I had lunch with a colleague where we discussed our shared sense that we have been writing the same newsletter column month after month since last fall. The focus might change but we are constantly confronted with one crisis or another, whether a natural disaster or human conflict and violence. In just the last couple weeks, Puerto Rico has been wiped out by a hurricane, Mexico is reeling from multiple earthquakes, members of a church in Tennessee were attacked by a gunman as they gathered for worship, ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, and the U.S. and North Korea are engaged in nuclear brinkmanship. But the story garnering the headlines is the President of the United States name calling of black American professional athletes who knelt during the national anthem. One headline to come up on my cell phone’s feed was from a Fox News editorial stating that black athletes should focus on fostering constructive conversations about race rather than kneeling during the national anthem. I give credit to Fox News for naming the real issue—it is not about “disrespecting the flag” as many argue. It is about drawing attention to the realities of racism in our country. I also agree that constructive conversations about race and racism are badly needed. First among those who are responsible for leading these conversations are our political leaders, including the President. Calling black American athletes who kneel during the national anthem “sons of b******”, in contrast to his restraint and mixed messages in condemning White Supremacist and Neo-Nazi protesters in Charlottesville, does not foster a constructive conversation about race. In fact, it increases the divisions and fosters violence in rhetoric and action. As a religious leader and a person of faith, I believe this to be irresponsible and a failure of leadership.
ALL-CONGREGATIONAL RETREAT: THIS Saturday September 30th from 9 am to 3:30 pm. The Standing Committee, the Committee on Ministry and I invite, encourage and request that everyone who can, attend this retreat, facilitated by the Rev. Dr. Larry Peers. Larry facilitated two retreats with us about 10 years ago that led to our current First Parish Covenant. It is time to look it again as a congregation and see where we are. The specific goals are of the retreat are to:
* Explore what we have learned from our congregation’s story of living this covenant.
* Listen deeply to one another and to what calls to us now in our congregation and the local areas we serve as well as the changing world around us.
* Determine what we need to carry into the future and what we may need to do differently moving forward.
* Discern some ways for moving forward into our immediate future as a Parish.