A change is gonna come soon...

Yesterday something beautiful happened. Well, actually a few beautiful things in addition to the stunning spring day filled with sunlight and flowers. At our "coming out" party for the emerging Berkshire community organizing justice project, I had the chance to teach the 50+ folk some of the history of singing for social justice. This was a mostly "traditional" church crowd - excellent and loving people - but without much movement experience or awareness of the role singing has played in the freedom movements throughout the world. So I taught them the essential: "Ain't Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around." I learned it from Jessica Govea back in the United Farm Workers movement of the early 70s. And I suspect that she and Marshall Ganz and others learned it from their work in the Southern Civil Rights movement starting with Freedom Summer in 1964.

(I LOVE what The Roots do with this and truly LOVE this movie!)

Now here's the thing: nice and gentle church people aren't used to embodied singing - they tend to sing quietly and in a pretty voice in worship - so it is often essential to do some remedial clapping with LOTS of encouragement to "make it LOUD!" And if the whole crowd gets into the groove and trusts you, things can come alive. And after a little work with clapping on the off beat and BELTING out the melody, things started to pop! At the end of the meeting, I was able to lead them in the more gentle but no less important "If Not Now" to close the evening.

After the close of the meeting, one of my colleagues from one of our synagogues told me he wanted to work more closely with me (and our congregation) in learning/discussing/exploring and challenging one another with the complex truths re: justice and peace in Israel and Palestine. I was SO blessed by this conversation.  We are both horrified at the frustrated and unhelpful response to the current stalemate that the US Presbyterians are advancing. We are equally discouraged and confused by the intransigence of almost everyone on the ground who are involved in this struggle for life, death, freedom and dignity. And we weep for the everyday folk on either side of the Wall whose lives are in chaos and tumult. So, he said, he wanted to find a way to have this complex and challenging conversation here with our congregation in ways that maybe can't happen elsewhere! I am soooo down with this it makes me tremble.

Over the years I've tried the path of being a hard ass and ideologue, but the only result was that I pissed off potential allies and came to hate myself. So little by little I have come to trust the "still small and quiet voice" that always encourages me to try a "third way" - a way of gentleness and patience - a way of wrestling with my own shadow and confessing when I project my shit on to another - a way of making certain that lots and lots of listening takes place as an essential ingredient to peace-making. Richard Rohr recently wrote about this like this:
In the second half of life, one has less and less need or interest in eliminating the negative or fearful, making rash judgments, holding on to old hurts, or feeling any need to punish other people. Your superiority complexes have gradually departed in all directions. You do not fight these things anymore; they have just shown themselves too many times to be useless, ego-based, counterproductive, and often entirely wrong. You learn to positively ignore and withdraw your energy from evil or stupid things rather than fight them directly.

Now, you fight things only when you are directly called and equipped to do so. You do not define yourself by opposition or eccentricity as the young often choose to do. We all become a well-disguised mirror image of anything that we fight too long or too directly. That which we oppose determines the energy and frames the questions after a while. We lose all our inner freedom.


By the second half of life, you have learned that most frontal attacks on evil just produce another kind of evil in yourself, along with a very inflated self-image. They also incite a lot of pushback from those you have attacked. Holier-than-thou people usually end up holier than nobody.In the second half, you try to influence events, work for change, quietly persuade, change your own attitude, pray, or forgive instead of attacking things head on.

Over the seven years that we've been here in the Berkshires we've seen how this way has built a little trust in the LGBTQ community. We've taken some small steps with our sisters and brothers in the African American community, too. And now there is the chance to explore and practice trust-building with our cousins in faith in one Jewish synagogue. Like Sam Cooke once sang (and wrote after hearing Bob Dylan's "The Times They Are a'Changin'" saying:  a white boy wrote that? I have to do better!): it's been a long time comin' but a change is comin' soon! I trust that to be true even when it takes twice as long as I think it should.
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And just to add icing to the cake, after all of this another colleague mentioned to me about the possibility of our churches working together on a mission trip this summer with our youth. Oh Lord a'change is gonna come... soon. Thanks be to God.

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