7: REV. JEN BAILEY | Sacredness & Healing the Movement

REV. JENNIFER BAILEY is one of a growing number of millennial faith leaders at the forefront of helping strangers come together to explore their social and spiritual identities, and visible differences. Growing up in the small, mostly white town of Quincy, IL led Jen to find her sense of self in the black church, which led her to interfaith engagement and service work as a college student in Chicago and later to divinity school in Nashville. 

Rev. Jennifer Bailey speaking at poverty hearing in Brown Chapel in Selma, AL (2015).

She is the founding executive director of the Faith Matters Network, which is a collective of people of color who train, convene, and amplify voices of marginalized people of faith to chart a new moral horizon.

Named one of “15 Faith Leaders to Watch” by the Center for American Progress, Jen is an ordained minister in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, a public theologian, and an emerging national leader in the multi-faith movement for justice.

She is also an Ashoka and Nathan Cummings Foundation Fellow, and she’s currently working on her first book, tentatively titled Confessions of a #Millennial #Minister.

In this conversation, Jen shares:

  • her road to service and intersectional spirituality
  • why she pursued the clergy when so many millennials are leaving faith
  • and what she’s learning about identity, intersectionality and healing justice as a new kind of faith leader on the front lines of multiple movements today

Check out her incredible TEDx Talk Composting Religion.

Links to all the stuff Jen & Edina talk about in this episode:

6: HASAN MINHAJ | Comedy = Medicine for Thinking

HASAN MINHAJ is one of the biggest Muslim pioneers of American pop culture in the past decade.

From his scathing sketches on “The Daily Show” to his biting, on-point critiques of media and Hollywood at the 2016 Radio & TV Correspondents’ Dinner & 2017 the White House Correspondents Dinner to his upcoming weekly Netflix late night show, Hasan is becoming a household name with his hilarious, ultra-informed comedy that is both political and personal. Plus, his incredible Netflix special “Homecoming King” just won a Peabody Award, which recognizes excellence in storytelling.

In this conversation, we get personal as he traces his comedy steps, examine the palpable shift in Hollywood’s appetite for Muslims since Trump took office and do some predicting about what’s coming next.

Links to Hasan’s work & other mentions from this episode:


4: REV. GARY MASON | Amnesia is the Enemy of Reconciliation

For the latest episode, Edina speaks with a peacemaker who became one of the key “persuaders” in the Northern Ireland conflict, leveraging his faith and relationships to bring armed fighters to the table with politicians, where they were ultimately able to create the historic Belfast Agreement that officially ended the conflict.

Rev. Mason and the Queen of England.

Since getting ordained in his early 30s, REV. GARY MASON was stationed in a Belfast Methodist church which butted up against a “peace wall” put there by the government to keep the peace between Protestants and Catholics.

In their conversation, Gary shares moving stories about his choice to act on his faith by engaging all sides of the conflict sincerely and with compassion, both during the conflict and from two decades of active peace building and community healing he’s pioneered since it stopped. 

They explore his path to becoming a “persuader” and the complex questions about life after conflict he’s faced:

  • Once the violence stops and all parties have committed to peace, how can survivors be supported in healing?
  • Why is it worse to forget than to remember the trauma of the conflict? What are they supposed to do with their memories?
  • Can former enemies and their offspring transform their understanding
    of each other and move forward together?
  • How do the lessons of Northern Ireland apply to our current
    American “Troubles”?

Rev. Mason at the Belfast Mission.

More about Gary & his decades of trailblazing work in community transformation:

3: AZIZA HASAN | Choosing Curiosity Over Assumptions

Host Edina Lekovic talks to one of her original co-conspirators in community transformation, about their powerful “meeting the moment” experience over the past decade.

AZIZA HASAN is Executive Director and co-founder of NewGround: A Muslim-Jewish Partnership for Change, which has been transforming L.A.’s Muslim and Jewish communities through the power of relationships among broad political and religious spectrum of Muslims, Jews, and their institutions. It reaches hundreds of thousands of people each year with its fellowships, public programs and digital presence.

She served on President Obama’s Faith Based & Neighborhood Advisory Council and was named one of 50 non-profit leaders “quietly changing the world” by the Chronicle of Philanthropy

In this conversation, Aziza explains why choosing curiosity over assumptions is the most powerful choice we can make during conflict.

Plus, Aziza shares why feels she was born into the work of inter-religious community building through conflict transformation and we reflect on our decade of bringing people together for difficult conversations and relational resilience.

More about Aziza & NewGround:

Other links mentioned in the show:

2: LENNON FLOWERS | Turning Loss into Discovery

Do you stumble and sweat when you try to show up for someone who has just lost a loved one?

Have you lost someone dear and felt like you’re stumbling around alone and in the dark as you navigate your grief?

The truth is, loss is an experience most of us share and feel ill-equipped to face.

LENNON FLOWERS lost her mother to cancer while she was a college student and mostly avoided talking about it for the next three years. Then a co-worker invited her to a dinner with people she knew who’d experienced an acute loss, and they went from strangers to what she calls a “pile of puppies” that night and continued to meet for years.

In this episode, Edina talks with Lennon about her journey of co-creating The Dinner Party, an international community of tables where people connect over living with loss, and how it helped inspire a new kind of dinner party specially designed for Trump’s America. Plus, you’ll hear her tips for how to show up for someone facing loss and why she thinks dinner tables are a form of meditation.

(From left) Emily May, Rev. Jen Bailey and Lennon Flowers on CBS This Morning talking about The People’s Supper. (Click on image to watch.)




I really hope you will sign up for The Dinner Party in your area and host/attend a People’s Supper. And to help you dive in, here’s all the links to the projects and people mentioned in this episode.

  • The Dinner Party: A community of mostly 20- and 30-somethings working to transform life after loss from an isolating experience into one marked by community support and candid conversation. (And
  • How We Gather Project of Harvard Divinity School (led by Ministry Innovation Fellows Angie Thurston and Casper ter Kuile): Discoveries from the emerging space of secular and spiritual community and meaning makers. This is the “magical retreat at Harvard Divinity School” I mention in the episode, where Lennon and I first met in the aftermath of the 2016 presidential election.
  • The People’s Supper: A joint project of The Dinner Party, Faith Matters Network and Hollaback! designed to get people to sit down with one another across political views, across identities, and fully see and hear one another – to believe in and to see each other’s humanity. Over 1,100 suppers have been held around the country since January 2017, including at the first Obama Foundation Summit.
  • Faith Matters Network (founded & led by Rev. Jen Bailey): A people of color led collective, working to equip 21st century faith leaders with the tools to build healthy, equitable communities.
  • Hollaback! (founded & led by Emily May): A movement to end harassment in public spaces, both online and in the streets.

A little more about why Lennon is a badass…  She most recently served as Community Director for Ashoka’s Start Empathy Initiative, where she led efforts to find, coach, and select the next wave of “Empathy Fellows,” and to distill and share the key principles and practices underpinning their work with educators looking to follow their lead.

She’s also written for CNN, Forbes, and GOOD, and has been featured in O Magazine, the New York Times, NPR, On Being, and Los Angeles Magazine for her work with The Dinner Party. She is an Ashoka Fellow and an Aspen Ideas Scholar, and a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill. Lennon met Emily and Jenn as Ashoka Fellows. 

If you’re actively grieving & looking for support, check out these referrals from The Dinner Party: