Contemplating Now
CONTEMPLATING NOW is a podcast exploring the Intersection of Contemplation and Social Justice with host Cassidy Hall. This podcast explores contemplative spirituality's direct relationship with issues of social justice through interviews with scholars, mystics, and activists.
Sacred Attention: A Conversation with Cole Arthur Riley
April 21, 2022 • 39 MIN
In this episode with the founder of Black Liturgies, Cole Arthur Riley, we discuss the power of sacred attention, the importance of resting in the stories, and what it means to let the true self live in expanse. She defines contemplation as “a certain commitment to paying attention,” and mysticism as “a fidelity to magic,” and shares more about her contemplative writing process for her newly released book, This Here Flesh.
The Unnamed Mystics: A conversation with Dr. Kimberly D. Russaw
March 15, 2022 • 32 MIN
In this episode, Cassidy interviews her former professor of Hebrew Bible and African American Biblical Hermeneutics and Womanist Biblical Interpretation, Dr. Kimberly D. Russaw, who is now professor of Hebrew Bible at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. In this episode they discuss contemplation and mysticism in the Hebrew Bible, the ways in which contemplation can clear us, and new ways to think about mysticism and contemplation: “One way to think about it is a person is in the subject position when it comes to contemplation but in the object position when it comes to mysticism.” Dr. Russaw talks about her work as a Womanist scholar, expressing how part of her work as a professor and scholar is to “engage others in life we may have read over, may have missed or misread all along.” As Dr. Russaw mentioned in her essay “Wisdom in the Garden,”: "Womanist ways of reading the biblical text are subversive in that, by and large, they disrupt tightly held images of God and God's relationship to humanity.”
The Sacred Black Feminine: A Conversation with Dr. Christena Cleveland
February 16, 2022 • 39 MIN
Christena Cleveland, Ph.D. is a social psychologist, public theologian, author, and activist. She is the founder and director of the Center for Justice + Renewal as well as its sister organization, Sacred Folk, which creates resources to stimulate people’s spiritual imaginations and support their journeys toward liberation. An award-winning researcher and former professor at Duke University’s Divinity School, Christena lives in Boston, Massachusetts. Her newly released book, "God is a Black Woman," weaves personal pilgrimage and societal reckoning to dismantle the cultural “whitemalegod” and uncover the sacred black feminine—and ultimately hope, healing, and liberation.
Opening Unto Mystery: A Conversation with Dr. Elyse Ambrose
January 18, 2022 • 36 MIN
Elyse Ambrose, Ph.D. (they/them) is a blackqueer ethicist, creative, and educator, whose research, art and community praxis lie at the intersections of race, sexuality, gender, and spirituality. Ambrose’s forthcoming book, A Living Archive: Embodying a Black Queer Ethics (T&T Clark, Enquiries in Embodiment, Sexuality, and Social Ethics series) centers blackqueerness in constructing communal-based sexual ethics.  Ambrose currently serves as Visiting Assistant Professor of Ethical Leadership and Society at Meadville Lombard Theological School as a Louisville Institute Postdoctoral Fellow.  You can find out more about them at
The Fierce Call of Love: A Conversation with Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis
December 7, 2021 • 34 MIN
The Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis—Author, Activist, and Public Theologian—is the first female and first Black Senior Minister to serve in the progressive Collegiate Church, which dates to 1628. A graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary, Dr. Lewis and her activism work have been featured by the TODAY Show, MSNBC, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post, among many others. In this conversation, Cassidy and Dr. Lewis talk about the role of contemplation in everyday life, the ways mysticism shows up in unexpected places, and the power of story.
