Park Hill Congregational UCC
Rev. Dr. David Bahr
February 26, 2017
“Don’t Just Do Something”
Matthew 17: 1-9 – The Message
Six days later, three of them saw that glory. Jesus took Peter and the brothers, James and John, and led them up a high mountain. His appearance changed from the inside out, right before their eyes. Sunlight poured from his face. His clothes were filled with light. Then they realized that Moses and Elijah were also there in deep conversation with him.
4 Peter broke in, “Master, this is a great moment! What would you think if I built three memorials here on the mountain—one for you, one for Moses, one for Elijah?”
5 While he was going on like this, babbling, a light-radiant cloud enveloped them, and sounding from deep in the cloud a voice: “This is my Son, marked by my love, focus of my delight. Listen to him.”
6-8 When the disciples heard it, they fell flat on their faces, scared to death. But Jesus came over and touched them. “Don’t be afraid.” When they opened their eyes and looked around all they saw was Jesus, only Jesus.
9 Coming down the mountain, Jesus swore them to secrecy. “Don’t breathe a word of what you’ve seen. After the Son of Man is raised from the dead, you are free to talk.”
Perhaps you have done this on vacation too. I just returned from two weeks in Cambodia. I had a conversation with myself on numerous occasions – “I feel like just laying around my guesthouse today.” But, as the conversation went, I reminded myself that I had just spent 19 hours in a plane to get here. So, I felt guilty that on vacation I occasionally didn’t want to get in a tuk tuk and discover yet another magnificent temple or glorious ruin or explore some aspect of this culture to which I am drawn again and again. On just two days did I succumb to the impulse to “do nothing.” And both days I thought, well, maybe I should just do a little something. I shouldn’t waste my time.
This is how deeply ingrained in me the notion that we should always be productive. Even on vacation. Add to that, as people posted pictures on Facebook of actions they were taking in response to one outrageous executive order after another, I felt torn that here I was on vacation while many of you were protesting at airports or ICE facilities or some other form of resistance. How could I be so selfish? Do something! Don’t just stand there.
Has anyone ever said that to you? Or, have you said to yourself: “Don’t just stand there. Do something.” It’s an important thing to consider. After all, as the maxim goes, all evil needs to thrive is for good people to say or do nothing. Should we do nothing as transgender students are picked on and Mexicans are rounded up and Jewish centers are bombed and health care for millions is eliminated and, and, and… I think it’s an exhausting list on purpose to wear people of faith and conscience out. Yet, I believe, our text from the Gospel of Matthew today has something to say to us at this very moment in history. And this last Sunday before we enter the season of Lent
This is a weird text. It’s called the Transfiguration of Jesus. In the version we heard Jess read, Eugene Peterson helpfully interpreted transfiguration as “his appearance changed from the inside out, right in front of their eyes.” Other translations are not so helpful. The New Revised Standard Version, the classic translation used in the UCC and most mainline churches, says “And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white.”
This is one of those texts that reminds us to take the Bible seriously, not literally. To look for clues in the meaning of the disciples’ experience. Did his face literally shine like the sun? Did his clothes literally become dazzling white? Were they literally enveloped by a “babbling, light-radiant cloud?” Did they literally hear a voice from that cloud?
And yet, I believe modern Christians can too quickly react to texts like this by trying to explain away such events as the transfiguration – focused on what can and cannot be literal. We may do the same thing to the many stories of healing and resurrection and ascension and even the birth of Jesus. But the mystery of God in Christ is too great for us to reduce it to those things we can explain with logic. God is bigger than our ability to even imagine, let alone try to articulate. We can try, but ultimately, explanations fail to grasp the mysteries of the universe. In matters of faith, sometimes we have to, or at least I have to, accept what I cannot believe.
Therefore, I accept that Jesus was transfigured. It doesn’t matter if I believe it can happen or not – belief is about what my mind can understand. And I accept that his appearance changed from the inside out. It doesn’t matter whether I believe it’s literally “true” or not – belief is necessarily limited to what my mind can process. Now, to be clear, this is not an invitation to reject the intellect. I agree when some forms of Christianity are criticized for being anti-intellectual, anti-science. I’m not talking about rejecting science. I am encouraging us to embrace faith. To move beyond the dualism of belief and non-belief. Possible and impossible. The world is simply too complex to say “I can’t believe it.”
