Dear Old South Church in Boston,
A friend in ministry recently posted a poignant photo of two young friends in a ballroom pose, each wearing a splendid tiara, over the words, "all they wanted to do was dance."
In the world we live in, it turns out that we're vulnerable even when we dance - even when we give expression to the gentle and generous love, the joyful and creative energy, the community-spirited and forward-looking citizenship, that God planted in us. As circumstances force us now to contemplate yet again the slaughter of innocents - at the Club Q in Colorado Springs on the eve of our Meeting House service, last night at the Walmart in Chesapeake, VA, and in so many other places over the past several weeks as to defy cataloguing - the very idea of safety is tested. The blood of 607 of our siblings, killed in mass shootings so far this year as of this writing (gunviolencearchive.org), cries to us from the ground. And the collision of the news from Colorado Springs with Transgender Day of Remembrance hits home in an especially poignant way at Old South. It's necessary, I think, even on the eve of a holiday, to tell the truth: none of us is fully safe in the society that, so far, we citizens have fashioned- and not by accident, but by intention. And some of us are more vulnerable than others, and have every reason to walk in fear and trembling and anger - so far from the blessing to "go forth in joy, and be led forth in peace" that we heard from Isaiah last Sunday.
It doesn't seem fair that any of us should have to come to the Thanksgiving table with grief, with outrage, with fear, with despair or any of the other emotions that all this recent news might stir in us. It's only when we pause to consider the far heavier burdens that so many grieving families will be carrying tomorrow that the call to compassion and solidarity puts things into perspective. To remember Jesus weeping over Jerusalem, Jesus grieving the death of his friend Lazarus, is to rediscover that tender-hearted vulnerability is at the heart of our Christian identity. This year, the traditional words of the beloved hymn we sang last Sunday at the Meeting House - "we gather together to ask for God's blessing / who chastens, and hastens [God's] will to make known..." - ring particularly true as we recall that our coming together is always partly in service to discerning our call to move yet deeper into the intention of God for this world.
So, though it is so far from what we'd have wanted, we now bring all this heartrending news, and the cacaphony of feelings it inspires, to the table tomorrow. And we'll bring it to the Table, too, as we celebrate Communion this coming Sunday at Old South, and mark our passage into the season of Advent - the season of yearning, longing, aching, for God's intervention in our broken world. Another of the Thanksgiving hymns reminds us that, even as we call one another together to celebrate familiar or affectional ties, we also call upon God to visit us, to awaken us, to lift us by conscience, conviction and commitment to our full stature as human beings:
Even so, Lord, quickly come, to thy final harvest-home;
gather thou thy people in, free from sorrow, free from sin.
So we pray safety for each household of this beloved church - a prayer less to be taken for granted than ever. And we pray for more of the strength that we always find together, in the wide and extending family of this church, to insist on a society, and to put our backs into building a society, in which every one of its citizens, especially the vulnerable, can be truly free: from sorrow, from fear, from danger, from hatred, from despair. Free to dance.
Rick Spalding, Interim Senior Minister
on behalf of the Ministers and Staff of Old South Church