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Seth David Clark tells the powerful story of how the Border Church, founded and pastored by John Fanestil, worships on the San Diego–Tijuana border without a building. Every Sunday afternoon the author, who serves as the U.S.-side pastoral coordinator of the church, gathers with people of good will from both sides of the border at Friendship Park to build the kingdom of God. Their love of Christ is exhibited through celebrating communion, singing, and using their pinkies to pass the peace through the mesh metal walls between the U.S. and Mexico. Readers will get to know this remarkable international church community—and its distinctive expressions of theology, justice, righteousness, and love—through the eyes of active participants.
“In 1971 first lady Pat Nixon dedicated friendship park, straddling the border of Tijuana and South San Diego County, with an optimistic statement that the meager fence consisting of a few strands of barbed wire would one day be taken down. Pat’s sentiment has not been realized; to the contrary, the border fence separating the U.S. and Mexico has grown exponentially, even in this little enclave.
“Yet, in this pessimistic backdrop, the Rev. Dr. Seth Clark (or just “Seth” as he prefers to be called) evokes a hopeful tone anchored in the Basileia, or Kingdom of God. Transcending the geopolitical border is a little bit of heaven on earth. Families can be briefly united, not physically “enough,” but certainly spiritually in this church without a building and walls. In a place with an imposing wall, hope prevails because the ecumenical church exists despite the wall, without denominational boundaries.
“In his academically sound, and to some politically challenging, way, Pastor Seth invites you to a unique, bitter-sweet place that seeks to carve out a corner of God’s vineyard amidst an imposing border wall. In reading Pastor Seth’s journey, you will encounter the people, place, Pulitzer Prize-worthy photographs, and things that make the Church at the Wall a critical book to read. It is an essential read for anyone who wants to be informed, deeply moved, and motivated to action by what takes place in the hearts of the people who call The Border Church their refuge.”— Andy Quient, Executive Minister, American Baptist Churches of Los Angeles, the Southwest and Hawaii
“In Seth Clark's book, Church at the Wall, there are compelling testimonies, actions by migrants, deportees, and others who compromise The Border Church. Ecclesial practices such as prayer, confession, pardons, scripture, reading, communion, music, shared meals, and accompaniment happen. The named spiritual practices are among the ways the faith community comes together at the militarized border fence to worship and resist false narratives of the nation-state. Worshippers are divided in their church gathering by which side of the wall they are gathered on the United States or Mexico's country. As Clark emphasizes, the trans-border celebration of the Eucharist defies the fences, redefines who fellow citizens are, and makes visible the basileia (reign) of God.”—Susanne Johnson, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Christian Education, Perkins School of Theology
"Walls figure large in the Judeo-Christian tradition. Some, like Nehemiah's, are depicted as protective barriers, while others, like the Jewish-Gentile divide, are challenged as obstacles to shalom. Seth Clark celebrates the reality that the U.S. southern border wall has failed to suppress a spiritual communion that is mightier and more resilient than the wall itself. Winsomely readable and prophetic!"—Glen G. Scorgie, PhD,史格致, Professor of Theology and Ethics, Bethel Seminary, Minneapolis, MN
"Seth Clark has created a compelling portrait of The Border Church, born from intimate knowledge of the leaders who 'set the table' each Sunday at Friendship Park, and deep compassion for the peoples who gather at the border wall. His rhythm of sharing story and reflection is reminiscent of a Sunday afternoon hike with friends -- friends who care deeply and reflect thoughtfully on what it means to follow Jesus in an age of hardened nationalism."—John Fanestil, Founder, The Border Church, and author of One Life to Give: Martyrdom and the Making of the American Revolution.
“I have been waiting and hoping for this book! I knew about the Border Church’s prophetic witness through worship—the one body communing together yet divided by a rusted metal wall and changing geopolitics. Now Pastor Clark brings the Border Church experience and the powerful testimony of immigrants he encounters through this work to all of us in a first-hand account with deep, clear-eyed, and convicting theological reflection. Pastor Clark argues, “such physically exemplified union serves as a critical prophetic call amid political division.” Indeed. Here we will find not only “a faithful and true look at the realities of the border and the Border Church,” but a glimpse into Christians living out the kingdom of God.”—Rev. Julia Lambert Fogg, Ph.D., author of Finding Jesus at the Border: Opening our Hearts to the Stories of Our Immigrant Neighbors.
“In his thoughtful reflections and profound commitment to justice-based friendship, Seth David Clark does more than take us to visit Church at the Wall, that complicated and wondrous gathering of Christians (and more than few others). They all gather to meet on either side of the barrier between Mexico and the United States near San Diego. He offers us a vision of the kingdom—the basileia—of God in which such walls may disrupt but cannot defeat the communion of saints that is both hope and destiny. Those wondering where the church is in the 21st Century should walk with Seth and his companions to a place where the church gets played out through simple acts that reveal profound truths. They, like Seth and so many others, will come away changed.”—Mark Douglas, Professor of Christian Ethics, Columbia Theological Seminary
SETH DAVID CLARK, DMin, is lead pastor and Chief Operating Officer of First Baptist Church of National City, CA; adjunct faculty member at Pacific Theological Seminary; and director of the US pastoral team for the Border Church/La Iglesia Fronteriza. A self-described "Midwesterner by birth and a Californian fronterizo by God's grace and calling," he works at the intersection of cultures and countries. Find out more at SethDavidClark.com.
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