Because whether he was or was not literally transfigured in front of their eyes, something happened. Something happened that caused Peter to say, “Quick! Don’t just stand there. Let’s do something!” It was while he was fumbling for answers as to what to do that he heard, “Don’t just do something. Stand there!” Or rather, as the text says simply, “Listen to him.” Before you go off and do something, listen.
Sometimes it takes an event as unexplainable as a transfiguration right in front of our eyes to get our attention – to see what has been standing in front of us all along. It often takes something quite as extraordinary as this for God to break through to us. Some of us have literally heard the voice of God. Others of us have interpreted our experience as hearing the voice of God – God spoke to me – without meaning they heard a literal voice. That is true for me. Some of us accept that people can and do have these experiences but haven’t had any themselves. And others of us need something a little more concrete. Something as nebulous as an inner voice isn’t going to do it. But an accumulation of experience, perhaps even “evidence” gathering, convinces that there is a reality beyond the realm of knowledge. Called faith. Or mystery. The enigmatic unknown. Ultimate and absolute Love.
Too busy doing something, we may miss a glorious sunrise or an innocent child or even a friend asking us, please just listen. Wanting to fix it, we may listen only for a way to respond, not to simply listen. Or we may try to listen in order to understand, when again, all that is asked of us is to simply listen. Trying to understand is like trying to do something. Books like Men are from Mars, Women are From Venus are among those who help articulate this.
But too busy doing something, we may miss the whole thing; the whole point. The Psalmist says it so beautifully – “Be still, and know that I am God.” But sometimes that doesn’t work. Sometimes we need something over the top, fantastical, something so in our face we can’t look away. And so in front of Peter, James and John, God transfigured Jesus. God made his face shine like the sun and his clothes look dazzlingly white – to get their attention. And their response was quite understandable: “We have to do something!” Build some shelters to memorialize this moment, or, or… But God’s request was simply, Listen. And the same words as at his baptism. This is my beloved. Listen to him.
For some people it hasn’t been until they had a heart attack that they finally listened to their doctor’s advice. For other people it wasn’t until tragedy struck that they appreciated the little things that had been around them all along. Sometimes it isn’t until we almost lose everything that we recognize that which is right in front of us – often as simple as a spouse or a parent or a friend, asking, what will it take for you to listen to me? What will it take for you to listen to me?
Even worship can seem busy at times, moving expeditiously through the liturgy in order to fit everything into exactly one hour. So I am cutting my sermon off here so that we have some time to spend in silence. I want to ask two very simple questions that we may otherwise be too busy to address: Who or what has been trying to get through to you? What have they been begging you to hear? Who or what has been trying to get your attention? What do they want you to hear?
(Silence for a few minutes. Then, in conclusion)
In many ways the election of Donald Trump represents this transfiguration-level event. Over the top, fantastical. In your face. An attempt by many in this country to get our attention and get us to listen. One response to such cries to “Listen!” has been an opportunistic manipulation of actions to further divide the nation. Blaming, scapegoating, informed by white supremacists, to “Make America Great Again” for wealthy white men. And Christian.
Or our response can be to wake from our slumber and listen in ways that bring us together – finding common ground to address real problems. But this text from the Gospel of Matthew tells us: First, don’t just do something. Listen for God. Only then shall we know what to do. Only after listening will we know what is our personal call to act. Yes, as an act of love and devotion to Christ, we must do something, but not everything. Because if we try to do everything, eventually we won’t do anything. And God is not served by that.
But if we do fall away from doing anything, don’t be surprised when God tries to intervene even by means of another transfiguration to get our attention back. And when that happens, once again: Don’t just do something. Listen.
For this reason, the season of Lent has arrived just in time. Before we get too overwhelmed. So come on Ash Wednesday that we may listen together to the God who speaks. Come to cleanse and clear away the distractions that hold us back from faith-fullness. Come and be reminded of the simplicity of our mortality. And let that shape and form our calling.
