To put it simplistically, these are trying times.
We were already dealing, physically and emotionally, with a global pandemic that’s claimed more than 105,000 lives in the United States, and more than 375,000 lives around the world. It’s upended life as we know it and thrown so many of us into grief.
Now we, collectively, are reeling from the most recent public lynchings of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and George Floyd. Our hearts are broken at the senseless killings. Our souls sink at the blatant racism that caused them. Peaceful protests of anguish and anger have been overshadowed by violence.
In such times as this, we dig deeper into our faith to seek guidance and courage and hope. We find in our sacred texts the language of lamentation, pouring out our sorrows and despair. And we do, indeed, lament all the deaths by the pandemic and by police violence. How long, O God?!
We find in our religious teachings the challenge to examine ourselves and to repent. COVID-19 was already laying bare the health disparities in our country based on race and income levels. The killings have made it unconscionable to turn our eyes away from these death-dealing disparities based upon race and income that are so evident in this country. Have mercy, O God!
We find in sincere prayer a place of honesty, of solace, of God’s loving presence. We find in our communities of faith, gathering online or by phone now, places where we don’t have to grieve or lament or confess alone, where we can together be lifted by the Spirit. Hear us, O God!
We have work to do. Particularly as people involved in health ministry–tending to body, mind, and spirit. We have work to do. Our work is to open eyes to the systems that oppress people and rob them of wholeness. Our work is to open ears, with no agenda but to enable more people to hear those who are oppressed. Our work is to open hearts so that we can love all of our neighbors as ourselves.
And our work is practical. We continue to serve whomever our health ministries can reach. This is also a time when we can help make it possible for as many people as possible to slow down and not be overtaken by the sometimes frantic, violent time. We must all come together and listen, really listen to each other.
Clergy and other faith community leaders, community activists, elected officials, government staff, neighborhood associations, business owners, youth organizations must be bold and creative in bridging divides and fostering healing.
Health and wholeness—of individuals, families, congregations, communities–that’s our calling, as those involved in health ministry. The people we aim to represent and to serve demand it.
Together we can make real the holy visions of God’s House as a place of prayer for all people (Isaiah 56:7); of God’s realm where people will come from east and west and north and south to eat (Luke 13:29); that Allah created us all from a single pair and made us into nations and tribes, that we may know each other (Qur’an Surah 49:13). Together, we can build Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s vision of the Beloved Community.
These trying times call out to us. Where do we stand in trying times?
Peace be with you,
Rev. Dr. William Coleman
HMA Director for Spiritual Leadership and Health Ministry
Rev. Karen MacDonald, MDiv