“Don’t tell me ‘it’s going to be OK’ if you have not had to look into my frightened children’s eyes. Make it OK, work with us in making it OK, and then tell me that it is OK.”
– Omid Safi, Director of Duke University’s Islamic Studies Center for On Being.
“But seriously, church, how are we prepared to minister to those who are frightened right now — and whose country has shown them that they have reason to be? How will we stand with and for them? It is not simply about one beloved child of God; it is about the behaviors and attitudes that have now been legitimized that have other children of God living in fear“
– The Rev. T. Denise Anderson, Co-Moderator PC(USA) on her blog, SOULa Scriptura
Like others we have been feeling a maelstrom of emotions this last week, but we have found hope in the knowledge — and profound experience as the days have gone on — that we are not alone. What should perhaps be obvious — that there are millions of other people thinking through what has happened and what happens now — seemed strangely elusive for us in the exhaustion and darkness of Tuesday night. It took our brother David Dark to remind us how a William Stafford poem, “A Ritual To Read Each Other”, that we had chosen years ago for our marriage celebration could help us to see now the fragility of the bonds of discernment and care that hold people together and the need to nurture and protect these with vigilance.
Among the multitude of people we have turned to, Rev. Anderson (@thesouldstepford) and Omid Safi (@ostadjaan) are particularly powerful voices — in the leadership of our denomination and in our wider interfaith community, respectively — who have informed our conversations. We have gratefully received their wisdom and prophetic voices, faithfully grounded in painful reality, deep honesty, and real hope. Both call us to wakefulness and away from denial; to listening rather than avoidance; to action rather than wishful, fantasist thinking; and to protection of others, not passive complicity. Both invite us with urgency to repentance, resistance, and courage. We encourage you to spend time with their words via the links above.
We write this having just joined an event in Centennial Park organized by Renata Soto (@renatasototn) of Conexion Americas to launch a local solidarity campaign with the message “We’ve Got Your Back.” It was encouraging to find ourselves on a beautiful fall afternoon surrounded by a diverse crowd of friends and strangers seeking to begin communicating this message to vulnerable fellow Nashvillians. Ms. Soto told the gathered crowd that while there are hard days ahead, it is important right now to love one another well, which prepares us for the future and is its own act of resistance. You can read more about this initiative and associated future actions here. In conversations around the event, we heard of the deep fear, trauma and confusion being felt by our city’s most marginalized children in recent days.
We are also turning to you, our church. It is for us as a congregation to explore how best to protect the vulnerable from current threats, discrimination, and targeted violence. DPC is full of people who seek to reach those who need help, and we have long-term strategic partner organizations committed to the most marginalized in our city. We can, and must, now re-imagine such outreach to include the intentional embrace and protection of people within our congregation and in our community who are experiencing fear. We must commit ourselves to the spiritual disciplines of prayer, self-care and other-care. There has been much in this week to tempt us to despair. But the gospel of Jesus calls us – and God’s love empowers us – to resist despair, to resist denial as the avoidance of despair, and to act together with courageous hope.
Peace Be With You,
Cary Gibson & Joel Dark.