Anger, Fear… and Compassion

“The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story…”

― Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Photo of quilted blankets among other "spiritual objects" at the pulpit of the church on North Parish birthday sundayDear good people,
It’s been another hard week for humanity. Some of us have been avoiding the news or focusing on what’s in front of us. Some of us are heartbroken, scared, confused, outraged when we tune into the wider world. Some are able to compartmentalize, restrict our news diet and direct our agitated energy into helpfulness, movement, meditation or prayer of many kinds. Some are needing to double down on intentionally seeking moments of beauty or love.

One of our North Parish graduates is a first year student at Bates College in Lewiston, Maine, the location of the latest mass shooting. He is physically ok and the campus is obviously ensuring students’ safety.  But gun violence once again hits too close to home. If you are a supporter of any of the gun safety groups- Moms Demand Action or Everytown for Gun Safety or others- perhaps you can wear some orange on Sunday in case anyone else in the congregation would like to talk to you about supporting these organizations.

Meanwhile, the war continues with tragic, shifting sands every day and hostages remain kidnapped. Pundits are choosing sides and laying blame- even if they don’t have 80 years’ worth of historical knowledge under their belts. What I hope for us all is compassionate listening. I hope that those of us who are Jewish UUs or have family in Israel will feel heard and safe reaching out for support at North Parish. I hope that those of us who have friends in the Palestinian or Muslim communities reach out to them too. Simple human contacts like hugs or brief messages are so important in times of isolation and ongoing crisis… more important, I’d argue, than opinions.

A colleague of mine reminded some ministers this week of the wisdom of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie who points out the dangers of a single story.  She says, “The consequence of the single story is that it robs people of dignity. It makes our recognition of our equal humanity difficult and it emphasizes that we are different rather than how we are similar. What I wish is that every time someone is ready to opine about the war that they (we) would set aside $1 or $10, $100 or $1,000 for a humanitarian relief organization. That is something that is in our control- supporting those who are responding to intense suffering. Recognizing this, we’ll have an outreach offering on Sunday.

I know that some people “skip” the All Souls service because they think of it as a sad or “boo-hoo” service, and not everyone is comfortable shedding tears in community. Maybe Zoom is an option if you fall in that category. But I also want to remind people that there can be deep joy in remembering the gifts and loves of those who’ve died, in feeling the presence of the “cloud of witnesses” that envelops us, in the reciprocal benefits of talking to young people about caring for each other. Gathering to affirm the spirit of Love and all that we continue to find beautiful and sacred and good can help to keep us all steady.

Sometimes there just are no adequate words. So come on Sunday… for the silence, for the music, just to sit side by side.
Yours in faith,
Rev. Lee