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Sunday, April 21, 2019


by Jill Crainshaw

The devastating fire at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris led to an immediate outpouring of donations and an ambitious pledge by the French president to rebuild within five years. But a continent away, the blaze also spurred more than $1.8 million in donations to rebuild three historically black churches burned in suspected hate crimes in Louisiana. The fires at the three churches in St. Landry Parish occurred over 10 days beginning at the end of March. Authorities said they were deliberately set and have arrested a suspect. As of Sunday, a GoFundMe campaignseeking donations for the churches had raised only about $50,000. By Thursday morning, donations had soared to more than $1.8 million. The money is to be distributed equally among the three churches, which were all a century old. —NBC News, April 18, 2019. Photo: St. Mary's Church in Louisiana was the first to burn. Natalie Obregon / NBC News file. [Editor's Note: The GoFundMe campaign is no longer accepting donations. It has raised more than $2 million, exceeding its goal.] 

a weary sister walks among the ruins
sweeping up cold ashes into a dustbin
for next year’s lenten initiation, she says as she
scoops priceless residue into her cupped hand
some of it slipping away through shaky fingers
settling again onto the charred ground
        “remember that you are dust
         and to dust you shall return”
the preacher said just 40 days ago while pressing
ashy imprints of mortality on eager foreheads
nobody even saw it coming then—
unholy tongues of fire stripping altars bare
out of sync with high holy ritual processions
where hopeful worshipers catch sparks
from an easter vigil flame and carry them
into silent sacred good friday sanctuaries
she puts a hand on her tired back and
when she lifts her face toward the pinking sky
a wayward bit of wind stirs the ashes in her hand
she lets them go
and even with all other words
smothered by smoke and tears
she tastes alleluia on her cracked lips

Jill Crainshaw is a professor at Wake Forest University School of Divinity in Winston-Salem, NC.