Breaking Barriers: A Conversation with Davelyn Hill
October 6, 2021 • 27 MIN
In this episode, poet activist Davelyn Hill and I talk about the ways in which mysticism is intertwined with community and communal care, "I don't think I can say that I am a mystic without being connected to community." She also talked about contemplation's connectivity to mysticism and the ways in which “each person gives us another picture of who God is," therefore “when I devalue you I lose myself." She also reads two wonderful poems in this episode, one about a tree outside her window she lovingly named "Deloris." Davelyn Hill is the Executive Director for Speaking Down Barriers. SDB is an organization whose mission is Equity for all. SDB seeks to build community across all that seeks to divide us by ending oppression and valuing everyone. She has a Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy from Converse College. Davelyn is working on a Masters in Creative Writing with an emphasis in poetry. Alongside providing counseling services, she has led support groups, presented research, and conducted university presentations around racial trauma and oppression. She enjoys facilitating groups and retreats around grief and wholeness. Davelyn Hill, also known as Davelyn Athena is an author, poet, and intuitive painter. Davelyn’s poem “Deloris” was published by the Plant and Poetry journal. Her poem “Questions” was been featured online through Spark and Echo.
Breathing Mysticism: A Conversation with Dr. Angela N. Parker
September 15, 2021 • 40 MIN
In this interview with Dr. Angela N. Parker, we discuss contemplation, mysticism and the movement of collective breath. On the topic of mysticism she said, “I think that’s what mysticism is for me: how do I replenish myself so that I can do what god has called me to do?” In this conversation she also explores the ways in which collective breath can allow us to move together in various forms of protest and collective care, “when I read Jesus in the biblical text I see Jesus gathering groups of people to actually walk against a Roman imperialistic supremacist system." Dr. Angela N. Parker a Biblical scholar currently teaching at McAfee School of Theology. In her research, Dr. Parker merges Womanist thought and postcolonial theory while reading biblical texts. Dr. Parker’s books include If God Still Breathes, Why Can’t I: Black Lives Matter and Biblical Authority. In this book, Dr. Parker draws from her experience as a Womanist New Testament scholar in order deconstruct one of White Christianity’s most pernicious lies: the conflation of biblical authority with the doctrines of inerrancy and infallibility. In her second book entitled Bodies, Violence, & Emotions: A Womanist Study of the Gospel of Mark, Dr. Parker thinks through the issue of imperial violence and its effects on the bodies of Jesus, John the Baptizer, and the woman suffering in a flow of blood in Mark 5. This study allows Dr. Parker to engage real lived experiences of violence and emotions in contemporary society. “Allow what you’re fighting for to shine through… Find what you can do and work with that hurt… We are all too valuable to burn out.”
The Privilege of Contemplation: A Conversation with Dr. Anthea Butler
August 23, 2021 • 29 MIN
Dr. Anthea Butler is Chair of the Department of Religious Studies and Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. Her latest book is White Evangelical Racism: The Politics of Morality in America. Her other books include Women in the Church of God in Christ: Making A Sanctified World. She is also a contributor to the forthcoming book, A New Origin story, The 1619 project out November 2021. In this episode Dr. Butler talks about the ways in which contemplation can often insinuate privilege, saying “even to say the word ‘contemplative’ at this moment is a word that says ‘privilege’… It means that you have time and most people don’t have time.” And reminds us of the everyday ways in which both contemplation and activism can be yielded to: “We tend to think about contemplation or activism on a big scale, I think we have to think about them as the everyday quotidian things that we do that can engender hope.”
Mysticism in the Streets: A Conversation with Dr. Leah Gunning Francis
June 2, 2021 • 44 MIN
Dr. Leah Gunning Francis is the Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the Faculty at Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis, Indiana. During the Ferguson uprising in 2014 after the murder of Mike Brown, Dr. Gunning Francis was serving as the Associate Dean for Contextual Education and Assistant Professor of Christian Education at Eden Theological Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri. As a result, Dr. Gunning Francis wrote the book Ferguson and Faith: Sparking Leadership and Awakening Community. In the book, She interviewed more than two dozen clergy and young activists who were actively involved in the movement for racial justice in Ferguson and beyond. Her forthcoming book is titled Faith After Ferguson: Resilient leadership in pursuit of racial justice — and is due out later this year with Chalice press.