 A fantastic resource is the book by Marcus Borg, Reading the Bible Again for the First Time: Taking the Bible Seriously but Not Literally, Harper San Francisco, 2001
Park Hill Congregational UCC
Rev. Dr. David Bahr
February 19, 2017
“Another Week of Chaos”
Leviticus 19: 9-18 – Common English Bible
When you harvest your land’s produce, you must not harvest all the way to the edge of your field; and don’t gather up every remaining bit of your harvest. 10 Also do not pick your vineyard clean or gather up all the grapes that have fallen there. Leave these items for the poor and the immigrant; I am the Lord your God.
11 You must not steal nor deceive nor lie to each other.12 You must not swear falsely by my name, desecrating your God’s name in doing so; I am the Lord. 13 You must not oppress your neighbors or rob them. Do not withhold a hired laborer’s pay overnight. 14 You must not insult a deaf person or put some obstacle in front of a blind person that would cause them to trip. Instead, fear your God; I am the Lord.
15 You must not act unjustly in a legal case. Do not show favoritism to the poor or deference to the great; you must judge your fellow Israelites fairly. 16 Do not go around slandering your people.[a] Do not stand by while your neighbor’s blood is shed;[b] I am the Lord. 17 You must not hate your fellow Israelite in your heart. Rebuke your fellow Israelite strongly, so you don’t become responsible for his sin.[c] 18 You must not take revenge nor hold a grudge against any of your people; instead, you must love your neighbor as yourself; I am the Lord.
Jesus said, “Everyone then, who hears these words of mine and acts on them, will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rains fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on rock.”
The house stood because, when it was time to harvest, they left grain on the edge of the field for the poor. Because, when they gathered up the grapes, they left some behind for the immigrant. Because they did not lie to each other. Because at the end of each day, every laborer was paid what was owed as their wage. Because they didn’t mock or insult the disabled or put a stumbling block in their way. Because they didn’t stand around and watch while their neighbors blood was shed.
The rains fell and the floods came and the winds blew and beat, but the house didn’t fall because it was built on rock.
Then Jesus said, “And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rains fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell – and great was its fall!”
The house fell because all the grain was taken and all the grapes were plucked; nothing was left for the immigrant and the alien. Resentment grew for being expected to take care of the poor. The house fell because when it was time to cut the budget, it didn’t affect those hoarding all the grain and grapes. The first item was to gut Medicaid and Medicare and social security. Next it was the schools, services for the disabled. But the budget had to be cut in order to afford the expense of deploying 100,000 National Guard troops outside vineyards, to catch immigrants gathered on the edge of fields, and coming out of churches, to catch them and separate their families. And lie about it. And then slander the people who tell the truth – calling them enemies of the People.
The rains fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell – and great was its fall. Oh, how great was its fall.
The wisdom story of two houses – one built on rock and one on sand. Jesus used this story to finish a very long and very thorough description of love for one’s neighbor. Starting with Blessed Are and then reinterpreting a series of “You have heard it said,” such as, “You have heard it said an eye for an eye, but I say, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” You might call it a sermon in which Jesus used Leviticus as his text. It is a terrible falsehood to condemn the Old Testament as a book of Law and Judgment and the New Testament as a book of Grace and Love. The law is a description of the conditions for love. Love is not a feeling. Love is a verb. Love is what you do. And it includes things as impossibly big as “do not oppress your neighbors” to as astonishingly specific as “don’t insult a deaf person.”
And the point Leviticus makes throughout, all of these actions represent the holiness of God. These are not burdens to fulfill but descriptions of the love of God, to be lived through every person of faith. We are told: Be holy as your God is holy.
In fact, that is how Leviticus 19 begins: “The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them: You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.” This was not a word for the priests and those in high authority but specifically for “the whole congregation of the people of Israel.” And if you act in this way, you shall be holy, just as God is holy.
While it may seem so, holiness is not an impossible standard. It means “Your will, not my own.” We could think of it as “surrendering.” It doesn’t mean giving up but rather not trying to stand alone. Watching the news it would seem that the forces of intolerance and ignorance are attempting to wear us down and tire us out through the shock and awe of chaos. Our mistake would be to try to go it alone because on our own, we might indeed wear out. But standing together among the whole congregation of the people of God, our house shall stand and each individual in it.
