They arrived in the mail wrapped with impressive packaging and even more impressive instructions. These binocs aren't simply to be put up to the eye. No, there's a two-step focusing procedure to be done first - the center and the diopter must be properly focused.
I wondered if all that prep was really necessary as I peered across our little inlet to watch the terns circle and dive. I didn't see much need for the hyper-focus; I had bought them because they looked cool and I wanted to take them on our holiday.
It got worse when James Fields intentionally drove his Dodge Challenger into a group of counter protesters killing Heather Heyer, and seriously wounding 19 others. Fields has been jailed on homicide charges. Heather was buried two days later and a memorial foundation begun. http://heatherheyerfoundation.com/
This all happened on a Saturday and the bishop of the Diocese of Maryland immediately denounced what happened and challenged churches to respond with similar outcries. http://www.christchurchcolumbia.org/parish-life/a-message-from-bishop-eugene-taylor-sutton/
People of faith needed outlets or a way to understand, not be passive, or be afraid of this dark occurrence.
So I went to the village church on that Sunday expecting and hoping for some statement. (The binoculars left behind in our cabin but issues of seeing clearly still very present.)
|Jesus waiting for you at the door.|
Now this country church (I'd been there before) has a congregation comprised completely of senior citizens. I don't think there was anybody there under 70. The pastor is a genial man who has turned the musical program over to a younger whiz who flips switches with gospel recordings. It makes for an impromptu warmth and support for the members which is infectious, if occasionally odd. "Joys and Concerns", though, went as far as being happy about the turnout at the pancake breakfast and was there "enough rain for my tomatoes."
|Cushions awaiting older churchgoers.|
I wondered about the personal judgment I'd walked in with and my focus for worship. There was no reason these innocent people should rally around my concern. No reaction to the Charlottesville tragedy to be found here, it seemed. Surely, though, we'd get to the Nazis in the sermon, I figured.
The pastor's message was solid although in parts it sounded downloaded from canned resources - but you couldn't bridle his enthusiasm for wanting to deliver on the theme of "overcoming your fear." The gospel was about Jesus walking on water and from that he abstracted we fear walking on water too...and many other things.
Certainly, a consoling message about fear of white supremacists or the consequences of standing up for justice was at hand. But no. And it occurred to me that this church was a lifeboat getting passengers to the far shore. They weren't much interested in immediate events other than the journey on this barque together.
As dear evidence of that, during announcements, one woman said she was returning to Texas. She apparently summered in Maine among this little community. "Well, we'll look forward to seeing you in the spring, huh?" said Pastor Charlie. "No", she said, "this will be my last trip." There was a brief silence - hanging like a wreath in the air. Everyone knew what that meant. Eyes cast down, Pastor Charlie concluded and transitioned with, "Well, you will be in our prayers." Using this occasion as a lens and means of focus the entire service was intended to bind the sick and fortify the fainthearted.
I absently fumbled with my reading glasses going through the motions of arranging my binoculars aware that I was privileged to witness this sight. There was some clarity at least here, for sure.
It was all good, I thought, as I left early intentionally and missing the ritual of "change Sunday" (don't ask). But as I walked, I wondered how this had become a reliable representation of "church"? Considering the age of parishioners actually in sanctuaries these days. A large number of them must have insisted on this "lifeboat" version.
There can be exceptions.
Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, Michael Curry, the first African American to hold that office, encouraged parishioners with a Sunday morning pew handout explaining a vision of Christianity which he believed was a response to the travesty in Charlottesville. As Bishop Curry wrote, "We who follow Jesus have made a choice to walk a different way: the way of disciplined, intentional, passionate, compassionate, mobilized, organized love intent on creating God’s Beloved Community on earth."
Who can argue with this statement? But then, why would you bother?
The focus is all wrong and Bishop Curry presents - using a Martin Luther King 1967 speech as a text - the options of, "are we to choose 'Chaos or Community?' "
The choice, right now, is between good and evil not between degrees of commotion.
Confrontation or chaos in the streets a la 1967 isn't on a par with an Auschwitz looming over an uncertain future. It worries me that just like the lack of focus in that little church in Maine, fuzziness continues among church leaders who should know better.
Christians - everyone - are looking for a statement with a little more heft.
Methodist Bishop Thomas J. Bickerton reminded churchgoers of their baptismal covenant interspersed with a returning lament of, "It just isn't right!" Specifically the parts that say, "Do you renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness, reject the evil powers of this world, and repent of your sin?Do you accept the freedom and power God gives you to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves?" http://www.nyac.com/newsdetail/bishop-bickerton-responds-to-charlottesville-events-9061035
Seeing Charlottesville clearly for what it was, and saying so, requires the ultimate focus of bold words and even bolder action. +gep