by Lee Hull Moses
I don’t know if you’ve heard, but there’s a bit of a storm heading our way. Here in Greensboro, we’re likely to get a lot of rain, and we’re expecting some flooding and power outages, but we’ll be much better off than our neighbors to the east. (Although, who knows? The forecast I just saw reported that either we will get clobbered by the storm, or it will miss us entirely. So that was helpful.)
The anxiety around here is palpable. Every conversation starts with the storm and grocery stores are running out of bread. This feels different than the hysteria that happens when snow is in the forecast in the winter, at which I generally roll my eyes. But this storm, well, it’s big. Those trees outside my house? They’re tall and heavy, and I’m trying not to think too much about what happens if they fall.
Yesterday morning I attended a meeting of the board of the North Carolina Council of Churches. We talked about the storm a little before digging into our business. In the morning, we heard a presentation about the opioid crisis, how devastating it is to communities and families, and how faith communities can respond. In the afternoon, we had a long conversation about gentrification and racism and the complexities of being good neighbors. I left exhausted and a tiny bit overwhelmed, but also so grateful for the work of these leaders who so thoughtfully and faithfully embody God’s message to the world.
Then last night, I joined the conversation at Table Topics. This fall, we’re reading a book together called Sacred Signposts, and I can already tell it’s going to be good. (It’s not too late to join us; details here.) We talked about the practices of the Christian tradition — reading scripture, baptism, communion, worship, among others – and wrestled .with some big questions. To whom do those practices belong? Are they ours? Or God’s? Is there something about these practices that make them intrinsically sacred? Or intrinsically Christian? Do they change us or do we change them?
The author of the book, Benjamin Dueholm, calls these practices “holy possessions” and says this:
[T]hose who cling to the practices of faith in habit a double fragility and experience a double anxiety: first, as outliers in a a world that doesn’t need, and even seems hostile to, religion; second, as citizens of that world that feels and fears its own mortality. grasping our holy possessions more faithfully and passionately won’t help us deny or evade that fragility and anxiety, and it won’t heal our internal divisions. But grasping our holy possessions can turn us outward, to a world that needs a kind of healing it can neither imagine nor grant. Grasping our holy possessions can’t fix the world – it would have by now if it could – but it can resist this world and point to another one.”
As we were wrapping up our conversation last night, and talk again turned to the incoming storm, I thought about what a gift it is to be able to have these sacred conversations about these holy things. What a gift it is, in a world faced with threats as big as hurricanes, as devastating as addiction, and as complicated as racism, to have something to hold on to, something to grasp at, something that points us away from anxiety and fear and into healing and hope.
May it be so.