Surrender might sound like giving up. And after just 4 weeks of this administration and all of its non-stop chaos, some of us are about ready. Surrender might sound like the ultimate verboten “weakness.” But surrender is joining together, finding strength in solidarity – because it’s true, we will not last if we rely on ourselves as individuals. And we can only be holy because God is holy.
The “holiness” spoken of throughout Leviticus is not an individual human achievement. Only because God is holy, can we be holy. “Your will, not my own.” But we must be clear: pursing holiness means “You must love your neighbor as yourself.” And specifically, that means: Leave behind grain for the poor. Don’t gather up all the grapes. Leave some behind for the immigrants. Pay your laborers. Don’t insult the deaf. Don’t lie or slander people. Don’t hold a grudge. Don’t stand by while your neighbor’s blood is shed. I am the Lord. Be holy as the Lord is holy. And if so, your house shall stand.
Watching the news, in some ways it looks like the house is already crumbling. And the solutions offered to fix the house are to double down and pursue every initiative that will further weaken the foundation – instead of supports for immigrants, innovative new restrictions against them; instead of supports for the poor and elderly, punishments for the crime of poverty; instead of breaking down barriers for the disabled, complaints about laws to protect them… And lies and slander. Pointing fingers and assigning blame. Then whipping that blame into suspicion and hatred of our neighbors.
Just look at the list of items in Leviticus that make for holiness and see in how many ways we are going in the opposite direction. How long can the house stand?
On one of the preaching blogs a few weeks ago a fellow preacher asked, must we have to respond every week to something new the president has done or said? His point was that doing so means the president is dictating the content of our sermons. Ironically, however, letting scripture determine the content of our sermons every week (as it should), scripture has not allowed us to ignore what happens in the world every week. It seems like God will not let us off the hook for the content of the holy word, the sacred scripture. This text from Leviticus was set for this Seventh Sunday after Epiphany long ago. I didn’t have to go looking for a counterpoint to the news today. It found us.
And it insists, as the rains fall and the floods rise and the winds blow and beat against the house: You MUST love your neighbor as yourself. You MUST love your neighbor as yourself. We MUST keep insisting on this. Every week, no matter how chaotic. If every week something is done or said to contradict this, we MUST proclaim again “Love your neighbor as yourself” which is the fulfillment of: Be holy as the Lord is holy.
But lest we point out the sliver in our neighbor’s eye instead of the log in our own, there is that little matter of hate. In verse 17, we might find ourselves comfortable in our role of protest and resistance: to “rebuke our fellow citizens so we don’t become responsible for their sin.” Pointing out injustice. It’s just that pesky sentence before it… “You must not hate your fellow citizen in their heart.” Or hold a grudge or plot revenge.
Leonard Pitts wrote an incredibly powerful column this week. A proud member of the UCC in Florida, I heard him speak at our General Synod. He often writes incredibly poignant columns and this one was no exception entitled “Mr. President: Who the hell do you think you are?” On point in so many ways about being accountable to the people. On point except in one way that is terribly tempting to all of us (or maybe just to me): Describing the president as having a furry orange head. Certainly worse things have been said. And of course Mr. and Mrs. Obama and their children were described as apes and worse. But we simply cannot harbor this kind of sentiment for our fellow citizens. We must love your neighbor as yourself. We must pray for them. Describing Mr. Trump’s physical attributes. Slut shaming Mrs. Trump. It’s tempting and fun. It’s a way of letting off steam. And it is not holy. It takes away from the just cause of immigrants and refugees. And they are not served.
Every day I have to think about what I say and post and ask if it is becoming of the holiness of God. For in every way, we must insist upon the love neighbor as our self. And if we do, our house shall stand. And the cause of the kind of open, inclusive, just and compassionate world that Jesus proclaimed will move forward without detours off into claims of false victimization, like “Everyone is being so mean to me.” No, Mr. President. You’re policies are mean and harm the very people loved by God – specifically named in the Book of Leviticus: the poor, immigrants, those who are deaf and blind, laborers. Anyone who is our neighbor.
No matter the context of that week, we must persist in proclaiming: love your neighbors as yourself. That is the only way our house shall stand while the rains come and the floods rise and we are beaten and battered by the winds of diversion – look over here while our neighbors are dragged away over there.
