The following is a Pastoral Letter to the churches of the Massachusetts Conference of the United Church of Christ from Rev. Don Remick, our Transitional Interim Conference Minister. I commend it to you as a source of solace and inspiration during these challenging days.
See you in church,
To the Churches of the Massachusetts Conference, UCC:
The news kept coming.
11 people killed in a mass shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh.
Two African Americans shot at a Kroger’s by a man who had just tried to break into a predominantly black membership church.
Pipe bombs mailed to politicians, media and celebrities.
And while a ballot question on transgender rights is posed in Massachusetts the current administration nationally pondered a policy to narrowly define gender.
“The enormity of the world’s grief”, so strongly and poignantly felt when violence is done, in word and deed, because of
Religion; targeting Jewish worshippers at a Synagogue, an expression of a growing dangerous trend toward anti-Semitism and hate based on religious identity.
Race; targeting random African American shoppers, an expression of growing violence against people of color.
Political ideology; targeting outspoken critics of the behavior and policies of the current administration; an expression of a spreading incivility that spills over into hurtful and hateful behavior.
Gender orientation; targeting anyone outside of the heterosexual male/female binary ‘norm’. This is an expression of a frightening oppression of people for who they are.
“Do not be daunted” came the words in the echo chambers of social media. Good and wise words in this time of perpetual grief. Do not be daunted. Do not let the constant flow numb or overwhelm you. We are a people of faith whose hearts rise to the need.
In a world of enormous and overwhelming grief we are called to be people and churches of civility and safety. Not a refuge to escape from the world, but the proverbial yeast that can leaven the whole loaf. We are called to hear, learn from, and magnify the voices and experiences of those targeted for pain.
So, let us be people and churches who are about God’s work.
First, Pray. Prayer has been bantered about a lot of late. Too many people have seen prayer as a mask for inaction that perpetuates status quo. Prayer is not about handing over our concerns to God, so we can go about our daily business. It is not about putting a band-aid on a festering, infected wound. At its deepest, prayer is about a transformational relationship which always begins with the one who prays. It calls us individually and collectively to do the deep soul-searching work, before our God, of examining our contribution to the problem. Prayer is not about illusions of hope or fear, though God always welcomes those cries from the heart. Yet, beyond that, it is about surrendering and opening to the presence of God that can change a human heart, beginning with yours, which in turn can change the world. So…Pray.
Then Vote. This is not about voting for a particular political party. It is about choosing wisely and faithfully those candidates who can bring safety and civility into the world. Put your faith into action and vote.
And then, Act. Political polarization in our churches can be paralyzing. And we wonder how to get past that. Keep wondering. What are you and your church called to do in your community, your places of work and your homes? How can you connect with, stand with and learn from communities within your community who are most impacted by these words and deeds? How can you be a presence and a voice for safety and civility; a presence and voice that condemns violence in all its forms? What public action or activity can you create or participate in to fully exemplify your faith? What are you already doing well that you can share as a resource for others?
Because I believe that Living the Love and Justice of Jesus can transform our people, parishes and planet I commend to you these words:
“We are not sent into this world mainly to enjoy the loveliness therein,
nor to sit down in passive ease;
no, we were sent here for action.
The soul that seeks to do the will of God with a pure heart, fervently,
does not yield to the lethargy of ease.”
Rev. Don Remick
Transitional Interim Conference Minister
Massachusetts Conference, United Church of Christ