Fresh Courage: A Conversation with Dr. Lerita Coleman Brown
May 19, 2021 • 36 MIN
Dr. Lerita Coleman Brown is Distinguished Professor Emerita of Psychology at Agnes Scott College, Decatur, GA. She studied psychology as an undergraduate at the University of California, Santa Cruz and received her Ph.D. in social psychology from Harvard University. In 2008 she completed the Spiritual Guidance Program at the Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation. She is a Howard Thurman Devotee and serves as a spiritual companion/director, writer, retreat leader, and speaker. Her first full length book, When the Heart Speaks, Listen—Discovering Inner Wisdom was released in January, 2019, which tells the story of her heart transplant and the dialogue within. In this episode she talks about our need of being more expansive with definitions and says “mysticism is just one of those kinds of things that happens... I hope that we will abandon this idea that mysticism only happens to special people."
Heart Work: A Conversation with Bishop Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows
May 5, 2021 • 35 MIN
In this conversation, Bishop Jennifer and I discuss contemplation, mysticism, and activism. We discuss the need to intellectualize less and remember that the work of social injustice is also heart work, and work that requires us to, “Feel the feelings and let’s get to work to make the world better.”
Embodied and Boundless: A Conversation with Zenju Earthlyn Manuel
April 21, 2021 • 38 MIN
Sensei Zenju Earthlyn Manuel is an ordained Zen priest and the dharma heir of Buddha in the Suzuki Roshi lineage through the San Francisco Zen Center (SFZC). She is the author of several books including The Deepest Peace: Contemplations from a Season of Stillness, Sanctuary: A Meditation on Home, Homelessness, and Belonging, The Way of Tenderness: Awakening through Race, Sexuality, and Gender, and Be Love: An Exploration of Our Deepest Desire.
Becoming A Truth-Teller: A Conversation with Sophfronia Scott
April 7, 2021 • 37 MIN
In this episode, author Sophfronia Scott and I discuss the power of truth-telling, encounters with mysticism, and the ways in which contemplation can lead to mystical encounter. Of mysticism she says, “There is something all around us that sustains us and the mystical is when we can reach for that and to know that there is something beyond the veil.” CW: This episode contains discussion of police violence.
Patient Endurance: A Conversation with Sister Barbara Jean LaRochester
March 24, 2021 • 25 MIN
Sister Barbara Jean LaRochester is an 88 year old Carmelite nun in Baltimore, where she's been a sister since 1972. Prior to her arrival she spent 17 years in Philadelphia as an active nun in a Catholic hospital, and teaching on the weekends. According to the NY times, 
“As a board member of the National Black Sisters Conference in 1968, she was active in the civil rights movement during the height of the race riots…. “ She’s been a spiritual director since 1982. In a Washington Post article, Sister Barbara is quoted as saying, "There comes a point when you have to get off the merry-go-round. I could only do so much with my two hands. Through prayer, I feel I can touch the world." In this interview we discuss mysticism's role in activism, Black Lives Matter, the insurrection of January 6th, and more. Sister Barbara defines a mystic as “someone that observes mysteries or experiences but their intuition is held by God. And so they’re able to understand beyond the human understanding, beyond it."
We Are Interconnected: A Conversation with Rev. Dr. Pamela Lightsey
March 10, 2021 • 17 MIN
In her book "Our Lives Matter: A Womanist Queer Theology," Rev. Dr. Pamela Lightsey writes, “Black spirituality is deeper than-and can also be absent from-any relationship with the Church universal. Black spirituality, especially Black women’s spirituality, is connected to our very being.” In this episode we talk about contemplation's role in activism and scholarship by discussing Rev. Dr. Lightsey's time in Ferguson 2014 and beyond.
Everybody Can Be A Mystic: A Conversation with Therese Taylor-Stinson
February 23, 2021 • 43 MIN
In her book exploring stories of contemplation and justice, Therese writes, “So that contemplation can be whole, it must consist of both inward solitude and reflection, and an outward response to the situations in which we find ourselves present and awake.” In this episode, Therese Taylor-Stinson discusses the importance of action being tethered to contemplation, the idea that we all are capable of being mystics, and her upcoming work and projects reflecting both.