – only to be bowled over by her at the Inauguration, the next day!
Amanda Gorman “stole the show” at Joe Biden’s Presidential Inauguration with her powerful poem and presence. Ms. Gorman, the first-ever National Youth Poet Laureate, is a 22-year-old Harvard graduate who was asked in mid-December to speak as the youngest poet ever at a presidential inauguration. On January 20, the nation was riveted by her poem, The Hill We Climb.
Franciscan Father Richard Rohr refers to Amanda Gorman as a modern day prophetic poet. His meditation and her poem create a first, wonderful Bible study for youth through adults, exploring the connection between prophetic vision, poetic voice, and community transformation.
A second Bible-based study could be based more on Gorman’s inspirational personhood: her story and presence are compelling.
You might introduce her through her bio, this LA Times article, and/or her November, 2018 TED-Ed talk, Using Your Voice Is a Political Choice. Discuss her mantra, her themes of wondering on whose shoulders we stand, and her commitment to heritage and history as teachers. Let participants explore these questions amongst themselves, exploring your congregation’s and/or familial heritages and histories.
Ground the conversation in biblical texts of identity and call, such as: Ps. 139:14; Is. 43:1; the baptismal promises of Matt. 17:5, Mark 1:11, and Luke 3:22; or 1 Tim. 4:12; if such grounding is helpful.
Read through her Inaugural Poem, The Hill We Climb – consider political, literary, and contextual references; see if participants can find them for themselves (and/or reference Rohr’s commentary, above)!
Learn about her process through her interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper (who confesses that he is “transfixed”). As participants learn about some of the barriers and challenges Ms. Gorman faced, and her goals and aspirations, invite them to create their own list of dreams and obstacles. As Gorman shares the tools and therapies she discovered and developed, invite participants to again, imagine what tools or healing they may need to employ to discover or uncover their full potential.
Let the inspiration of her poetry be an invitation to creation. For those gifted with language, invite them to create their own poetry, prose, or song lyrics; with performance, a dance or drama; with art or craft, a visual piece. Consider the power of claiming and sharing your voice (something Ms. Gorman speaks about in both videos).
How can your young artists/leaders “free”, “see” and “be the light”? How might your congregation help them develop the courage this takes? See Isaiah 49:1-11 or Matthew 5:14-16 (NRSV): how can we be safe places in which we help one another find our own God-given light and the courage to let it shine?
Consider what your young people need, want to, or can say and where their expression might have the greatest impact. Share their works of art regularly in worship, forums, around the community, or online – whatever context is best suited to their medium and message.