Episcopal Diocese of Rochester
Joy in Christ, a way of life

Vote, Ring, Walk, and Pray

October 24, 2016

Dear saints,

As we get ready for All Saints Day, our Presiding Bishop’s visit, and Convention, I ask you to consider and do three things.

  1. As followers of Christ and stewards of the common good, I ask you to vote.
  2. This Advent, as a contextual discipline of stewardship, I ask you to gather physically and/or spiritually (virtually) and remember the forgotten, those who have been killed because of state violence. Ring your church bells as an act of remembrance at least once a week (pick a day and time that works for you); name each person who has for the most part been forgotten. A prayer list will follow this communication.
  3. When you gather for prayers of remembrance, walk around your neighborhood with one intention to notice your neighborhood, greet your neighbors, and pray for peace here and now.

I would appreciate if parochial clergy would send me an email or write me a note about this journey by Epiphany.

Last year, I had the privilege of visiting the Holy Land as part of an interfaith delegation led by the then Presiding Bishop Katharine. It was especially significant since one of Rochester’s leaders, Dr. Muhammed Shafiq was a part of this delegation. While meeting with the late Shimon Peres, at the Peace Center, he shared some profoundly nuanced wisdom that is etched in my consciousness. He said, "Great things in life cannot be achieved unless you close a little bit your eyes. You cannot fall in love and you cannot make peace unless you close a little bit your eyes. With open eyes you will see all the problems and you will be blind to the opportunities.” I think there is great wisdom in that more of us can benefit from ignoring nervous expressions in tense circumstances, keeping our eyes instead on the prize. This noble practice also assumes a built-in responsibility of self-differentiation that gauges to what we are closing our eyes. History reminds us that when we have closed our eyes to things like the Doctrine of Discovery, slavery, domestic abuse, poverty, racism, and violence of any kind we have suffered the consequences. These aspects that impact the common good are not things we can categorize as innocuous and ignore them. This is more than evident in our current Presidential election. Let me name one political behavior that has proven to be problematic: the practice of ignoring certain trends as innocuous expressions of people.

I believe we have a leadership crisis at the grassroots. A household is built by leadership, and leadership is about embracing good and turning away from that which is bad. We cannot strategically ignore simmering vitriol against others and then be shocked when it comes home to taunt us and we turn on each other. Galatians 6 warns us: “...Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for you reap whatever you sow. If you sow to your own flesh, you will reap corruption from the flesh; but if you sow to the Spirit, you will reap eternal life from the Spirit.” In other words, Karma is real and occurs in real time.  It is hypocritical of leaders to be shocked after years of tolerating and turning our rhetorical eye away from covert bigotry and sometimes even capitalizing on the benefits of demeaning groups of people. Ignoring seemingly innocuous and normalized trends of hate and fear mongering comes with consequences. Stoking baser appetites that pine for those "good old days" — when all were not valued for the content of their character — is nothing short of irresponsible leadership, in my opinion. As a Christian and an American, I call upon us in this divisive season to disagree respectfully. Let us make special efforts to gather around nonpartisan tables at home, at work, at park and at church. Beyond the elections we have each other, not the campaigns that have consumed us. It is time to regroup so we can build on being a good country with a great heart and the salt-of-the-earth people that we really are.

My friends, we have a good country that works best when we all pull together. So let us vote, ring, walk and pray our way out of this divisive season and become the beloved community that Jesus calls us to be.