Saturday, August 16, 2014

An Unexpected Oasis

The last few days have been a surreal crescendo in an awful week of one of the most personally difficult stretches in my life. On Sunday morning, I woke up and found I could do little but sob and ask why. I ranted (and honestly have not stopped), but honestly...felt absolutely crushed by the impotence of my rage.

I decided with little deliberation that I would visit a friend's church about an hour away in the mountains south of Charlottesville. I am not, by any estimation, a religious person, but the friends who run this little Episcopal church have cultivated one of the most open and welcoming congregations of thinkers around.

As I sat in the pew, a woman sitting in front of me (she was at least 80 if not 90 years young) gently turned and whispered to me every time the congregation took up a hymn or a reading in the Book of Common Prayer. She correctly guessed that I was totally out of my element and needed a little help with the details.

I also cried...a lot, and though I was embarrassed in this room full of strangers, I got nothing but
compassionate smiles, unsolicited hugs, and another helpful tip from the sweet woman in front of me ("there's a box of tissues at the end of each pew").

All of this would have been enough to soothe my hurts -- the frighteningly manic feeling that I just could not take anymore news about war, injustice, hatred, the deaths of children, sexual assaults, environmental devastation, disease, poverty, hunger, and more AND the knowledge that my ethical principles will now allow me to "tune out" -- but the sermon spoke PRECISELY to what I was feeling. I do not believe this is coincidence. And I think some of what I heard that morning is worth sharing with those of you who may also be struggling to reconcile what we see in our world and the belief that what is good and right will prevail.

Thank you to the folks at Grace Episcopal Church, Massies Mill and the Rev Marion Kanour, you have helped me more than you know.

An excerpt from the sermon by the Rev. Marion E. Kanour:
Perhaps the whole world has gone mad. It can surely seem that way at times. Is it folly to believe in Love’s power to redeem, to make whole, to heal? Are we fools to believe we make a difference in helping mercy, compassion and peace find places to incarnate in today’s world? What if we gave up trying? What if we turned out backs on our baptismal vows, turned a deaf ear to the cry of the poor and the oppressed? What if we folded the Nelson County Domestic Violence Task Force or stopped offering our Thankful Thursday dinners or stopped our knitting group meetings? Would it matter?

I believe whenever we celebrate the power of a loving community we increase our own awareness of the difference Love can make in our own lives and in our world.

It matters that our historic building is here. But what matters more is the community that gathers within its walls. We CAN BE and OFTEN ARE an oasis of joy and love and a catalyst for social justice and compassion. There’s only one requirement: never give up on the transforming power of Love in own lives and in the world. All we can impact is our own small part of the vineyard. May we continue to strive together for mercy, compassion, peace and justice here and now that we might be an outward and visible sign of the inward and spiritual grace that abides.

J. Nikol Beckham, Ph.D. is the Assisant Professor of Communication Studies & Service Learning Coordinator at Piedmont Virginia Community College in Charlottesville VA

No comments: