Susan Williams Smith, an author, ordained minister and former mentee of Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., presents an honorable and comprehensive picture of Wright as a man, an African-American, a patriot, scholar, and pastor in her new book – "The Book of Jeremiah: The Life and Ministry of Jeremiah A. Wright Jr."
Smith first met Wright when she was a student at Yale Divinity School. She had heard him preach a stirring sermon, but it was at a dinner with him and the president of Yale that evening that she "became fascinated with this man and his work, and knew his ministry was something of which I wanted to be a part." She asked Wright then and there if she could become an intern at his church, Chicago's Trinity United Church of Christ.
With some help from the United Church of Christ denomination, Smith was able to serve at Trinity, first as an intern, then as associate pastor upon her graduation from Yale. After Trinity, Smith went on to pastor a church in Ohio for 22 years. When Wright and Trinity were maligned during the debacle of the 2008 election, Smith recalled, "I felt in my spirit a need to at least try to tell the story and to embrace those who had embraced me, by writing this book."
Smith clearly points out several things "The Book of Jeremiah" is not: it's not a biography of Wright (he was reticent about granting interviews for it); it's not a history of Trinity; and it's not about the relationship between Obama and Wright.
It is, however, an attempt to show what Wright's ministry was, by showing what he preached and why, connecting his words to the historical and cultural context out of which he and those to whom he preached came. She compares and relates his prophetic voice with the prophetic voices of biblical and modern-day prophets, in the hope of revealing the true Wright, the man she knows, to whom there is much more than a couple of 30-second sound bites.
Richard A. Wing, senior minister at First Community Church in Columbus, Ohio, offers praise for the book.
"Smith has brought witness, honor, and gratitude to Wright, her mentor," said Wing. "He is among the most misunderstood people in our time. Today's persistent covert racism warns us of that which seems never to go away, even with our best efforts. Read this book and weep, swear if you must, and then get going. We have work to do."
"I applaud this outstanding work," said Frank Thomas, Nettie Sweeney and Hugh Th. Miller Professor of Homiletics at Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis.
"The overarching and monumental significance of its contributions is that the African American church will not allow one of its princes to be defined by sound-bite media and cable news narratives. We love and respect the ministry and lifelong contribution of Wright. Let the truth be told!"
NOTE: Susan Williams Smith lives in Columbus, Ohio. She earned her M.Div. from Yale Divinity School and her D.Min. from United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio.
"The Book of Jeremiah: The Life and Ministry of Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr."
by Susan Williams Smith
Order from UCC Resources www.uccresources.com, your local bookseller, or Amazon.