What a week it’s been. The election and its results have sapped much of my energy and I would be happy to go hunting for a quiet cave again. Regardless of the way we each voted, I’m sure my sentiment is shared by many of you. The last 18 months have been exhausting politically so I’m sure we’re all ready for a break; I just don’t think we can afford to take one yet. We still have work to do.
I’ll be honest. When I woke up Wednesday morning, I didn’t even want to get out of bed – and I hadn’t stayed up to watch the returns. I lay in bed and looked at some of the Facebook posts from my friends and my heart sank as I read of their fears and sorrow over the result. It’s one thing to be disappointed about the loss of your candidate; it’s a whole other thing to be afraid for your safety and that of those you love. I wanted to pull the quilt over my head and forget about it all. But, then I remembered, I am a faith leader in my community. We are all ministers of the Gospel! If we’re not there with other faith leaders, who will be there to come alongside and comfort those hurting and sorrowful? God is still God and God’s promises are still real and true. So I got up and invited any of my friends who needed a safe place to talk to meet me at a coffee shop that evening. If no one came, I’d have a cup of coffee and enjoy the quiet.
My friends and colleagues did come. And we talked and shared our fears, our sorrow and our desire to help. One of my friends read a letter he received from a colleague at another college. This man wrote something like this: “I am of the demographics that elected our new President-Elect: a white, middle-aged, heterosexual male. Most of my friends, family and colleagues are LGBTQ, Muslim, Latinx, women and African American. I did not vote for him. I want you to know that I understand you are fearful. I will stand with you. I will stand in front of you. I will speak for you. I will protect you. I love you. This, I promise.” In this time, regardless of how we voted, we must stand together for all of our brothers and sisters. This is what we promised last week as we reaffirmed our Baptismal Covenant on All Saints’ Day. All means all.
Last week I wrote about those who were going to stand with our Native brothers and sisters to protect the sacred lands and water supply at Standing Rock, North Dakota. One of our own EDOMI family members was there, Jean-Pierre Seguin, a seminary student at Virginia Theological Seminary. I asked JP to share some of his experience with us:
Faith at Standing Rock:
A Reflection on the Interfaith Prayer Vigil in Support of the Standing Rock Sioux Nation
Last Wednesday I traveled to Standing Rock, North Dakota with six classmates from Virginia Theological Seminary for a day of peaceful, prayerful, and nonviolent protest in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux Nation and all the indigenous water protectors opposing the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) at the place where the Cannon Ball and Missouri Rivers converge. We joined more than five hundred fellow clergy and laypeople from twenty different denominations and faiths who traveled from across the country for the action. On Thursday morning we gathered at the sacred fire at the heart of the Oceti Sakowin camp that has burned since April. People pray, talk, dance, and sing at this sacred circle. As we entered the camp, a Sioux woman led a group in a traditional water ceremony. Once we assembled, representatives of all denominations present that had renounced the fifteenth-century Doctrine of Discovery gave copies of the document to indigenous elders to burn. The document justified European colonization of the Americas, and we pledged to honor and support indigenous people instead.
We were ceremonially smudged with smoke from the document as we marched from the camp north to the bridge where a week earlier armed state, local, and private pipeline security forces brutally attacked peaceful water protectors camping and praying in the path of the pipeline. We stood across the Cannon Ball River from the militarized police forces defending the pipeline that threatens the Standing Rock Sioux Nation, its sacred waters, and all who live downstream. The pipeline was originally routed near the majority-white state capital of Bismarck, but regulators moved it south due to water contamination concerns.
We came to bear witness, speak against the project, and pray for justice and peace. The Rev. Stephanie Spellers, Canon to the Presiding Bishop for Evangelism and Reconciliation, led us in singing “Wade in the Water.” People of many faiths spoke in support of the Sioux and their allies, standing up for their spiritual, moral, and legal right to clean water. During our event, militarized police aimed snipers at the assembled clergy from the hills and repeatedly buzzed us with a helicopter. We ended the action by passing the peace in a large circle in the sacred hills by the river.
The indigenous water protectors’ nonviolent resistance is rooted in prayer. Greg, a Sioux elder, told me that the camp needs prayers and people. For those unable to travel there, this site (http://www.standingrocksolidaritynetwork.org/about.html) created by camp residents in consultation with elders offers ways to support Standing Rock.
Please reflect on water and its central role in our scriptures and in our baptism. Pray over our baptismal covenant (BCP pg. 304) and reflect on our thanksgiving over the water at baptism (BCP pg. 306). Acknowledge the gift of the holy body of water known as the Great Lakes that surrounds Michigan and the countless lakes and rivers where we live, work, and rest. Find out who has access to clean water around you and who doesn’t. Pray and work for Flint, Detroit, Standing Rock, and all communities whose access to clean water is threatened. Honor and care for this sacred gift from God. Thank you.
