[Episcopal Diocese of Rhode Island]
A Divided Community: Responding with Hope and Action
The results of the elections this week have confirmed what we already knew. Our country is deeply divided along regional, racial, gender and economic lines. The divisions are real and painful. The divisions are ending friendships and threatening family relationships. There are people in our communities and congregations who are delighted and people who are devastated. The emotions are real and raw, and their intensity is hard for some to understand. The simple, faithful response of Episcopalians across the state to pray for the president-elect will be a stumbling stone or a stepping stone for people who will be kneeling beside each other at the altar rail.
As people of faith, baptized into the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus and fed at his table, there are things we can do to serve our divided communities.
We must remember our baptismal covenant in which we promise to respect the dignity of every human being. We are each made in the image of the living God – and each one of us is infinitely precious simply by virtue of that fact. We can help others to see their neighbors as the Holy Spirit has opened our eyes to see one another.
There can be no room in our common life for hateful or dismissive language about people who are different from us. We are all fellow servants of the same Lord and cannot allow ourselves, or anyone else, to dismiss or harm someone whom Jesus has gathered to himself. There will be opportunities for us to bear witness to this Gospel value in the coming days. I pray that God will give us the will to do what God desires.
We gather around the altar to receive the gifts of God — the broken body and the poured-out blood of Jesus; Jesus who is the innocent victim killed by government forces at the demand of a people’s religious leadership. Holding that truth before us gives us a way to listen and to serve in the midst of the whirlwind of emotions and rhetoric surrounding us.
We don’t always understand what things mean or what to do in midst of moments like this. It took many years for God’s children to fully comprehend what God was doing in the great mysteries of the Incarnation, the Crucifixion and the Resurrection. We need to pray and listen for God’s voice and God’s call to action. Even Mary, the Mother of God, needed time to ponder in her heart what the birth of Jesus meant. I do not know what God has in store for us in this moment of our nation’s history, but I have no doubt that God is in the midst of us and that God’s purposes of justice, mercy and the healing of the nations will not be frustrated.
As the body of Christ in the world we are called to be hope and light for the world. Someone wrote this week that a divided World needs a united Church. May the Holy Spirit use us so that we become what God dreams we will be.
XIII Bishop of Rhode Island
Feast of St. Martin of Tours