We gather again as a congregation in a time of tremendous upheaval and challenge. The pandemic rages on, as pandemics do, and we are doing the best we can in living with this reality. This is the time in any crisis when we are at our lowest. Many social psychologists say that six months into a life-altering event is when dread and the new normalcy of living with a changed reality begins to take its toll. All of us are feeling that weariness. How are we supposed to find joy in our traditional time of rededication and renewal in our religious life as a congregation?
We will find that renewal, even as we live with this pandemic and the violence and political demagoguery that has risen up in this election season. How? We will begin by reminding ourselves of the higher values to which we are called as a religious people; compassion, acceptance, and our faith in the Spirit of Love. None of who we are as a congregation has changed. What has changed is our response to the world in which we are living. I believe that the pandemic has only accelerated a change that was already underway. The change from a world of scarcity to a world of abundance, a change from a world of fear to a world of courage. This change is already happening but you won’t see it on the news. In fact, you will see just the opposite. The change we are called to be a part of requires ten thousand acts of kindness. We can’t control the hurt of the world, but we can control how we respond to that hurt.
Starting this month we will offer a worship Service of Rededication in place of our usual Homecoming Service. The first service of our regular year was originally called a Service of Rededication, and this year, Ed and I will rededicate the symbols of our congregational life together, virtually to be sure but sacredly nonetheless. Then, on September 20th, we will begin our hybrid in-person worship services. The 9:00 AM service will be open to those who register and want to come to be together in person with strict protocols in place. The service will be limited to fifty people. We will continue with our recorded 11:00 AM service on line as well. More information on this will be coming to you in a separate email. I know that many of you are not comfortable coming to such a service. We understand. We offer this as a sign of hope that we can go on. We also hope to livestream the 9:00 am service so you can “attend” that way.
This month will also mark a new initiative on racial justice. Our renewed Racial Justice Ministry will have three parts:
- The passing of a congregational resolution taking a stand on racial justice.
- The establishment of a Racial Justice Council to help lead the congregation forward in this important work.
- The continuation and expansion of the Intercultural Developmental Inventory (IDI). This survey was used to great affect with a group from our congregation last spring under the leadership of our Intern Minister at the time Rev. Margalie Belizaire and David Vita our Social Justice Director. We will be adding two new facilitators to our team, Cheryl Dixon Paul and our new Intern Minister Kim Warman. The IDI is a very effective means to understand our own implicit bias that contributes to the system of racism in which we live. Our goal is to have the entire congregation within five years go through this process.
Ours is a challenging and dark time. There is no glossing over it. But we can live bravely through this time and grow in new and expansive ways. I leave you with this prayer from Rev. Nadia Bolz-Weber from whom I draw great strength these days:
God of many names,
We don’t know how to feel less tired.
We don’t know how to vanquish our own fears.
We don’t know how to stop being angry at stupid people on Twitter.
We don’t know how to live through a global pandemic and anti-black violence and wildfires and hurricanes and the fact that Chadwick Boseman just died.
We don’t know how to sustain the effort it takes to not completely freak out, and the effort it takes to keep from freaking out is one of the things that is making us so tired.
So we need some reminders right now.
Remind us that for every tragedy that’s “newsworthy” there are a million kindnesses, and countless acts of love that go unreported.
Remind us that there is an essential, holy, un-hurtable part of ourselves that never tires, that does not know fear, that is un-affected by other people, that cannot be irritated, that has nothing to achieve.
If taking a few deep breaths reminds us of our truest center, then nudge us to breathe. If laughing our asses off reminds us of what is most true, then nudge our friends to send funny texts. If eating a damn vegetable now and then reminds us that our bodies need us, then give us the will to make a salad.
It’s good to be with you in this life and ministry,
– Rev. John