—Rev. Shari Prestemon, Conference Minister
Grace and peace, dear friends across the Minnesota Conference UCC.
On this day after our state and national elections, I write to all of you profoundly aware of how exhausted and anxious we are as a country and as a community of UCC churches in Minnesota. As this morning dawned, the outcome of our Presidential election was still undecided, and that may yet be the case for at least a couple more days.
This bitter election season, and its unclear result thus far, only compounds the grief and hurt we are all feeling more broadly. The combined weight of a pandemic now re-surging, an economy in trouble, racial injustice painfully still part of our nation’s narrative, and church life so profoundly changed is devastatingly heavy. We feel it in our aching hearts and churning guts. So be gracious to others and with yourself this day. There is a lot we don’t know right now, much we can’t predict, but today I offer two things we do know with utter clarity.
We are a nation painfully divided.
Whoever ultimately emerges as President in this election, we cannot ignore that the closeness of the race reflects a nation deeply and painfully divided. That should concern us all. That division will impact policy-making, relationships, rhetoric, and the national mood far beyond this election. It reflects a lot of serious truths we must reckon with more honestly as a people, ugly things that are hard to stare directly in the face.
That has direct implications for us in the Minnesota Conference UCC, too. Those same divisions are a factor in our own Conference and in the communities where our churches reside. Many of our pastors preach each Sunday to congregations that are politically diverse, or serve within communities where their church represents a clear minority of thought and theology. While others of our churches may be in ‘progressive bubbles’, that experience is clearly a privileged mirage in the larger context of our State. Our Conference, like Minnesota and our nation, is divided (for example) along urban and rural lines. It’s paramount that we as a church find a way to reckon with our own reality, too, and listen more thoughtfully to each other.
God is still with us: today, tomorrow, and forevermore.
That simple and profound truth is the blessed balm we need for our souls. The world around us is chaotic, and so many things we thought we knew seem to be slipping from our grasp. But this central pillar of our faith holds firm: “…neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39)
Today we are shaken. It may feel as if God has not heard our deep cries of lament. Our hope may be diminished. And yet God still is who God has always been. A God who created us to be God’s partners in the creative, redemptive, sometimes agonizing work of justice and peace and mercy. A God who goes to the greatest lengths to deliver & liberate God’s people. A God who grants healing in the most unexpected of places and ways. A God of Resurrection, who wrestles new, abundant life out of desperation and death. A God who works in God’s own time and way, and bids us to be faithful.
Siblings in Christ, let us put our trust in the God whose presence with us remains steady when all else falters, whose all-embracing love forever holds fast. And may we join with God in the daunting work ahead of us all to learn, listen, reckon, and pray together for a future transformed by hope.
With you on the journey,
Reverend Shari Prestemon, Conference Minister