Dear Members and Friends of the Avon Lake United Church of Christ,
Next month, during Advent and Christmas, we will read some of the passages from Luke that are most familiar to us. We will read of the angel visiting Mary and telling her she is pregnant, reassuring her by saying, “Do not be afraid.” One chapter later, the angel visits the shepherds with a brilliance in the night sky and says to them, “Do not be afraid.” It is a message we find throughout the Bible. Almost every time God appears to someone, that appearance is accompanied by those words, “Fear not.”
One of the most memorable books I have read this year is one entitled, My Age of Anxiety (click here for book review). It is expertly written and researched; most affecting is the fact that it is written by someone who suffers from anxiety himself. He is willing to share his most vulnerable moments. If you haven’t experienced anxiety yourself, reading this book will help you empathize with those who do – estimated to be 18% of all Americans, a percentage that is growing.
We live in anxious times. My counselor friends tell me people are calling them in record numbers. Several young people in our church describe themselves as depressed and suicidal.
I woke up in the middle of the night, early Monday morning, with my heart beating so fast I didn’t think I would be able to go back to sleep. I had been dreaming (nightmaring?) about the church shooting in Texas.
I am not an expert on anxiety, I am not an expert on gun policy, but I can comment with some authority on the spiritual state of members of our church family. And I can tell you that the violence in our nation is taking a toll on our souls. The frequency of mass shootings creates different feelings in different people, from numbness to panic; we all feel more edgy. It is harder to stay in the moment, harder to focus on all of our reasons for gratitude. In other words, it is more difficult to do all of the things we know are good for our spiritual health.
Because it is therapeutic to have something to do, let me suggest some action steps:
- Consider ways we can talk about the issue of gun violence with those with whom we disagree politically. One side blaming the other isn’t working. We need to find common ground. No one wants concert venues, churches and schools to become killing fields. Let us work tirelessly until we find political leaders who will engage in finding a solution.
- Join our church’s Safety Response Team. Email C.J. Jasany for more information: email@example.com. Our initial crisis response plan was approved at our January annual meeting. Volunteer training is now underway.
- Meditate. Take a hike, look at the leaves, watch the squirrels and the deer. Listen to music and podcasts that lift your spirit. Read books and watch movies/TV that enrich you, make you laugh, and remind you of humanity at its best. Nourish your soul.
- Be the church. Support the food drive. Make a doorstep dinner (click here to contact Cheryl Updegraff). Volunteer to rock babies in our nursery (contact firstname.lastname@example.org). Invite a friend or neighbor to worship. Sign up to host a coffee hour. We need one another. The world needs us and the good news that we are called to embody and proclaim.
I John 4:18 tells us, “There is no fear in love; perfect love casts out all fear.” Fear and love cannot co-exist within us. We are called to be people of love. We face our fears together, with God in us, around us, and beside us.
We need to band together and say, “This is not ok. We are not going to accept this level of violence and anxiety as the new normal. This is not the way God intends us to live.”
I look forward to worshiping with you this Sunday.