Joanna Adams: Higher Ground: Final Blog


The announcement of the conclusion of Higher Ground was made last week.  Since then, I have been touched by the comments of so many people, in person and online, expressing sadness over our coming to the end of our journey and gratitude for our efforts over the past five years.

Those same feelings lodge in my own heart as well. Being a part of Higher Ground has been one of the mountain-top experiences of my life. I will admit to more than a little bit of sorrow, but the stronger emotion is gratitude.

HGG Group Shot B&W

There are not words in the English language adequate enough to express my thanks to The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta and to Alicia Philipp, whose idea the whole enterprise was in the first place and who has been at our side along the way. And what would we have done without the creative PR talent and genuine devotion of Elyse Hammett and her compatriots, Brittany Gibson and Barbara Pritchett?

As for Plemon El-Amin, Joe Roberts, and Alvin Sugarman, they have been the most extraordinary colleagues imaginable. Together, we have shared ideas and argued theology. We have addressed troubling events happening in our city and around the world. We have found many places of commonality, but were also willing to step into difficult areas where like-mindedness would not take place. We have modeled civil dialogue and genuine respect for one another in our public forums and in our writing.

What I will remember always is the laughter that would erupt in any room where the four of us had gathered. In another life Rabbi Sugarman would have been a standup comedian, but he had to settle for being the guy who, time and again, saved our crew from self-righteousness.

How blessed I have been to learn from our Imam Plemon about the teachings of Islam. If Higher Ground has done nothing else, we have connected thousands with a Muslim leader possessed of great integrity and love for peace among all people.

Our patriarch and frequent agitator was Dr. Roberts, one of the great moral leaders of our time. Like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., he wanted us to speak truth to power and never to forget that the religious community ought not to be the caboose but the engine that leads the train of society.

Lord, I love these great religious leaders. I hope and pray that our work together has contributed in some small way to the healing of our broken world.

I hope we have offered a model for how to live together in a religiously pluralistic world.

More than anything else, we have been four friends who believe that there is a common good to be discovered that we could not have known alone.

I hope and trust that our little bit will be woven into God's long range plan, to move Atlanta and our world to higher ground.

Joanna M. Adams

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