January 7, 2021
Dear Tree of Life Community,
How are you doing? Earlier this week, many of us were watching with anticipation and perhaps anxiety as the long-awaited special election in Georgia concluded. Yesterday we woke to the news that Congress had started the (usually boring) process of certifying the Electoral College votes. By early afternoon many of us had heard the shocking and painful news that the capitol had been stormed by rioters in an attempted insurrection and that lawmakers were either evacuated or in lockdown in secure locations. As the rioters searched for VP Pence and other leaders, we heard news that a pipe bomb had been found at the RNC and later another at the DNC. We saw pictures of invaders at the speaker’s chair and in her office. We saw videos of them breaking windows, searching desks and offices. Many of us felt fear and uncertainty we haven’t felt since 9/11.
You may have also heard other stories. You may have heard about the women, aides, whose names I haven’t been able to find, who picked up the electoral votes in their cases and carried them to safety. We saw other pictures of people supporting one another as they hid.
In moments of chaos and acts of violent terror there are those who will protect what is important, who will protect our democracy. There are those who will find ways to reach out in love and support, even as they are afraid. There are people who will hold to hope and faith, even as they don’t know what’s next. As Mr. Rogers once said, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, look for the helpers. You will always find people who
are helping.” These are the heroes of this time. We will never know most of their names, but know they, too, were there.
I have been afraid the last couple of days. Afraid, hopeful, angry, worried, confused and glued to the news. I imagine you may have felt some or all these emotions, too. I hope you have been able to take care of yourselves and your loved ones. Please know that you can always reach out to me if you’d like another ear, even to just say hello.
In light of these events and in this time, what is our call? It is easy, at times, to get stuck in our emotions, especially when they are unpleasant. But we are called beyond them. As we looked at the pictures of the response to this riot, we also remembered how black folks and other people of color were treated during protests earlier this year. I heard people speculating about how different this would have been if the people storming the capitol had been people of color.
In times of fear we are called to stand on the side of love. We are called to ally with those who have been marginalized, who have been told their vote, their voice, doesn’t matter or should be rejected. We must continue the work of fighting systemic racism in this country and our individual communities.
Our UUA President Susan Frederick Gray said, “It is important to remember that our commitment to democracy is not just political or moral, it is fundamentally theological. It grows from our affirmation of the inherent worth and dignity of every person and the Universalist understanding that we are all a part of one creation, interconnected. These theological values of human dignity and interdependence are why we know everyone needs a voice in the matters that affect their lives.”
Our principles ask us to work toward a community of justice, peace and liberty for all. In this country the most vital way for everyone to have their voice heard is during an election. It is in those moments that we have a say in how our country moves forward. This assault on our democratic process has been painful and frightening. And it can be a reminder that we must continue to work to reduce voter suppression, we must not turn away or miss this important opportunity to be heard and to ensure others have a voice as well.
As we move forward, I encourage you to take time to check in with yourself and those you love. Have you gotten enough sleep? Have you eaten a variety of foods that feel good? Are you getting enough to drink? Take care of yourself, take care of your loved ones. Reach out and check on friends and other members of the congregation. Let’s be one of the helpers.
And then, together, let’s pick up the banner of love and move forward. People of color have known the racism built into this country their entire lives. White people are seeing it too. Together we CAN change things. Together we can imagine a new nation, a new community, in which every voice is heard.
May it be so.
With Love and in Faith,
Rev. Jennifer Gracen