Person of the Week
Brasher-Cunningham Shares Hope with ‘The Color of Together’
Guilford author Milton Brasher-Cunningham’s new book, ‘The Color of Together: Mixed Metaphors of Connectedness,’ will be celebrated Wednesday, Oct. 14 at 5 p.m., when Breakwater Books presents a special, outdoor book signing event (pre-registration required) at the barn at 19 Church Street, Guilford. (Photo courtesy Milton Brasher-Cunningham )
“I was two years late on my deadline for my book submission. Sometimes you miss a moment, and sometimes, you land in one you didn’t know you were preparing for.”
When Milton Brasher-Cunningham wrote his latest book, The Color of Together: Mixed Metaphors of Connectedness, society hadn’t reached the heights of disarray and divisiveness that has become 2020. By sharing his appreciation of personal stories and religious and philosophical ideas applied to experiences of grief, gratitude and grace – among what he describes as “the primary colors of life” – Milton also helps us to recognize that we are a shared humanity, despite our differences and the fear we may be living with.
“We’ve got to look for the ways that we can connect with each other,” says Milton. “And part of honest connection is conversation. We need to stretch toward each other, to figure out how to reach for each other. It’s not that people have to use the same metaphors that I’ve found; but how can we help each other widen our vocabularies to think of new ways to look at the quarantine; at the situation in the world.”
As Milton writes in his book, “The chance we have to find strains of grace and hope and love — even gratitude —comes in solidarity and the sharing of our stories, not in the measuring of them one against the other.”
On Wednesday, Oct. 14 at 5 p.m., Breakwater Books is proud to present a special, COVID-19 safe event celebrating this Guilford author and his new book (on shelves Oct. 13; pre-orders available now). An outdoor book-signing will be held behind the barn at 19 Church Street, where Milton will also give a short reading and discuss his work. Pre-registration and masks are required. Breakwater asks participants to please register in advance by email or phone and also encourages book purchases in advance; although books will be available at the event.
In addition to being an author with two other books (Keeping the Feast: Metaphors for the Meal and This Must Be the Place: Reflections on Home) Milton is a professional chef, an avid blogger (visit donteatalone.com), an editor, a former English teacher, a former Apple trainer and a long-time UCC minister who is married to Guilford First Congregational Church lead minister The Rev. Dr. Ginger Brasher-Cunningham.
“I think watching how well she does in her job, and how much she loves her job, is one of the things that helped me understand I’m not built to be a parish preacher. I love being in church, I love being part of the community – I just don’t want to be in charge,” says Milton, who does “supply preaching” for churches needing coverage.
“I love being a utility infielder and helping out where I can,” he says. “I love theology, I love preaching and writing. I work now as an editor for Church Publishing which is the publishing arm of the Episcopal Church; so I have my hands in a lot of things that are related to faith.”
Milton’s fascinating life includes a childhood growing up in Africa as the son of Baptist missionaries. The family left Texas before Milton was one year old and didn’t return until he was 16.
“It was an amazing time,” says Milton. “It’s hard to describe what it was like; because I feel blessed to have had those experiences and that exposure. We lived in what was then South Rhodesia, which is now Zimbabwe; then Zambia and Kenya; and then Ghana, on the west coast of Africa.”
Milton was a fifth-grader living in Zambia when the country gained its independence from Great Britain.
“I got to see a country being born,” he says. “Ginger always teases me because Zambian Independence Day is October 24, and I’ll stand in the middle of the living room and sing the Zambian national anthem, because that’s what I did on October 24, 1964, when they gained independence.”
Coloring his childhood in Africa was the time he shared there with his parents, Milton and Barbara Cunningham, both who he loved dearly and misses to this day. In fact, it was the grief he experienced following the loss of his father seven years ago which helped inspire Milton to pen The Color of Together.
“The book started out on a very personal note, with my trying to articulate my experience of grief after my father died,” says Milton. “As someone who, my whole life, has been really interested in language and love of writing and reading; the process of the book uncovered for me how powerful it was to find metaphors that gave me kind of room to move in my experiences and my emotions, rather than feeling hemmed in by them.”
Feeling emotions is one thing; embracing the experiences that surround those emotions is quite another, as Milton shares.
“All those emotions that have been named I have felt,” he says, adding, “...but there’s also a sense that grief isn’t something I’m going to get through – there’s not a day that I’m going to live the rest of my life that either my father or my mother will be alive again. So that absence is going to be a constant in my life. How I live with that is the fruitful stuff.”
Milton learned grief, for him, was “...kind of like a primary color. This isn’t something to get over; this is something to embrace, to understand,” he says. “And when the moment comes and something happens that reminds me of my dad; to sink into that moment and enjoy it; and relish it.”
As for grace, growing up in Evangelical Christianity, “...we were always told grace meant [God’s] unmerited or undeserved favor – which didn’t really help me,” says Milton. “Somewhere in the process of trying to understand what that meant, I realized there’s not a time in my life when I am not held in the hands of God — regardless of how I feel about it, regardless of how tragic. [And] there’s a sense of grace in that there is a kindness and a love to the universe that is out of my control; and that it is indiscriminate in who it reaches, and all of us are held by that.”
Milton says coming alongside the primary colors of grief and grace is the corollary of gratitude.
“David Steindl-Rast, a Buddhist philosopher, talks about gratitude is the opposite of fear; that my response to the world is ‘thank you.’ And that opens my heart, rather than clinches it,” says Milton.
As Milton writes in his book, “We lose our vocabulary for gratitude when fear becomes our common vernacular. We lose the words that matter most, and, as a result, we lose part of our humanity.”
Breakwater Books presents a special, safe social distancing book signing event with Guilford author Milton Brasher-Cunningham set for Wednesday, Oct. 14 at 5 p.m. behind the barn at 19 Church Street Guilford. Pre-registration required, email email@example.com or call 203.453.4141. Pre-order books by email or phone now; books will also be available for purchase at event on Oct. 14. Raindate Oct. 16.