With the news pouring out of Afghanistan, with the continued appalling lack of unified response to Covid-19 and climate change the pandemic of racism, not since 9/11 have we felt our nation immersed in such collective trauma.
Unfortunately, trauma rarely brings out the best in us… especially long, protracted trauma like the last 20 months have been. Some of you have read the latest post by author and activist Adrienne Maree Brown. If you haven’t, we highly recommend it. She writes, “It’s all crumbling, concurrently. We are living through both the devastating fall of systems that guarantee life, and the necessary fall of systems that uphold violence.”
In her article she also describes a counter-cultural antidote to all this calamity: collective action. This, beloveds, is what we participate in every day as a covenantal faith community. No matter how hard it is in every other corner of our lives, no matter how hard it is to “do church” in our particular congregational way, being a church these past 20 months has been a counter-cultural act of salvation. This is not about UCUCC engaging in social justice action to change the world. This is UCUCC being exactly who we’ve always been: committed to a collective identity and our commitment, our covenant, to love one another and love God.
The heart of congregationalism is not that we believe the same thing, but that we are committed to walking this path together as one community that is “believing, seeking, and doubting.” We are a congregation with a variety of concerns and points of view. We are a community that includes people and families who have, in the past, expressed concerns over vaccines. We are a community that includes people and families who are not left-of-center politically. What unites us, is that above our individual perspectives or beliefs, we are committed to being a congregation together.
We’re not getting everything right. But we’re holding our common good over the interests of the few. We’re not perfect by any means. That’s not remotely the point. We aren’t committed to being right– we’re committed to grace, to confession, to reconciliation, to re-membering the Family of God. And this is how we’re heading into a fall season of worship and continuing change and trauma.
Our Emergence Survey (if you haven’t taken it, please do!) reveals that despite our differences, in our congregation 100% of those who can be vaccinated are fully vaccinated. It also shows us that this still leaves about 25% of our congregation vulnerable due to the inability to take the vaccine or because a medical condition makes the vaccine ineffective. Throughout the survey results, folks demonstrate a deep care for the whole community rather than a prioritization of their individual wants and needs. Adrienne Maree Brown writes, “Thinking that your choices only impact you or those you immediately know – that you needn’t be concerned with or accountable for the results – is supremacist thinking at the root” and our congregation is demonstrating the opposite: by showing our care for the most vulnerable in our community, we are participating in a counter-cultural and anti-supremacist narrative. What the survey has shown so far is not just reflective of our individual experiences this past year with Covid-19, but a deep reflection of who we’ve been for years. We are a congregation that believes in following the ways of Jesus’ radical love.
In the midst of all the bad news you hear, this too is true: there is a community that is committed to remembering you. There is a community that is committed to collective acts of love. There is a community that believes God is present in the darkness before dawn. There is a community that is committed to being present with you in these times… and you are a part of that community. Your love and care, your voice, your grief, your rage, your struggle, your joy, your contribution to our collective being matters.
In our Christian tradition we remember Luke 10:27; “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.”
In the hardest moment of these times, choose love. Remember love. Practice love. Be loved. With all your soul. With all your strength, with all your mind, love God. Love your neighbor. And love yourself. And in fulfilling this commandment, we find our salvation.