I’ve lived long enough to remember the depth of national anxiety engendered by a whole series of incidents: the Cuban missile crisis (I was very young, but aware), the civil rights unrest in the Sixties, the mining of Vietnam’s Haiphong Harbor, the heated rhetoric of the Reagan/Chernenko face-offs (I traveled to the Soviet Union in 1984!), the various Gulf run-ups and wars, the events of 9/11, the civil rights unrest in 2020 (sigh!). We bent and flexed and changed to survive all those events, and a bucketful more. As the philosopher affirmed, the Center held—mostly.
Every time is the best of times and the worst of times, because they are our now. I and many who think like I do are more worried these days because the Center seems to have vanished. A stable-full of those things we relied on to restore sense and sensibility in civil life—like the right and practice of voting—feel a lot more tenuous these days. This is my take on things, and not official church teaching; but the institutions I have learned about and grown to trust in my studies as a political scientist appear to be under attack by the very forces and beings who are assigned and pledged to protect them. So I am more anxious these days than in previous epochs.
Third Church claims and desires to be a place of inclusion, stability, and hope. We know and have experienced that the Church writ large has not always been that kind of institution; but I (and many other leaders around here) cherish that role. Yes, we proudly claim our progressive heritage; but we so long to be a reservoir of peace, comfort, and rest. We want our church and our church community to be a forum for our anxieties when we have them. You will find articles outlining some of the ways we plan to provide that kind of service in the next several days.
Once again, I am writing and instructing myself and letting you in on my thoughts. I will admit that I am anxious for many reasons. I worry about the shaky Center, which is where I’ve always found my theological, social, and political home. Feels like a lonely place these days. We are so quick to describe our various spectra in dichotomous terms: left/right, conservative/liberal, pro-this/anti-that, good/evil! I have been paying attention to political matters for most of my life and feel more uneasy now than ever before. So I need to remember my sermon from a week or so ago: confidence in the unknown future can be built on the knowledge and assurance that erupts from our lived histories. Causes me to remember my Social Studies teacher in Eleventh Grade not assigning homework the Friday of the Haiphong incident because he wasn’t sure we would have class the next Monday. We did!
I am nervous; and I trust that the Center will hold. It may sometimes seem like a forsaken place, but when I get my bearings and look around, a whole bunch of sensible people surround me. I hope!!
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