Grief and Gratitude:
Weekly Flame for Thursday, November 27, 2020
From Our Rector
Greetings to you all on this day after Thanksgiving, 2020. This is a strange and, for many, a difficult time as we remain physically distanced from one another, and particularly as COVID cases continue to surge across the country and in our region. This is a weekend centered on gratitude at a moment when the deep brokenness of so many things has been laid very bare. It can be hard to know how to feel in the midst of it all. For some, a sense of gratitude and joy easily emerges. For some, sadness, grief, or fear feels closer to the surface.
Wednesday evening, mindful of our proximity to Thanksgiving, our Advent Formation series “People of Faith in a Time of Crisis” turned to the emotion of grief. We engaged brief readings from Pauline Boss’ book Ambiguous Loss and Walter Brueggemann’s The Prophetic Imagination which was our 2020 Lent series book. (Readings from Wednesday are attached here with a few prompting questions). We shared various ways that the ideas of ambiguous loss named experiences we have had or continue to navigate (including this time of COVID itself), and the difficulty of engaging the necessary processes of grief when losses do not have a well-defined endpoint or boundary. We talked about Brueggemann's idea of "royal consciousness," both in connection to and distinction from ambiguous loss. We talked about how practices of grief can connect to what Brueggemann names as doxology, the declaration of glory to God, and how both of these practices, grief and glory, working together, can open us to the new thing God is doing in the world.
The grief and doxology discussion strongly resonated with me in this Thanksgiving COVID context. Understood as linked practices, they strike me as capable of holding the more complicated dimensions of Thanksgiving in this moment.
Right now for many, as I described above, gratitude can be hard to access from an emotional standpoint. My Massachusetts colleague the Rev’d Laura Everett, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Council of Churches, wrote Wednesday for WBUR about the difficulty of Thanksgiving this year in particular, through a description of a vine in her garden that basically refused to bear fruit. In the face of an American “prosperity gospel” that says, “whatever the conditions, we can always produce,” her vine was having none of it. It needed to be fallow. For Everett this isn’t a year for a harvest-based celebration so much as gratitude simply “to be alive another year.” She also emphasizes the importance of not creating a kind of gratitude pressure: “I do not believe in forced thanksgiving. Too often, communities that have been denied basic rights and resources have been shamed into obligatory gratitude for what ought to be minimally expected.” Historically speaking, as well, the holiday of Thanksgiving is wrapped up in distorting narratives about the earliest encounters between English pilgrims and Native communities of the northeast. It’s safe to say, Thanksgiving is complicated in general, and this year all the more so.
Like Everett, I feel committed “to hold both in each hand, the loss and the provision.” I also appreciate the perspective shared by Vincent Medina and Louis Trevino, the creators of Cafe Ohlone, which a group of us visited last year, that acknowledging the history of Thanksgiving can be part of a new way of being present to one another and building something new, nourishing, and just. “We believe there are ways to celebrate the holiday, eat good food, and show respect to Ohlone people at the same time. Instead of cancelling Thanksgiving, let’s reimagine what it could be as this has become a time that centers Indigenous peoples.”
The work of reimagining, whether about Thanksgiving or other practices of communal gathering, gratitude, and remembering, is profoundly spiritual work. That came through strongly in last weekend’s Interfaith Gratitude Gathering, in which a number of St. Aidanites participated. For us as Christians, thanksgiving is a practice of gratitude for and participation in the promise of God’s divine Dream, the Kingdom, the realm of justice and peace. It is important to find ways to grieve our losses, to acknowledge how far as are from a truly just world in this moment. And we can know – without rushing through difficult emotions – that grief can also link up with the practice of doxology, with praise to the God who is even now doing a new thing in this world and inviting us to join in that work.
Yesterday, as we gathered for a virtual Thanksgiving service in the morning and later shared wonderful food from our doors, I believe we were opening ourselves to that process (thank you so much to Nicole Miller, Christine Powell, Scot Sherman, Nelson Solorzano, and Nicole's friend Ian for all you did to make that happen). Together yesterday, we lent our voices, our hearts, our bodies to a gratitude that also acknowledges grief. We leaned into doxology, lifting praise to God whose glory seems to shine all the more brightly for its deep acquaintance with loss. All of this is finally a mystery. And it is God’s mystery, a mystery that holds us, wherever we may be, however our hearts may be hurting and healing.
