Pastor’s Message

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This past week I was blessed with the opportunity to take professional development days to participate in the Washington Island Forum, presented by the Wisconsin Council of Churches and The Christian Century. This year, the Forum, usually held on Washington Island in Wisconsin, was held online, allowing participants from all over the country to attend. The Forum centered around the work of Kaitlin Curtice, a Potawatomi woman and a Christian, a writer and poet, and an engaging speaker. Her books Glory Happening: Finding the Divine in Everyday Places and the new Native: Identity, Belonging, and Rediscovering God contain stories from her life, along with prayer/poems (“proems,” as she called them Thursday afternoon).

In the midst of this time of unrest in our country, one of the most important things we can do is to listen to, read, and watch the stories of people whose lives are different from ours. As Kaitlin noted on Tuesday, “Our stories are the things that connect us.” Stories allow us to learn about each other. To see each other as full human beings. To know each other as beloved children of God. But we need to have safe spaces, places where we trust one another enough to hold our collective stories and our individual stories. We have to accept the experiences of others as Truth, just as we accept the stories of our Biblical ancestors as Truth.

I capitalize that “T” in Truth, because both Biblical stories and our own stories are told through certain lenses that may or may not reflect what we would now call objective truth or facts. For instance, the stories we tell about our own childhoods are often some combination of Truth and truth; as Kaitlin asked Tuesday, are we remembering, or are our stories made up based on photos we have seen and stories we’ve been told? We all know family stories that are told differently by different family members. But, on some level, they are True, in their different versions, for each individual, and for the family collectively. We know that the “facts” of many of our beloved Biblical stories are not true, but they are True in communicating the loving, messy, complicated, and sometimes painful, relationships between God and our ancestors. They are True in expressing the feelings of the circumstances of our ancestors’ lives.

So. Here’s where the Teacher part of my ordination gives you homework. Read the stories of people who aren’t like you. Read Kaitlin’s books, go to her website for more info: Her blog, found through her website, has a great post entitled 10 Books by Indigenous Authors to Get Us Through 2020. Find books, essays, blogs, etc., by Black, indigenous, and other people of color. Find stories by LGBTQ2SA+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer, two spirit, asexual, plus) folk. There is no shortage of reading lists floating around! Read them. If they make you uncomfortable, think about why. Think about whether our own stories are centered in whiteness, white supremacy, colonialism, systemic racism and its effects, even if we don’t mean for them to be. While we can never truly understand what it is like to live someone else’s life, we can be compassionate in accepting the Truths of their lives. We can hold their stories; we can cry, shout, weep, wail, rejoice with, believe, and support them.

This is one of the reasons I love to read – because of the glimpse into the lives of other people, whether I find myself in them or not. And, because I enjoy research and learning, I have always sought stories of people who are different from me. Now, at this time in my life and in the collective life of our nation, it is more important than ever to keep reading and listening. To open myself to an exploration of the experiences of others. To open myself to their calls for repentance and reparations. To open myself to their visions of the potential and possibilities of this world.

Make yourself open to stories. Listen. Always listen.

Blessings on the journey,