A pastor navigates questions of identity

Malcolm Johnson

Malcolm Johnson 1975 –

Born in Nova Scotia to a single mother, Malcolm was adopted by Steve and Edie Johnson, a white couple who joined the Bruderhof when he was five. As a teen, he left home in Connecticut and moved in with friends of the community in the Deep South. He spent the next several years there, going to school and figuring out who he was and where he belonged. “I’d always thought of myself as black, of course, but now people were telling me, ‘You talk white.’ Those were important years, connecting with my roots as a black person, and formulating my own thoughts on what I wanted to do with my life.”

After high school, Malcolm returned to the Bruderhof and is now a pastor. Today, he and his wife, Michelle, and their four children live in a community house in Kingston, New York. Now he finds himself helping his children navigate questions of identity: 

Who you are matters. If you’re not free to be yourself, you’re not a complete individual. You have to be true to who God made you, and everybody was made different. People who check their heritage at the door and try to be like everyone else around them are doing themselves and the others a disservice. That’s why I tell my kids, “Be proud of who you are – that your father is black, and your mother white.” 

If you use your freedom selfishly, you will destroy community. Martin Luther King Jr. didn’t just talk about all men being equal, but about them becoming brothers. I think community is one of the best ways to work toward that.

Coached by his teacher, a young falconer learns to master himself – and his hawk.

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