November 6, 2016
You can learn more about last week’s gathering at Standing Rock in this article from Episcopal News Service – http://episcopaldigitalnetwork.com/ens/2016/11/04/peaceful-prayerful-nonviolent-stand-of-solidarity-with-the-standing-rock-sioux/
We have also received a call to stand with another group this week. Allison Duvall, Manager for Church Relations and Engagement at Episcopal Migration Ministries (EMM) sent the following letter asking for our support for refugee resettlement:
Right now, it is absolutely critical that we work together to ensure we live up to our values of welcome, serving refugees and all newcomers and setting everyone up to succeed in safety.
Refugees are an investment in our future, so please join us on Tuesday, Nov 15 at 4pm ET to learn how you can help.
Please save the date for a webinar co-hosted by the Interfaith Immigration Coalition and Refugees Welcome partners to learn how you can help ensure U.S. communities have the resources they need to help refugees integrate and thrive.
What: Responding to Refugee Crisis & Funding Shortfall in U.S. Resettlement
When: Tuesday, November 15 at 4pm ET
Where: Join here: https://join.me/faith4immigration
Register: Click here to RSVP
Right now, we are facing the largest displacement crisis in recorded history. To respond with true leadership, it is critical that the United States responds with compassion, hospitality, and welcome. Congress needs to hear that our communities around the country stand ready to welcome refugees who are looking for the chance to find safety and rebuild their lives. As Congress must pass a spending package by December 9, now is the time for interfaith partners to speak up to ensure any spending measure robustly funds programs to welcome and integrate refugees.
Join us on Tuesday, November 15 at 4pm ET to learn how you can help. All faith communities are needed to act in a united way in the midst of this critical moment for refugee resettlement and funding.
Please share this invitation across your networks and encourage them to take action! Feel free to email Meredith Owen at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.
Manager for Church Relations and Engagement
We all remember what our President-Elect has said about refugees in the past so it is vital that we take this time to speak out for them before he comes to office. Please make time to participate in the webinar and then reach out to your members of Congress in support of refugee resettlement.
Bishop Gibbs’ post-election letter is a good reminder of “where we go from here:”
Some folks are angry. Many feel hurt, afraid and betrayed. Others are struggling with what to say – how to explain – to children, grandchildren, or friends in countries around the world about the results of the 2016 presidential election. Clearly, there are folks who are joyful; people who feel gratified, confident and maybe even vindicated. Others are excitedly sharing with their progeny that the democratic process works.
The gift of our free society is that we reinforce the inevitability that there will be winners and losers every time we go to the ballot box. The difference this time is that the rhetoric of the campaign was particularly ugly and divisive. The tenor of the now completed election cycle cannot be condoned. It is time to move beyond it.
Michelle Obama said, “our motto is: when they go low, we go high”. She and President Obama understand that our children and our grandchildren are watching us. My own grandparents used to put it this way; “little pictures have big ears,” meaning that what adults say/do is heard/absorbed by the younger generation. Thus, our leadership matters! What we say and do, matters! How we respond in adversity and in blessing will witness to those who must lead in the future. While another of the gifts of our free society is the right to protest, let our protests be tools to promote justice for all and not weapons that further divide. The protesters who gather in cities across our nation remind us of our strength as a community, as well as the fragility of our humanity. We must cautiously and intentionally seek to separate the right to peaceful and lawful protest from our anger and upset, and, ashamedly for some, our susceptibility to be drawn into violent acts when we feel unheard.
In the church, we have a set of guiding principles to help us remember the correct path forward. The baptismal covenant asks: “will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself”; and, “will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?” We respond to each question: “I will, with God’s help.”
Politicians and their promises are not our holy grail! Our savior is the loving Christ. In Christ, we are called to seek, support and respect justice, peace and the inherent human dignity of all. That was our call before the election; that is our call immediately following the election; that is our call tomorrow and beyond.
My friends, we all must get beyond our grief and our elations. We must work together in Christ for the sake of one another. We must come to embrace the motto of our First Family: “when they go low, we go high.”
Be a positive witness for good for the next generations and know that you do not walk alone: you walk with Jesus.
+Wendell N. Gibbs, Jr.
We have work to do. This is no time to hide away. Today, Veterans’ Day, as we remember those who have stood courageously for our freedom, let us stand. Let us stand together to protect, to speak, to love. Let us promise.
Let us pray –
Today mourning and celebration commingle.
Jubilation and heartache are juxtaposed
In neighborhoods where lawns proclaimed
Support for different candidates, on Facebook walls
And Twitter streams where clashing viewpoints meet.
Grant us awareness of each others’ hopes and fears
Even across the great divides of red state and blue state,
Urban and rural. Open us to each others’ needs.
Purify our hearts so that those who rejoice do not gloat
And those who grieve do not despair.
Strengthen our ability to be kind to one another
And to ourselves. Awaken in us the yearning
To build a more perfect union. Let us roll up our sleeves
Whether today we feel exultation or sorrow, and together
Shape a nation of welcome and compassion.
Let ours be a land where no one need fear abuse
Or retribution, where every diversity is celebrated,
Where those who are most vulnerable are protected.
May bigotry and violence vanish like smoke.
May compassion prevail from sea to shining sea. Amen.
By Rabbi Rachel Barenblat
~ The Rev. Judith Schellhammer, chair, Resolution Review Committee