Fat Luther, Slim Pickin’s

A Black Catholic Celebration of Faith, Tradition, and Diversity

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Pub Date 11 Feb 2022 | Archive Date Not set

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What does musical icon Luther Vandross—and his physical appearance—have to do with appreciating the people and cultures that make up the Catholic Church?

Marcia Lane-McGee and Shannon Wimp Schmidt, hosts of the Plaid Skirts and Basic Black podcast, explain that Christmas celebrations of Black Catholic families are not complete without the annual argument about which version of Luther—fat or skinny—created better music. The light-hearted debate is also about remembering the past and providing hope for the future.

In Fat Luther, Slim Pickin’s, the duoshare their faith and reflections on the liturgical year to honor the Black Catholic experience and to help other Catholics understand Black culture. With the humor, vulnerability, honesty, and pop culture references that their podcast is known for, Lane-McGee and Schmidt explore the Church as an important model for how to welcome diversity while maintaining and celebrating culturally distinct traditions and practices.

As our nation continues to confront racism, including within its churches, this ground-breaking book examines the intersection of faith, race, culture, and identity with hopefulness, humor, and joy. Lane-McGee and Schmidt share their experiences as Black women in the Church and invite Catholic women from all walks of life to look with new eyes at the feasts and seasons of the liturgical year through the lens of Black Catholic culture.

The Church is a communion of many cultures, languages, and ethnicities., yet it has been unified for more than two-thousand years. Black Catholics bring unique gifts of culture and history to the Church and the United States that provide an essential perspective on the work for racial justice, a strong framework for addressing the sin of racism, confident guidance for embracing diversity, and a beautiful demonstration of faith infusing even the darkest moments with hope.

In Fat Luther, Slim Pickin’s, you will learn that:

· You can embrace liturgical celebrations even if they’re a little janky—that is, haphazard and messy—by making do with what you have and focusing on actually doing something and being human rather than doing it perfectly.

· Soul food epitomizes the genius of Black Americans who can make sustenance even from “slim pickin’s”—the scraps.

· Ordinary Time offers us a chance to cultivate our “Catholic Shine”—finding beauty in the everyday stuff of life, revealing the mystery of God.

· As we remember afresh Christ’s suffering on the Cross each Lent we see the parallel to how racism in America can be both history and an ongoing suffering.

· The laity, especially women, have an important role as the “neck of the Church”—turning the head toward the most urgent needs of our time and working as Christ in the world.

Fat Luther, Slim Pickin’s offers examples of holy people—including Servant of God Sr. Thea Bowman, Venerable Fr. Augustus Tolton, St. John XIII, St. Martin De Porres, and St. Joan of Arc—as companions for the liturgical journey. You will also learn more about Black history and experience, and your own faith, through primers on “one drop” laws, appreciation vs. appropriation, Black hair, the legacy of slavery, code switching, and the three-fifths compromise. Reflection questions are included in each chapter, making this book perfect for individual or group study.

What does musical icon Luther Vandross—and his physical appearance—have to do with appreciating the people and cultures that make up the Catholic Church?

Marcia Lane-McGee and Shannon Wimp Schmidt...

A Note From the Publisher

Marcia Lane-McGee is the cohost of the Plaid Skirts and Basic Black podcast and a family teacher at Mooseheart Child City and School. She is a founding member, executive board member, and secretary of Catholics United for Black Lives and an executive board member and the vice president of New Wave Feminists.

Lane-McGee attended Benedictine University, where she studied English language and literature and minored in Spanish. She earned a national certification in Catholic youth ministry from the Center for Ministry Development and was certified in diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace from the University of South Florida MUMA College of Businesses. Lane-McGee previously served as coordinator of youth ministry for the Diocese of Joliet and the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, and as a community resource coordinator for Youth Guidance. She has been a guest on CatholicTV’s This is the Day and SiriusXM’s The Katie McGrady Show. Her work has been featured in Common Horizons magazine and The Catholic Herald UK.

Shannon Wimp Schmidt is cohost of the Plaid Skirts and Basic Black podcast, and a founding member of Catholics United for Black Lives.

She earned a bachelor’s degree in theology and Italian from the University of Notre Dame and a master’s degree in pastoral studies from Catholic Theological Union. Schmidt has more than a decade of experience in youth and pastoral ministry and has served in various capacities, including director of RCIA, adult faith formation coordinator, diversity educator, interfaith ministry leader, and theology teacher. Her work has been featured on CatholicTV’s This is the Day and in The Catholic Moment and Common Horizon.

Marcia Lane-McGee is the cohost of the Plaid Skirts and Basic Black podcast and a family teacher at Mooseheart Child City and School. She is a founding member, executive board member, and secretary...

Advance Praise

"May this book be your kick in the pants to get on with the hard, and holy, work of doing better."

