by Will O’Brien and Len Lear
Dee Dee Risher, a Germantown resident for 29 years and a writer and editor for the award-winning Christian social justice magazine, The Other Side, for two of its four decades, will read from her new book, “The Soul-Making Room,” on Thursday, Aug. 25, 7 p.m., at Big Blue Marble Bookstore, 551 Carpenter Lane in West Mt. Airy.
Risher, a longtime member of Weavers Way, also helped to start Vine and Fig Tree, a faith-based, intentional cooperative housing community. She helped organize the neighborhood watch, coordinates a community garden, grows organic vegetables for the local food pantry and advocates for local schools. She currently attends Germantown Mennonite Church and Cookman Beloved Community Church in North Philadelphia.
“The Soul-Making Room” is about how we create a culture of radical hospitality and how we can confront inevitable losses and grief as we work to transform our world. In the book Risher addresses love, race, money, parenting, class, environmental crisis and spiritual wandering. The title of the book comes from the story of the prophet Elisha and the woman who built him a holy room. Risher explores how we create a space for spiritual growth, how we keep working toward justice and live truthfully.
“If we cannot deal with failure,” she says, “if we do not know how to put our deepest losses in our holy room, and if we do not know who our people are, we can never fully join the joy and power of God’s story.”
While Risher is deeply rooted in the Christian tradition, she has written a book intended to help everyone who is seeking spiritual sustenance within any faith or philosophical tradition. One noted scholar and activist, Bell Hooks, wrote about the book: “Few books on spiritual issues cover as much ground and offer the brilliant insights that are essential for the strengthening of our faith . . . Risher offers us radically new ways to think about justice, about what it means to love, about making a life centered on service.”
Risher, whose work has been featured in many publications including The Utne Reader, Sojourners, Grid and Huffington Post, grew up in South Carolina living with black families, worked in China and a poor neighborhood in Washington, D.C. She chose to live and raise her family in a low-income, predominantly African-American neighborhood in Philadelphia.
“Over decades,” Risher explained recently, “my journey has had me living in spaces I would not have imagined — urban, low-income neighborhoods; other countries; very low-paying jobs; spaces that were not primarily white; faith experiences with believers from all over the map. My ongoing struggle has been this: how to find a ‘room of one’s own,’ as Virginia Woolf so wonderfully named it.
“I believe that room needs to hold both solitude and struggle. It needs to hold the agony and the incredible beauty in this world, and it needs to hold my most honest struggles with God. When I stumbled onto John Keats’s description of life as this ‘vale of soul-making,’ I resonated.
“Every human being goes through graceful and also wrenching experiences. I have been struck by how little our spiritual traditions actually try to prepare us for these difficulties. I believe there is some heartbreakingly beautiful fruit we are to shape from those. This becomes our own unique, authentic gift to the world.”
— To be continued
For more information on the book, visit www.soulmakingroom.com. Big Blue Marble Bookstore can be reached at 215-844-1870.