Seeking perspective in challenging times | From the Editor – Colorado Springs Gazette

Posted By on June 10, 2020

Last week was especially tough on all of us. As we were beginning to emerge from weeks of isolation due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the country erupted in turmoil over the recent violent killings of black Americans.

I turned to a few of the Pikes Peak regions religious leaders for perspective. I asked what message they were preparing to offer their congregations in light of recent events, what guidance they might offer.

As I reached out to the Rev. Dr. Nori Rost of Unitarian Universalist Church in Colorado Springs, she was preparing a sermon about the connections between the COVID-19 pandemic and the black community.

We are living two realities, she said. The first is living in the midst of the pandemic, having our activities restricted and dealing with the uncertainty of how simply breathing can be lethal. The second is having to deal with potential danger even as youre just walking out your door being able to breathe, unencumbered. Literally and figuratively without being held down, as in the case of the late George Floyd.

My hope is to be able to take the power of the anger and outrage and channel that into actually making substantive change, finally, Rost said. Maybe this is the molten moment that we can actually see change.

Rost is part of the Colorado Interfaith Alliance, a group of clergy members, currently calling for an examination of all those systemic ways racism is embedded into our culture.

Those in the alliance agreed to preach in solidarity, giving similarly themed sermons this past Sunday to talk about the need for true lasting change to happen.

The problem is, Rost said, Theres so much inherent inertia to not change the system. Whos it going to hurt to acknowledge the truth? All it does is create an avenue for change.

She continued, There are things afoot that give me hope. ... This happening in the midst of a pandemic. The pandemic can focus our outrage like a laser.

No matter how many people are protesting in the streets, at the very least it comes down to the election in November. We need to ask more of our government officials.

I also reached out to Rabbi Jay Sherwood of Temple Shalom in Colorado Springs, as he was preparing for his Friday service.

Like Rost, he mentioned the immediate challenges facing his congregation of about 500: the coronavirus and, on top of that we have the world falling apart.

I wrote a prayer for our country. It basically says to follow through and do kindness, justice and righteousness throughout the land, Rabbi Jay said. Some might call my sermon political, but I would call my sermon very Jewish.

Its my job to teach Jewish values: justice, justice you will pursue.

Rabbi Jay agreed that as a society we need to, in the vein of Alcoholics Anonymous and other support groups, first admit theres a problem, and the problem is racism.

Were in the middle of fighting two epidemics systemic racism and COVID-19. If we cant admit we have the disease, and I mean Systemic Racism with a capital S and R, how can we treat it?

Racism, he said, is not a police problem, its an American problem.

We have a racism, hatred problem in America. And I see it because Im Jewish and Ive personally experienced anti-Semitism. I dont know what its like to be a black man, but I do know what its like to be a little kid, afraid. I do I know what its like to walk around with fear, yes I do, Sherwood said.

He continued that we all have a responsibility to make sure no one else will live in fear. The Talmud tells us that silence is considered agreement. If we are silent, then we agree that its OK that the black community in America is oppressed. And Im not OK with that.

Rabbi Jay was among the clergy who spoke during last weeks protests outside City Hall in Colorado Springs. He said he was surprised not only by support from some passersby, but also by the venomous blind anger and opposition of others.

At last weeks protests, he noticed one young woman holding a sign that gave him pause. It read, Racism is so American that when you protest it people think you are protesting America.

It kind of sums up how I feel, Rabbi Jay said. Im not protesting America, Im protesting hate.

The Rev. Clare Twomey, lead pastor of Vista Grande United Church of Christ in north Colorado Springs, said her church has been able to continue its social justice mission despite the pandemic.

The social justice work we do is critical. Weve been able to maintain that. That forms the basis of any spiritual support I can offer to my congregation, Twomey said.

No matter what is going on in the world or what that scripture is each week, the message that undergirds every message I give is to remind people that we belong to one another. That is the cornerstone of our congregation. Then we can move toward a foundation of How do we handle whats going on in the world.

Twomey said her latest sermons have been sharing the words of colleagues of mine of African descent.

I decided the congregation didnt need to hear my voice. They needed an opportunity to hear from those who are directly affected by racism. I reached out to some of them and I preached their sermons, she said.

Twomey said every week she has congregants reach out to say theyre angry or I cant do this anymore.

Im willing to listen to their horror, their fear and their anger, she said. It is all the time, every day. Im talking to people who are emotionally, spiritually affected.

Pastor Ellen Hamilton Fenter of The Church at Woodmoor in Monument said shes also been seeing a span of reactions from those in her congregation.

Some people have just gone underground and they dont want to talk about whats going on. And then there are some people really in despair, she said. Its really easy to resort to platitudes, such as All things work together for good. But before you hit the good theres often a rough road.

Fenter worked as a real bootstraps counselor before she came to ministry. In her pastoral and counseling work currently, shes adopted a philosophy of lets get to work.

Ive been saying Put one foot in front of the other and get on down the road. God didnt cause any of this. God doesnt cause this stuff. Theres an outcome God wants for humanity. For me, in my interpretation, thats reconciliation and healing of the breach between God and mankind. Thats our purpose. But our plans are up to us and we make a mess of that, she said.

The atmosphere of change today is exciting, Fenter said. Ive been telling my congregation for years that God is up to something. Now were just caught up in the thing. We want to be carried in the spirit of where God is going. Were not just supposed to bide our time.

She added, Being a Christian person is not a privilege; it is a job. It really is the reason were on planet Earth.

Fenter said not everyone who worships at her church is on the same page, ideologically or spiritually, and thats a good thing.

You can find people in my pew who have one complete idea about (God) and others who have completely different ideas. Thats the beauty of The Church at Woodmoor that we can all be really gracious with each other, she said.

Her message to congregants this week: Keep your head up. Get on the road because its not time to rest yet.

From talking with these four I gathered that there is certainly no easy answer to our collective predicaments. But the challenges we are facing can help us to grow and change, if we choose. Our struggles, and recognizing the struggles of others, can give us the courage to make change happen.

Editor of Pikes Peak Newspapers, Michelle Karas has called the Pikes Peak region home for five years. Contact Michelle with column or story ideas, feedback and letters to the editor at michelle.karas@pikespeaknewspapers.com.

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Seeking perspective in challenging times | From the Editor - Colorado Springs Gazette

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