From the foreword by Kathryn Whitaker

“The authors’ unique take on life holds up a mirror to our society wrestling to bring an end to racism, sexism, exclusion, and injustice.”
ValLimar Jansen
Catholic speaker, recording artist, and storyteller

“Marcia Lane-McGee and Shannon Wimp Schmidt serve up smart, beautifully written reflections about their faith and heritage as fully Black, fully Catholic women. They are honest, humble, funny, gracious, and sometimes—in their own words—even a little weird. I enjoyed not only their engaging stories but also their important, poignant insights.”
Gloria Purvis
Catholic radio and television host, author, commentator, and executive producer of The Gloria Purvis Podcast

“This is a book for all of us who are a part of the Catholic family and speaks to the beauty and necessity of diversity in our homes and parish communities.”
Erica Tighe Campbell
Founder of Be a Heart

"May this book be your kick in the pants to get on with the hard, and holy, work of doing better."

From the foreword by Kathryn Whitaker

“The authors’ unique take on life holds up a mirror to our...

Available Editions

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ISBN 9781646801312
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Featured Reviews

Co-presenters of the podcast “Plaid Skirts and Basic Black” Marcia Lane-McGee and Shannon Wimp Schmidt have written what might appear on the surface to be frivolous book, but which in reality is a remarkably modern and important study of the 21st century Black religious experience, taking in issues of racism, diversity and tolerance, particularly from a female perspective.
Naturally I was attracted to this book by the very quirky title, but I was fully aware that this was a book about religion. Although I am not a religious person, and this kind of book is normally far out of my comfort zone, but Marcia and Shannon are two very articulate ladies making this book a joy to read.
Referring to themselves as Black Catholic, a reference not to their race but to their rich culture, there is a concise section exploring the history and genesis of the term. And, of course, the relative merits of pre- and post-weight gain Luther Vandross are debated and dissected, although this is not a trivial discussion, but rather one that aims to teach us much about remembering the past.
The chapters feature stories from the authors’ lives, and at the end of each one are “reflection questions” relating to the chapter’s content; thought-provoking stuff to generate further discussion. Topics covered include soul-food, Black music, religious holidays such as Christmas and Advent, baptism and more, all discussed in Marcia and Shannon’s friendly and accessible way.
“Fat Luther, Slim Pickin’s” is a fun, timely and inspiring triumph, which should give even the staunchest non-believer pause for thought.

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This book is a brilliant use of the liturgical year to bring readers into a wholly Catholic AND wholly Black AND wholly female experience, imagining what the church can be for all people. It doesn’t try to convince the reader to change their mind about what they might think about Black people in the church; it simply bears witness to experience, reminding Catholics and Christians of other denominations what is already true about our faith and asking us to consider how this should shape our response to people from different cultures and backgrounds who also worship Jesus as Savior and Lord. A beautiful primer on Catholic social teaching and Black culture and womanhood in the Church. I’m Immediately sending a recommendation to all my Catholic friends—they need these women. That’s the point really. We are all necessary members of the body, and that means the body of Christ will be necessarily but multi colored, multiethnic, multicultural. it’s especially important that Shannon and Marcia’s stories are told, because they have the stories we’ve been neglecting in favor of a Eurocentric Faith that demands uniformity in sacrifice of the beautiful diversity God has made.

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Funny, wise, insightful, heartfelt, inclusive, challenging, vulnerable, unique. . . just a few words that describe this book! When I finished reading, I felt inspired to bring my whole, authentic self to the Church, and now have a better understanding of how to help others do the same. Shannon and Marcia have written a timely, faithful and enjoyable book for anyone who wants to know better so they can do better. Both informative and inspiring, Fat Luther, Slim Pickin's walks the reader through the liturgical year. As with any year in the life of the Church, it's a journey with the Lord and it would be hard to finish this book the same person as when you started.
With solid scriptural understanding and church teachings, poignant personal stories, helpful explanations of Black culture and history, and holy companions as examples, Shannon and Marcia offer a way forward for us as individuals and for the Church.

Sometimes I feel discouraged that as a white mom in the middle of raising my kids in the suburban Midwest there is not much I can do personally to heal the divisions I see in America or in our Church. After reading this book, I feel hopeful. I will start where I am, with what I have, with the work that is in front of me. I pray that many others will pick up this book and both feel seen and see more clearly. This is the right book at the right time, and I am grateful to Ave Maria press for publishing it, and to Shannon and Marcia for sharing their wisdom, their experiences and their honest selves so generously in this book.

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Every so often, I read a book that offers a spiritual perspective that is so unique it is striking. I had that experience as I pondered Fat Luther, Slim Pickin's: A Black Catholic Celebration of Faith, Tradition, and Diversity.

The tone is conversational and engaging. Authors Marcia Lane-McGee and Shannon Wimp Schmidt offer inspiration and encouragement as they describe their experiences as people of color in the Catholic Church. The authors have created a work that is both inviting and challenging and is a thorough delight to read and relish.

This book is a much-needed resource to promote inclusivity and engagement within the Church. In short, it is an important, insightful book for a time such as this.

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