I write to you on the Lunar New Year, a tradition that is not endemic to my culture, but one that I’ve come to value for a number of reasons. I often feel that I start the calendar year with ideas of what the year SHOULD be, and by the time Lunar New Year rolls around, I’ve come down from my post-holiday, New Year optimism, and finally settle into a more likely scenario of what the year WILL be. This tension between what I expect things to be and my acceptance of what they actually are has defined the past year for me, and I think for many people, as our lives seem to be one endless cycle of recalibration. Lately, the grief of letting go is becoming more palpable to me. My expectation that we would eventually “get back” to our previous life slowly evolves into an awareness that we’re swimming towards a shore we don’t quite recognize. It’s an odd feeling at an even odder time. Since I last wrote to you at the New Year, there’s been an insurrection, an inauguration, an impeachment, and the slow dawning of a vaccine campaign that appears to be our eventual off-ramp to this pandemic. And that was just last month!
Through all of this, I always appreciate the conversations within this Collective to which I bear witness. Many of you are asking vital questions as you maintain your commitment to difficult work during adverse times. Understanding what it means to be in community, to live together and to engage with one another across political division and illness and injustice and loneliness, remain at the heart of our work and our expression of Christian faith in this brave new world. I offer you a few things for your consideration that I’m holding closes this month, trying to stay inspired and animated during a cold winter in the midst of this long, hard haul:
-In this compelling interview with Krista Tippett, Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks quoted Wordsworth: “What we love, others will love, and we will show them how.” (from The Prelude). How am I celebrating and sharing the things I truly love right now? This really inspired my imagination around our work connecting congregations with young adults. How are we living/sharing/speaking the things we love about the life of faith? Spending time with the things and people (safely) that we love feels like the right place to focus attention during times such as these.
-Consequentially, my commitment to spend more time with things I love led me to pick up a copy of Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White which I am joyfully re-reading. This excerpt from the introduction is my 2021 anthem: “Every word of Charlotte’s Web bears the full weight of White’s love for the people, seasons, animals, and arachnids of this world. And every word of the books shows us how we can bear the triumphs and despairs, the wonders and the heartbreaks, the small and large glories and tragedies of being here. We can bear it all by loving it all.”
-I would be dishonest if I didn’t address the grief our country is experiencing in the wake of the last month’s events. A young adult introduced me to this book by Martín Prechtel which I am consuming with both awe and reverence, and appreciate so much his direct and eloquent meditations on the need for right expression of grief both individually and collectively. I’ll share this gem: “Grief expressed out loud, whether in or out of character, unchoreographed and honest, for someone we have lost, or a country or home we have lost, is in itself the greatest praise we could ever give them. Grief is praise, because it is the natural way love honors what it misses.”
-Because so much has been read, said, watched, and heard about the events on January 6th, I don’t want to overload or belabor the point. The two things that I engaged that have stayed with me over the weeks are this article from the New York Times magazine (a very long and dense read but extremely thought provoking) and this interview between Senate Chaplain Barry Black and Anderson Cooper (it’s an easier listen but does run about 26 minutes).
-Honoring that the sibling of grief is praise, it feels right to celebrate the good where we are, as we can. This NPR obituary did a beautiful job of celebrating the life and work of the late Cecily Tyson, all the more poignant during ongoing celebrations of Black History Month.
-Regardless of where in the country you are, here are two resources for engaging Black History Month that came recommended by folks in the Collective: An amazing array of on-going events through the ASALH website (Association for the Study of African-American Life and History) as well as the Opposite Ends podcast which features daily reflections in #TreasuresofDarkness, an African Descent History month devotional
-We’re celebrating the start of our study of My Grandmother’s Hands with the fantastic Fatima Mann. Our planned start date is Saturday, February 27th and there is still space! Anyone interested can learn more or register here.
-The spiritual haul of Lent into and through Holy Week and Triduum embodies much, not least of which is persistence. I’ve ordered this book as company along the Lenten journey this year, and am excited to honor the persistence of the women who contributed to the book as well as the pastors who serve them.
-Webster’s needs to reconsider their definition of persistence, perhaps including a photo of this feisty gal. I’d like to replicate her birthday menu just for funsies.
-And finally, for those of you who remember the 1990s (this is literally a hazard in my line of work), this piece from NPR about the persistent cast of Rent in the face of the unimaginable had me crying at the kitchen sink for all the right reasons, including grief, inspiration, and deep nostalgia. And then there’s just all those dishes!! So many dishes. EVERY DAY! (Even the NY Times is talking about it).
Okay- that’s a lot to think about but it’s been too long. Hopefully the Lunar New Year will kick this newsletter back in gear. In the meantime, I’ll leave you with some Charlotte’s Web wisdom in lieu of a poem-
“These autumn days will shorten and grow cold. The leaves will shake loose from the trees and fall. Christmas will come, then the snows of winter. You will live to enjoy the beauty of the frozen world… Winter will pass, the days will lengthen, the ice will melt in the pasture pond. The song sparrow will return and sing, the frogs will awake, the warm wind will blow again. All these sights and sounds and smells will be yours to enjoy, Wilbur- this lovely world, these precious days…”
So much love,