Breathing Space is the story of Heidi Neumark and the Hispanic and African-American Lutheran church-Transfiguration-that took a chance calling on a pastor from a starkly different background. Despite living and working in a milieu of overwhelming poverty and violence, Neumark and the congregation encounter even more powerful forces of hope and renewal.
This story of a community creating space for new life and breath is also the story of a young woman-working, raising her children, and struggling for spiritual breathing space. Through poignant, intimate stories, Neumark charts her journey alongside her parishioners as pastor, church, and community grow in wisdom and together experience transformation.
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Breathing Space is the story of a young woman, Heidi Neumark, and the Hispanic and African-American Lutheran church—aptly named Transfiguration—that took a chance calling on a pastor from a starkly different background. Despite living and working in a milieu of overwhelming poverty and violence, Neumark and the congregation encounter even more powerful forces of hope and renewal.
This is the story of a church and a community creating space for new life and breath in a place where children suffer the highest asthma rates in the nation. It’s also the story of a young woman—working, raising her children, and struggling for spiritual breathing space. Through poignant, intimate stories, Neumark charts her journey alongside her parishioners as pastor, church, and community grow in wisdom and together experience transformation.
If you come upon Transfiguration Lutheran Church on the corner of East 156th Street and Prospect Avenue in the South Bronx, the first thing you’ll notice are the doors, spray-painted with a bright mural...across the top of the doors, you will read a line from the prophet Isaiah: "My house shall be a house of prayer for all peoples." The doors swing open into the history of this place and my arrival here.
"Breathing Space could not have been written by anyone other than Heidi Neumark, who has been immersed in the life of the South Bronx for twenty years. She writes with the passionate love of a pastor’s heart and a poet’s gift for language. Politicians have visited the South Bronx and novelists have taken detours onto its streets but Heidi Neumark stayed long enough and loved hard enough to be marked for life. This book will take your breath away." —The Reverend Dr. James A. Forbes, Jr., Senior Minister, The Riverside Church, New York City
"This beautiful book, written with insight and gentle humor, breathes wisdom, kindness, and great blessing. Heidi Neumark wrestles with angels and discovers pools of refreshing grace."
—Thomas G. Long, Bandy Professor of Preaching, Candler School of Theology, Emory University
"Heidi Neumark has worked tirelessly to earn the trust of people who have been betrayed constantly in their lives, finding in stories of desperation, poverty, and death, stories of hope and transfiguration. Read this book carefully and let Neumark’s commitment and love touch your heart." —Ada María Isasi-Díaz, author of En La Lucha: A Hispanic Women’s Liberation Theology
"This remarkable book helped me enter a world I’d scarcely imagined." —Richard Lischer, author of Open Secrets: A Memoir of Faith and Discovery
"Part Dante, part Emily Dickinson, part George Orwell, and all pastor, Reverend Heidi Neumark dares readers to follow her onto tough corners and into harsh places—streets of pain and blood and sorrow. This thoroughly modern minister doesn’t flinch, and focuses long enough to see what else is there—faith, nobility, and, as Robert Pinsky said, something deeper and better than ‘mere success,’ the triumph of the human spirit." —Michael Gecan, IAF Organizer and author of Going Public
"For almost twenty years Heidi Neumark lived in the South Bronx, leading a congregation, assisting the young and the afflicted, and helping lead the community to triumph. In Breathing Space, she reveals in moving detail what sustained her as pastor, community organizer, wife, mother, and friend to all in need." —Alexander von Hoffman, author of House By House, Block By Block: The Rebirth of America’s Urban NeighborhoodsAbout the Author:
Heidi B. Neumark has served as pastor of Transfiguration Lutheran Church in the South Bronx since 1984. She is a founding member of South Bronx Churches, an ecumenical community organizing group that has trained local leaders, built hundreds of low-cost homes, and established a top-ranked public high school. She lives with her family in New York City.
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