Election letter from the bishop of El Camino Real

Posted Nov 4, 2016

[Episcopal Diocese of El Camino Real]

We are the Solution: Election Day and Reconciliation

Nov. 3, 2016

Dear Friends,
Besides our diocesan convention which begins tomorrow, our nation is very much on my mind. I know it is on your mind too. I know there is significant distress among us as we watch the news, listen to debates, and worry about the economy, international relations, our kids, our future, our world.

These are not irrational concerns or worries. They are legitimate and arise out of a sense of violation to our values as a nation as well as out of our personal political perspectives. Indeed, I find myself more troubled not by differences of political opinion, but that we seem unable – and even unwilling – to find a way through those differences. This is not a Democrat or Republican issue. Worldviews are colliding.  This is not a battle with a quantified battlefield. It is in the air we breathe. We cannot distance ourselves from it; “It” is us.

I do not need to tell you to pray or to vote. I believe you know these things and are living them to the best of your ability. I do believe I need to remind us all that democracy “only works if we work it.”

True democracy only works if we have our common good as a goal. What this is and how it is lived out shall be negotiated, of course. That is the process. In this collective time of repentance and soul-searching as a nation, I invite us to observe ourselves and our roles. As we figure out where we stand, how we vote, with whom we align, we must not forget that we are our problems. We can also be our own solutions. As a people, is it not also good and right to drop to our knees in humility and say we are sorry for the ills of our nation?

As I pray for our nation and for our election process, I know I will also open my heart for the ways in which I have exercised my democratic obligation and privilege that have been self-serving, disrespectful, harmful, and in violation of others. Ways known and unknown. Things done and left undone.  As we take our stand, may we do so conscious of our deep need of God’s grace and healing.

As the church, we are able to share this message. It is our regular spiritual practice to name our personal and corporate brokenness. We know how to do this. We have the tools to open our doors to our neighbors who are having this same experience and do not know what to do with it.  I would urge all of our congregations to open doors on Election Day and in the days following. I would encourage us to be spaces where our neighbors may enter and pray, light a candle for our country, find a community with whom to gather. No matter who becomes our President next week, serious matters will remain before our nation.

Living Room Conversations has become a valued and precious partner in our ministry of reconciliation in this diocese. Several of our congregations are having LRCs, and as a diocesan staff we are using them to open up conversations in order to strengthen our congregations at times when conversation across difference is challenging. Would you be willing to host a Living Room Conversation in your congregation, open to your neighborhood, in the days following the election? Our members and our neighbors will need a safe and constructive place to gather, speak and listen to diverse points of view. This is not only cathartic and healing, it is a step forward as “we the people” re-gather as a nation.

Scroll down to find guidelines and questions designed to support a Living Room Conversation about the election experience.

Next Sunday, if you’re following the lectionary for All Saints Day, the gospel reading will remind us to love your enemies. This is not for the faint of heart or the spiritually undisciplined. There is no wiggle room to minimize the mandate. Jesus offers a very complete and rigorous exegesis of the Hebrew understanding of this great commandment. Our practice of such love is The Way toward the wisdom and courage we need to be the people God calls us to be. With confidence in God’s grace, may we step forward in the same sacrificial love made known to us in Jesus’ own dying and rising.

To God be the glory,
+Mary Gray-Reeves

Living Room Conversations:
The Election Experience

Below are suggested questions for your congregation to host a Living Room Conversation.                                                                     

One: Why are we here?
What interested you or drew you to this topic?

Two: Your core values
Answer one or more of the following:

  • What sense of purpose or duty guides you in life? What is your mission statement?
  • What would your best friend say about who you are and what makes you tick?
  • What are your hopes and concerns for your community and/or the country, now and long-term?

Three: Your election cycle experience
Remember that the goal of this Living Room Conversation is for each participant to listen to and learn about the different opinions within the group to see where you might share interests, intentions and goals. 

Answer one or more of the following questions:

  • Did you vote? Why or why not?
  • What was your experience during this election cycle?
  • How has your experience changed your perception of our nation?
  • Where do you find yourself now?

Four: Reflection
Answer one or more of the following questions:

  • In one sentence, share what was most meaningful or valuable to you in the experience of this Living Room Conversation;
  • What new understanding or common ground did you find within this topic?
  • Has this conversation changed your perception of anyone in this group, including yourself?

Five: Accomplishment and moving forward
Answer both of the following questions:

  • Name one important thing that was accomplished here;
  • Is there a next step you would like to take based upon the conversation you just had?

For more background on LRC, read an interview with co-founder Joan Blades here.