Greetings, dear community.
When I last sat at my computer to write a reflection for the Whistler, it was February, and we were heading into the season of Lent. My writing that day used as a springboard Thomas Merton’s report of the mystical moment when he became aware of his deep love for all people despite the myth of separateness that we are taught at a very young age. As he wrote in Confessions of a Guilty Bystander, “In Louisville, at the corner of Fourth and Walnut, in the center of the shopping district, I was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all these people, that they were mine and I theirs, that we could not be alien to one another even though we were total strangers. It was like waking from a dream of separateness, of spurious self-isolation in a special world.”
When I reflected on those words in February, I never imagined how our Spring would unfold. I never would have pictured us plunging into pandemic, living oddly physically isolated lives while connecting (sometimes deeply, sometimes exhaustingly) via technology. I also wouldn’t have predicted the turmoil we would all experience as a result of a specific act (the murder of George Floyd) and a systemic brokenness (the white supremacy that permeates our national culture whether we feel comfortable acknowledging it or not), though a strong argument could be made that any of us who were truly surprised by what we saw on the video that shocked the world were living in a protected bubble of our own whiteness. If you’re not sure that’s true, consider asking a person of color in your life if their surprise matched yours. I suspect you’ll find that they were not surprised at all, though deeply saddened and angry.
Our congregation has been addressing our new reality as best as we can. We have attempted to support one another in this time of distancing, honoring the reality of the virus and loving one another by protecting each other through safe practices. As regards racism, I sense a shift in our internal dialogue. We have always been a congregation that has been willing to address and speak against the racism that we see in the world; through tender, difficult practice we are learning to acknowledge and seek to be healed of the internalized racism that lurks within us, as well. A group of us are gathering virtually with Robin Major, who is leading us in new ways of understand how racism has impacted even us, living as we do in a place without a great deal of visible racial diversity. We’re working together to uncover and undo our own subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) hidden assumptions, fears, and emotions around issues of race and the ways we have benefitted from the culture of white supremacy.
As we face the divisions in our country, whether those divisions be about how we should handle reopening our society in the midst of a still-active pandemic or about how we can truly cleanse our own hearts and our national heart from the evil of racism, we each are called to engage in new and challenging ways. As a church, I hope we can be moved by Merton’s vision; I hope we can be converted to love that goes beyond divisions. And yes, his mystical vision of the light emanating from all of the people he saw was a true conversion moment. It was a moment of transformation, and what we all know is that to be transformed, we have to let go of the old way. The death of the old way always and everywhere accompanies the birth of that which is new, and that’s why transformation is so frightening.
I don’t know what’s next for our village and our world as we go through the birth pangs that this age calls forth. I believe that change is possible, and that resurrection does happen to individuals and to communities. I hope that, like Merton, we’ll find ourselves overwhelmed with a sense of powerful, shining love for and radical kinship with all people. Let us support one another in the time of transformation with fearless constancy, a willingness to listen to unfamiliar voices, and reminders of the fact that through it all, we are never alone.
May it be so for you and for me.
Yours in resurrection faith,