From your Pastor

My fellow servants in Christ,

Life is returning back to a sense of normalcy. It’s not what it used to be or what we long for, but the most recent cause of upending our lives (the wildfires) are no longer directly impacting our lives. When we leave our home we pass by one of the smaller burn areas and give thanks that the fire went West instead of East. When I take my youngest son to preschool, we pass by another burn area. We give thanks that the firefighters were able to protect so many homes and his school. Part of me is waiting for the other shoe to drop: will it be the big earthquake, a record breaking snow/ice/wind storm, or some other disaster I cannot begin to imagine? This year has been unusual, to say the least, and I find myself clinging to God for strength and comfort.

My heart is broken right now for our brothers and sisters of color and those who feel increased anxiety and fear with protests and calls for change. I recognize that I am a privileged white woman and that no matter how hard I try, I cannot fully understand what people of color experience. Last night protestors took to the streets throughout our country. Protestors were upset and disappointed that the police officers involved in the death of Breonna Taylor were not indicted in her death. Sadly, two police officers were shot in Louisville and riots occurred in many cities including Portland. I do not condone the violence, in fact, it makes me angry. I cannot begin to understand the hurt, anger, or desperation that compels so many to take to the streets in peaceful protests day after day after day calling for reform, justice, and equality.

 As you might expect, the Bible has something to say to us today:

Isaiah 1:17 (ESV)—“Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.”

Micah 6:8 — “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

Romans 12:15-18 — “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.”

Matthew 7:12 — “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the law and the prophets.”

I John 3:17-18 — “But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.”

Go ahead and get angry about the protests but also get angry that God’s will is not being done. Get angry that people of color do not feel safe, even in their own homes. Get angry that there is not social justice for all. Wikipedia defines social justice as “a concept of fair and just relations between the individual and society, as measured by the distribution of wealth, opportunities for personal activity and social privileges.” Get angry that God’s children are not bringing justice or speaking for those whose voices have been suppressed.

Anna Bright, a minister and educator in Walterboro, SC, wrote on protests and social justice in her local newspaper, Walterborolive.com. “When any group in society is oppressed or suffering and is constantly denied the privileges and rights of the institutions that the majority enjoys, it is social injustice. Therefore, it is unfair and will ultimately lead to contention, discord and uprisings, such as what we are seeing now across the globe. A lack of basic human rights, systemic racism, police brutality, a broken criminal justice system, a disparity in funding of public schools, unequal access to healthcare and religious oppression are among the many social injustices that are in dire need of attention in order to ensure freedom, justice, and equality for all citizens in America. Sin is sin, no matter who commits it; therefore, social injustice is wrong and should not be tolerated because the Word says, ‘But glory, honor and peace, to every man that works good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile: For there is no respect of persons with God.’” (Romans 2:10-11)

Hang in there and keep the faith. This year has been rough and we do not yet know what our world will look like on the other side but we know that God has not and will not abandon us. Together, with God, we will get through this and I pray that our world will look a little more like the Kingdom of God for all.

Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556) was a Spanish Basque Catholic priest and theologian who co-founded the religious order called the Society of Jesus, more commonly known as the Jesuits. You can learn more about his amazing life at https://www.ignatianspirituality.com/ignatian-voices/st-ignatius-loyola/. He developed a practice called the daily examen in which one would spend time in the morning and evening reflecting. He believed these daily reflections were a gift directly from God, a way to experience God’s presence in daily life.

Our bishop has been using a modified version of Daily Examen throughout this year and invited us pastors to join her in this discipline through the end of the year. In light of all that has happened recently, I have decided to join her and my colleagues in what Bishop Laurie Larson Caesar calls The 5-Minute Journal. I invite you to join with me in this discipline and discover how God is meeting you and blessing you even in this difficult year.

Here are the questions for the journal:

Every morning take 5 minutes to note:

3 gratitudes

3 things that would make today great

An affirmation for the day: I am . . .

Every evening take five minutes to note:

3 amazing things that happened today

3 things that could have made today better

I have heard from some of you questions about returning to worship in the sanctuary. I know that some churches are gathering in person for worship. I know that you long to gather in our church with one another and joyfully worship God. I long for that too. I know that some of you are concerned with the future of our church if we continue to not hold in-person worship services. I share that concern too. I do not have a good answer for when we will resume worship in our sanctuary again. Our bishop continues to advise us not to hold in-person services. Our governor continues to discourage in person gatherings. Scientists continue to list churches as high risk activities and the likelihood of increased spread this winter. Our congregation is older and at higher risk. It is not easy and I do not like it but I believe that with modern technology it is better to worship over Zoom than risk the health or even life of one person. If you have ideas on how we can better support those of you who do not use Zoom, please let me know.

Pastor Jennifer Beil