And so, now off to another week of chaos, ready to try to live this commandment again. And again next week, if necessary. And again, and again. Be holy as our God is holy.
 Matthew 7: 24-28
Park Hill Congregational UCC
Rev. Dr. David Bahr
February 12, 2017
“Nevertheless, She Persisted”
Matthew 15: 21-28 – New Revised Standard Version
Jesus left that place and went away to the district of Tyre and Sidon. 22 Just then a Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.” 23 But he did not answer her at all. And his disciples came and urged him, saying, “Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.” 24 He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” 25 But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” 26 He answered, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” 27 She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” 28 Then Jesus answered her, “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed instantly.
This is a marvelous story, but before studying this passage, I didn’t know that it had been handed down for centuries in African American communities because of its inspiring message of women’s persistence in the midst of humiliation. I hadn’t made the connection that the Canaanite woman is of African descent. But knowing this, I can’t help but think differently about this woman whom generations of men have described as “annoying.”
In her book Daughters of Dignity: African Women in the Bible and the Virtues of Black Womanhood, LaVerne McCain Gill calls the Canaanite woman “determined, defiant, and rebellious” – much to the annoyance of the disciples who complained bitterly about her – “she keeps shouting at us.” A woman, an unwanted outsider – a different race, language, color; a pagan, and in her own community, a nobody… But as Gill reminds us, persistence is often the only tool of the disenfranchised.
Nameless, hers is a story still based in reality today. She came seeking healing for her daughter, but a bunch of men were bothered by her. Sound familiar? They were probably complaining that health care for the poor is too expensive. They may have been annoyed that health care is not the right of this woman’s daughter because she can’t afford it. And then bothered at being forced to provide emergency room care for those too lazy to get insurance.
But she wouldn’t go away, so these men went whining to Jesus to get him to send her away. She’s a pest that keeps bothering us. But here’s what is so shocking about the story: Jesus doesn’t scold them for trying to get rid of her. What is so shocking is that Jesus didn’t rebuke the disciples but her!
Remember when the disciples tried to keep the children away? Don’t bother him. Jesus responded, “bring the little ones to me, for to them belongs the kingdom of heaven.” Yet in this case, instead of giving such a welcoming response, he makes it worse – claiming that helping her was the equivalent of throwing food to the dogs. Why should I waste my time on the likes of you?
Imagine hearing that from Jesus – the legendary healer, recognized as a deeply spiritual man. But, nevertheless, she persisted – she talked back, she argued with him – until she received what she came to get: a blessing; healing for her daughter.
But she got more than that. Matthew gives this unnamed Canaanite woman credit for changing the heart and mind of Jesus – for converting him – to a more inclusive mission than just his own people.
Gill compares the Canaanite woman with Fannie Lou Hamer. A share cropper who persisted. She wasn’t granted what she wanted. She realized the only way to get justice was to begin her own political party – the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party.
She was born in 1917, the youngest of 20 children. Like so many others, at age 6 she was picking cotton. It would appear that her life was destined to end in the fields of Mississippi, eking out a living as a sharecropper, a second-class citizen (or third or fourth class…). In her quest for freedom, Hamer endured beatings, personal terrorism, economic reprisals and death threats. Still, she persisted in taking on the racist all-white, all male, Southern Democrats. Even LBJ participated by trying to silence her, attempting to preempt her televised testimony by holding a press conference to announce a non-event. But all these tactics to stop her and silence her were no match for her thirst and determination. You may recognize her most famous quote: “I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired.”
In the encyclopedia Black Women in America, she is quoted as saying in 1965: I remember one time a man came to me after the students began to work in Mississippi, and he said the white people were getting tired and they were getting tense and anything might happen. “Well, I asked him, how long he thinks we’ve been tired. I’ve been tired for 46 years, my parents were tired before me, and their parents were tired.”
The Canaanite woman tells Jesus, I will not go away until you perform a blessing for me because I am sick and tired of being sick and tired. My people are not second class, and don’t deserve to be stuck with crumbs. Heal my daughter. By her persistence, she not only got what she sought, she planted hope in the others standing on the outside that day looking in. And her blessing extends even to us today.
