MARY LEE TALBOT – STAFF WRITER
“I want to take time today to lift up my grandparents,” said the Rt. Rev. Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows, “especially my paternal grandmother, Annie Lee Moore Baskerville, and my maternal grandmother, Mary Weaver.”
Baskerville-Burrows preached at the 9 a.m. morning worship service Friday in the Amphitheater. Her sermon title was “The Promise of Rest.” The Scripture was Mark 2:23-28.
Annie Lee Moore Baskerville worked in house cleaning at Kings County Hospital in Brooklyn.
“She would pace the floors and wore clogs before anyone else did. She kept those buildings gleaming from top to bottom,” Baskerville-Burrows said. “She was loved and feared and was not one to suffer fools. She cursed like a sailor and was not someone to mess with. When she came to Brooklyn from the South, she married Harry Baskerville, a Shinnecock Indian.”
Her grandmother had a soft spot for her grandchildren and would lavish them with praise and help them in any way she could.
Baskerville-Burrows’ maternal grandmother, Mary Weaver, grew up in Asheville and Black Mountain, North Carolina. She worked as a domestic at the Biltmore Estate and met her husband, Joe, a cook, there. They moved to Staten Island.
“She always showed up at any apartment I had rented with her bucket and cleaning supplies,” Baskerville-Burrows said, “because the apartments were never clean her way.”
When Baskerville-Burrows was in college and feeling stressed, both her grandmothers would tell her to take a walk or go for a run.
“They would say, ‘You are in that beautiful place, go for a run,’ ” Baskerville-Burrows said. “They would tell me to do the self care that they never allowed themselves. Both of them faced far more stress than I did.”
She continued, “They would say, ‘See, Jesus knows what to do, but Black women have to do what they got to do; rest and renewal is for others. I might be in a position to rest and today women of color are claiming their right to rest. Simone Biles and Naomi Osaka said it was OK to lay down work, to take care of themselves and rest.”
Baskerville-Burrows asked the congregation why rest was a privilege.
“Jesus thinks differently,” she said. “He broke the observance of the Sabbath early in Mark’s gospel. I am a Hoosier by choice, and I think it is hilarious that this story takes place in a corn field.”
Jesus was always trying to get away from the crowd. He seldom got a break to lay down his head and rest.
While Jesus appreciated the Sabbath rules, “he used the good sense that God gave him,” Baskerville-Burrows said. “It was a no-brainer to break the Sabbath rules when they were walking through a cornfield and were hungry. The Sabbath is made for man — not man for the Sabbath.”
This was not bad planning on Jesus’ part — or even just the Lord using common sense.
“This is about agency and authority,” Baskerville-Burrows said to the congregation. “Those of us here are well aware of the privilege of rest. The Sabbath is necessary for the renewal of creation. As presiding Bishop Michael Curry said, ‘To have a loving, living relationship with God.’ ”
Not everyone gets a say on when, where and how to rest. This was true in Jesus’ time and it is still true today.
“Think of the ‘essential workers’ during the pandemic,” Baskerville-Burrows said. “I use air quotes around ‘essential workers’ because despite the promise of liberation and rest for all of God’s people, during the pandemic they have been pressured not to rest.”
Good news has to be good news for all. If it is good news for the poor, if they have the liberation to rest when they want, then it is good news. The Nap Ministry was founded in 2016 by Trisha Hersey, “The Nap Bishop,” in the belief that everyone deserves a break from burnout culture.
“ ‘How will you be useless to capitalism today?’ is one of Hersey’s questions. She urges people to push back at a system that views you as a machine,” Baskerville-Burrows said.
Nicole Arthur Riley, content, communications and spiritual formation manager for Chesterton House at Cornell University, has said that the God who rests tells us not to apologize for our own healing, but instead to pause and rest our bodies and heal the world.
“The poor and vulnerable cannot be sacrificed on the altar of survival and opportunity,” Baskerville-Burrows said. “Those of us at Chautauqua can rejoice in the gift of the Sabbath. Whatever we return to, we need to use our rest and restoration — not just for ourselves, but for those who won’t rest or can’t rest.”
She continued, “May we who have the blessing of renewal have the agency to claim the Sabbath made for them on the terms God has given: Holy rest from the grind for all, every single, last one. Let us use our rest and renewal so all are liberated, all God’s saints.”
The Rev. Natalie Hanson presided. Bill Bates, long time Chautauquan and baseball umpire, read the Scripture. The congregation sang “Happy Birthday” to Joshua Stafford, the Jared Jacobsen Chair for the Organist and director of sacred music. For the prelude, he performed an improvisation. Members of the Motet Choir sang “Rest Thou With Me, music by Rob Roy Peery, words from an old Gaelic prayer. For the postlude, Stafford concluded the week of services with “Toccata,” from Organ Symphony No. 5, by Charles-Marie Widor. The J. Everett Hall Memorial Chaplaincy and the Harold F. Reed Sr. Chaplaincy provided support for this week’s services and chaplain.