Midweek Faith Lift
Sept. 30, 2020
Ask Rev Deb
Rev. Deb Hill- Davis
Last week I had the joy to serve as the Master of Ceremonies for the Great Lakes Region’s Online Fall Conference. The theme was : 2020 Vision: Re-Imagining Spiritual Community and it about knocked my socks off because it was the spiritual jump start that I had been needing and missing for some time. Just before the conference began on Monday, Jim Trenberth sent me this question which at that time seemed overwhelming and impossible to give a meaningful response.
This November, the people of the United States will elect a president and many others to public office. This election occurs in a time of global pandemic, a time when there is hardship, sickness, suffering and death. But this election also occurs in a time of great divisions. Divisions that are deep, dangerous, and potentially injurious to democracy. So what is the role of the church in the context of an election being held in a time such as this? What is our role as individual followers of Jesus Christ committed to his way of love in such a time as this?
Well throughout the Conference, I encountered ideas, challenges and statements which gave me pause and an opportunity to reflect on the question Jim sent me last weekend.
Our first speaker was Rev. Jim Lee who was previously at Rennaissance Unity in Detroit for many years. He was my ordaining Minister in 2021 and at that ceremony, he authorized us to say the name “JEE-SUHHHH-SUUUUUS using at least 9 syllables….no kidding! And he told us that we needed to think clearly about how we would respond whenever our future congregants or boards pushed us to do something, say something out of integrity. He called it our “One Move” that would be our response, and if we practiced it well, it would be our only move! I like to think of it like Henry McCord said it in Madame Secretary:
Henry McCord~ in Madame Secretary:
When *every*thing seems to be lacking in integrity, you know what you do? You find it in yourself. You change the world right from where you're standing.
And friends, I believe that is what we are meant to do. On Tuesday morning, Jim started his session by having us repeat together:
“My God what a fantastic time to be alive!” AND HE MEANT IT!! And he had us all repeat it together, several times. So let’s do that together….
MY GOD WHAT A FANTASTIC TIME TO BE ALIVE!!
Now I am going to go ahead and share some more of what Rev. Jim shared to answer Jim Trenberth’s questions.
One thing he said was to affirm his strong belief in our first Unity Principle: There is ONLY ONE Presence and ONE Power in my life and in the Universe, God the Good, Omnipotence. For this Black Unity minister, he has to affirm that in the presence of the murder of George Floyd and Brianna Taylor. His powerful affirmation of God, of Goodness, of Love being present even in the face of these awful events was both humbling and inspiring.
Then he said something that really stuck with me: “Wholeness emerges through the relationship of the parts.” I am going to say that again: “Wholeness emerges through the relationship of the parts.” My how that resonated with me! I had been operating on the assumption that Wholeness is just there and our task is to discover it and see it and embrace it. Instead, wholeness is a process, an emerging that happens through relationship….how all the parts are in relationship to one another is the process through which wholeness emerges!
So here we are, a part of a greater whole, and how we relate to all the parts in that whole is the path through which wholeness will emerge. That made me look at my “Partness” and really question what and how I am contributing to the emerging wholeness. There is no judgment in this, just discernment and getting comfortable with being in the question.
If there is anything the church is called to do right now, to answer the question, it seems to me that the task is to become comfortable with not knowing, comfortable with being in the questions and to create a container, a safe place for allowing questions to emerge without rushing to answers or solutions too quickly.
Jim Lee used the word “Interindependent” which to me captures the complexity of the moment we now inhabit. He used the words allowing, vulnerability (which we in the west do not like) curiosity and humility. What he said was most needed right now is that we hold space for empathy, and for our first Unity Principle! My God what an amazing time to be alive!
The perspective is that God is orchestrating us, that all of 2020 is awakening us and our response is to proceed as the way opens. We need open minds, open hearts and open wills….to lean in and listen and choose how we will show up. He told a powerful story about “harvester ants” who separately are not too smart. However, collectively, they are able to do amazing things like use their bodies to build bridges to get across water, to find food, to take care of one another. We need to learn from the harvester ants, doing what we can to care for one another. We need more ministry and less church….which is the path that we at Unity of Ames have been following. We are not a building, we are a spiritual community of little harvester ants whose collective wisdom, consciousness and work can do great things.
The bottom line for Jim, a Black Unity Minister, is to consider all the events that are before him with affirmation and consciousness that “There is ONLY God happening. How do I look at this with love and let it be a path that draws me into my higher self?” What a powerful question that is for all of us, isn’t it? How is it that in these circumstances, there is ONLY God happening!”
I also learned that I am a “digital immigrant” which means that all the tech speak, social media, .org and .com are not my native language! THAT IS SO TRUE
And finally, in answer to this question was a scripture from Isaiah 43:19
19 I am about to do a new thing;
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
and rivers in the desert. (NRSV)
I also want to share with you some insights and spiritual resources for spiritual guidance from Fr. Richard Rohr in his Sept 19, 2020 blog post:
These sources come from Etty Hillesum (1914 – 1943), the young Jewish woman who suffered much more injustice in the concentration camp than we are suffering now; Psalm 62, which must have been written in a time of a major oppression of the Jewish people; and the Irish Poet, W.B.Yeats (1965 – 1939), who wrote his “Second Coming” during the horrors of the World War I and the Spanish Flu pandemic.
Let us begin with Etty Hillesum, (1914-1943) :
There is a really deep well inside me. And in it dwells God. Sometimes I am there, too … And that is all we can manage these days and also all that really matters: that we safeguard that little piece of You, God, in ourselves.
—Etty Hillesum, Westerbork transit camp
Note her second-person usage, talking to “You, God” quite directly and personally. There is a Presence with her, even as she is surrounded by so much suffering.
Then, the perennial classic wisdom of the Psalms:
In God alone is my soul at rest.
God is the source of my hope.
In God I find shelter, my rock, and my safety.
Men are but a puff of wind,
Men who think themselves important are a delusion.
Put them on a scale,
They are gone in a puff of wind.
It’s no wonder the mental and emotional health among a large portion of the American population is in tangible decline! We have wholesale abandoned any sense of truth, objectivity, science or religion in civil conversation; we now recognize we are living with the catastrophic results of several centuries of what philosophers call nihilism or post-modernism (nothing means anything, there are no universal patterns).
We are without doubt in an apocalyptic time (the Latin word apocalypsis refers to an urgent unveiling of an ultimate state of affairs). Yeats’ oft-quoted poem “The Second Coming” then feels like a direct prophecy. See if you do not agree:
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Thank you Fr. Richard Rohr!
Our challenge and our charge in this sad time must be to stand firm in the the Divine Center, holding it and fully occupying it ourselves. In our prayer and meditation we can “safeguard that little piece of You, God,” as Etty Hillesum describes it. We hold firmly to our first Unity Principle as we see God in everything that is before us and hold to the Universe continues to unfold God and we show up, like the ants, to do our part. This is no small part especially when we all hold this space together. “My God what a FANTASTIC time to be ALIVE!!”
Blessings on the Path,