During this Black History Month, I think it is of particular importance to name women of African descent who have largely remained nameless among the better known stories of men. Our world and our faith have been continuously expanded by such persistent women.
The Canaanite woman is in a line with other women of African descent in the Bible who expanded the notion of who is chosen.
Along with many others, they demonstrate that God is not and was not ever exclusively for the people of Israel. I believe Jesus knew this, but chose this particular moment to honor this particularly persistent woman. And with his incredibly shocking statement, attempted to change the minds of his stunned followers.
In our own times, the three women in the movie Hidden Figures are finally getting their due. Had you heard the names Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson before? Had you even heard their story?
And this week’s Black History Month handout: Zora Neale Hurston. I’d heard her name before but didn’t know her story.
I was particularly taken by the beginning of Hurston’s story. Her family moved to Eatonville, Florida, when she was still a toddler. Established in 1887, the rural community near Orlando was the nation's first incorporated black township. In Eatonville, Zora was never indoctrinated in inferiority. She could look all around and see the evidence of black achievement. She could look to town hall and see black men, including her father, John Hurston, formulating the laws that governed Eatonville. She could look to the schools of the town's two churches and see black women, including her mother, Lucy Potts Hurston, directing the Christian curricula. She could look to the porch of the black-owned village store and see men and women passing new worlds through their mouths in the form of colorful, engaging stories.
Later in life she suffered terrible discrimination and died penniless, but the town where she grew up was quite the contrast to black life described by the 45th president.
Remember when the candidate tried to appeal to black voters by describing their life: “Poverty. Rejection. Horrible education. No homes. No ownership. Crime. You can go to war zones in countries that we’re fighting and it’s safer than living in our inner cities,” erroneously suggesting that all African Americans live in inner cities. President 45 continued his dystopian description, “Look, it’s a disaster their living. We’ll get rid of the crime. You’ll be able to walk down the street without getting shot. Right now, you walk down the street, you get shot.”
This is not a narrative meant to care or to solve anything; this was not meant to uplift or encourage. He was simply repeating the fantasy of white supremacists. A dog whistle for the “alt-right.” A reason for the KKK to cheer. But it’s also a danger with many Black History Month vignettes – meant to uplift but making the predominant narrative of black life as one mired in suffering and humiliation and degradation instead of achievement and triumph and accomplishment.
Jesus argued with a woman who was defiant, not annoying. He debated with this woman. And it moved him. I even think it pleased him. The persistence of this nameless woman opened the way for healing, a river in the desert of oppression, a spring of fresh water for survival – not just for her daughter but for her people and all others excluded.
We owe a debt of gratitude to those who when blocked or silenced nevertheless persist; those who made and still make history for our sake – especially the nameless. And to those in our pews today who pass their legacy of civil rights on to us. There’s much for us to learn because we must remain just as “determined, defiant, and rebellious” in the face of men who are annoyed, or rather afraid, of women who speak up. Only this kind of persistence will achieve the kind of healing that continues to elude us as a nation. But which will come.
And to that task, I love Maya Angelou’s poem,
“Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
 Cleveland: Pilgrim Press, 2000
 For these and more, see http://www.biography.com/news/little-known-facts-about-black-history-20730659
 In July 1905, when she was thirty-seven years old, Sarah (her real name) and her daughter moved to Denver, Colorado, where she continued to sell products and develop her own hair-care business. Following her marriage to Charles Walker in 1906, she became known as Madam C. J. Walker and marketed herself as an independent hairdresser and retailer of cosmetic creams. (“Madam” was adopted from women pioneers of the French beauty industry.) Her husband, who was also her business partner, provided advice on advertising and promotion; Sarah sold her products door to door, teaching other black women how to groom and style their hair. In 1906 Walker put her daughter in charge of the mail order operation in Denver while she and her husband traveled throughout the southern and eastern United States to expand the business. In 1908 Walker and her husband relocated to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where they opened a beauty parlor and established Lelia College to train "hair culturists." After closing the business in Denver in 1907, A'lelia ran the day-to-day operations from Pittsburgh, while Walker established a new base in Indianapolis in 1910.