The Wisdom Of The Elders. They’ve Seen This Before.
I am blessed to pastor a church that I love and that loves me.
I also pastor a church with many elders. And while there was shock and anger at the desecration of the Capitol on Wednesday, (Jan. 6) what I also discerned from the elders I serve, was sadness.
They have seen this before.
They were shocked, but not like some. They had seen this sort of outrage, and mob violence and irrational rage before. Many times, in the course of their long lives.
Maybe not in exactly the same way, (it is never quite the same but it is always ugly)…but forces of darkness, of hatred and of fear mongering were familiar forces; ones they have seen and struggled with before.
Some of the stories they share are deeply personal stories of violence, hatred, and racism. Some of them are stories of war in other lands, or war on our streets.
Some are from Vietnam, or Korea, or Germany, or Ferguson, or Kent State. Some are from brick throwing, phone call harassing, death threat wielding people, right in their own homes and neighborhoods and in their churches; tearing communities apart.
These elders and their experiences, and the stories they tell, the things they have endured…they call me to calm down, look clear eyed at our system, our leaders, our own failures, and our culpability.
And they tell me I cannot give up or give in to despair. Lord knows, I wanted to on Wednesday, when I watched the footage on screen. I saw the facebook posts about leaving the United States in despair.
If these elders, in their 80’s and 90’s, can still handle the horror of those images, then I had better buck up and get on with the work!
The work: is the work of justice, of toiling through difficult conversations, of planning and working for change with stubborn determination with anyone else who is stubborn and determined too.
The work: is to remain engaged in seeking justice, and not give in to cynicism and despair. To not hate. To protect, and preserve, life To welcome and to listen. To be a person of Love and Hope and Light, in times of Darkness.
This work is not done alone. It is done in the midst of these generous elders, and passionate Jesus followers, in my church community and in our land.
Wherever they are, whatever community of faith or activism or stubborn determination they reside in, I will join with the elders and continue the work.
Justice. Peace. Mercy. Welcome. This is the work ahead of us. Amen, so may it be.
Andy CastroLang is senior pastor at Westminster Congregational United Church of Christ. She is deeply committed to civil discourse between individuals and throughout our community; in interreligious conversation, private conversation, intergenerational conversation and yes, even in political conversation. She has been a supporter of SpokaneFaVS since its inception because she supports this creative effort at thoughtful community conversation.