I am grateful for all of you today. I am grateful for your lives, your hearts, your griefs, your joys, your authenticity. And on this four-year anniversary of the first Eucharist I celebrated with you in 2016, I am all the more grateful to be in your midst.
Remote Worship to Continue Through the end of 2020
Although the state of California, and some of its counties, is beginning to allow some religious in-person gatherings, and some outdoor, in-person gatherings will be possible in the Diocese of California in the coming days, we are proceeding very cautiously at St. Aidan's. In August our vestry agreed that St. Aidan's we will not plan to regather in person before the end of 2020. We will continue the pattern we have been in, meeting together on Zoom, and refraining from holding events in our building with the exceptions of the Friday Food Pantry and Diamond Diners, and with the exception of the Cielito Lindo Preschool, which reopened over the summer in strict compliance with state, county and diocesan rules. This current state of affairs won't last forever, and we anticipate and very much look forward to regathering in 2021. In the meantime, we need to keep staying the course to stay safe. Thank you very much for all your support as we continue to make our way forward together, and please feel free to reach out to us with any questions.
Resources for Engaging in Anti-Racism, from Elena Wong
Thank you to Elena Wong for recently sharing this list of resources that were in turn shared with her through her membership in the Western Association for College Counseling:
Resources on talking to young kids about race and racism
The 1619 Project (all the articles) | The New York Times Magazine
“Who Gets to Be Afraid in America?” by Dr. Ibram X. Kendi | Atlantic (May 12, 2020)
LISTEN (Podcasts to subscribe to)
1619 (New York Times)
Code Switch (NPR)
Seeing White Series on Scene On Radio
13th Film (2 hours)
When They See Us (Four episodes)
Color of Change
Southern Poverty Law Center
Groups and people doing anti-racist work, such as @colorofchange @weinspirejustice @showingupforracialjustice
Please send in your recipes for the COVID Connect Cookbook!
As shared in previous weeks, Peter Fairfield and Linnea Sweet are putting together the COVID Connect Cookbook. He's received several recipes thus far but would very much like more. He writes:
We are living through a time that will change our world in ways that we cannot yet begin to understand. We can hope that our shared vulnerability to this virus worldwide will help us see that all humanity is connected and that we must all work together. As we shelter in place, many of us are concerned with food. If we are not working, how will we afford it? If we cannot go out, how will we get it?
In our community of Saint Aidan’s, many are able to feed themselves and to help others get fed. More than that, we appreciate the food that we get and are finding new ways of making the sharing of food as enjoyable as possible.
The soup recipes that Cameron has been sharing have made our diet much more enjoyable and have given Linnea and I the inspiration to collect recipes from all the congregation and share them. We ask that everyone with a favorite recipe email it to us at email@example.com. We will collect and edit them into a cookbook which will be a lasting reminder of this strange and special time in all our lives.
We hope to be able to publish this cookbook in printed form and sell it to raise funds in support of Saint Aidan’s food ministries. We know you have been sharing food. Now please share your recipes!
if you need the remote access information.
Contemplative Prayer continues: Tuesday, Thursday, & Saturday from 9-10 AM via Zoom
To provide some sort of worship experience every day of the week while we are still sheltering in place, we are re-starting Contemplative Prayer via Zoom, adding an extra day, Saturday. Contemplative prayer is silent with the beginning and ending marked by a bell. You can practice meditation, silent prayer, journal, or otherwise enjoy the collective quiet. Thank you to Susan Spencer for offering to anchor this practice once again, especially the Saturday, during this time.
Morning Prayer continues: Mon, Wed, Fri at 7:30 AM via Zoom
We also continue to have Morning Prayer to help sustain and ground us, online/over the phone:
To add an announcement to the weekly bulletin of the Flame,
please send your edited text no later than 11:00 am Wednesday to firstname.lastname@example.org