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June 2010

A Reflection on Light and Hope

A Reflection on Light and Hope

By the Rev. Dr. E. Scott Jones

LGBT Pride Interfaith Service of Remembrance

Epworth United Methodist Church, Oklahoma City, OK

16 June 2010

 

One of my favourite poets is Czeslaw Milosz.  As a twentieth-century Pole, he was well acquainted with some of the greatest horrors that humankind has ever afflicted upon other humans.  Milosz witnessed tragedy of the highest order and grasped the reality of the catastrophic.

Yet, he is no pessimist, no cynic, no skeptic.  While his poetry never shies from the horrific, it also expresses possibility, future, hope.  Hear now this poem, beautifully entitled “Recovery”:

 

“Here I am—why this senseless fear?

The night is over, the day will soon arise.

You hear.  The shepherds’ horns already sound,

And stars grow pale over the rosy glow.

 

“The path is straight.  We are at the edge.

Down in the village the little bell chimes.

Roosters on the fences greet the light

And the earth steams, fertile and happy.

 

“Here it is still dark. Fog like a river flood

Swaddles the black clumps of bilberries.

But the dawn on bright stilts wades in from the shore

And the ball of the sun, ringing, rolls.”

 

 

 

 

 

  It is a cliché that it is always darkest before the dawn, but without succumbing to cliché, Milosz reminds us of a genuine human experience.

  Death is an actuality.  As are the emotions it engenders in us as a response – grief, anger, fear, melancholy, bitterness, despair.  Often the depth of our grief is itself a reminder of how good was the relationship we lost—grief’s depth is evidence of joy’s height.

  All of the world’s faiths come to terms with the actuality of death.  For example:  Buddhism reminds us of the reality of suffering.  Christianity places a symbol of torture at the center of its faith.  Judaism, over centuries of suffering oppression, has developed powerfully beautiful rituals in response. 

  It is not as easy as “get over it.”  Every religion understands the difficult spiritual journey of dealing with death.  Our faiths and spiritualities hold out the promise that the fear of our own death can be overcome.  That the grief over another’s loss can be comforted.  That we can be liberated from the power that death holds over us.

  Yes, death, suffering, and grief are actual.  But our faiths remind us   so too are love, joy, adventure, truth, good, and beauty.

  By fashioning community and living with spiritual courage, we can develop the eyes to see, the ears to hear, and the hands to touch   possibility, future, and light.  And that is what it means to hope.

 

The dawn on bright stilts wades in from the shore

And the ball of the sun, ringing, rolls.


Tulsa votes to include sexual orientation in non-discrimination policy

Congrats and thank you to the Tulsa, Oklahoma City Council for voting to include sexual orientation as a protected class in its non-discrimnation policy.  What  a victory!

This effort had been led by one of the more conservative members of the city council and is a FAR cry from the recent homophobic comments of a Oklahoma City city council member.

It was also a far cry from what happened in Oklahoma City in the 1990's when the Human Rights Commission, which had existed since the days of the African-American civil rights movement, voted to include sexual orientation in the protected classes for Oklahoma City, and the city council here simply disbanded the entire Human Rights Commission rather than accept their inclusion of gays and lesbians.


On our vacation . . . continued


Yes, I know I'm dragging out these vacation blog posts, but I've been pretty busy with other things this week!

The morning we left Lincoln, we couldn't find a local diner downtown and started driving out of town and couldn't find one either, and so settled for IHOP.

It was raining throughout the morning and our drive on in to Omaha.  Along the way we stopped to take a peak at Eugene T. Mahoney State Park, which sits beside the Platte.  We were a little shocked by how manicured a state park was and the amount of development there, used to a more natural look in state parks, but we will look forward to visiting there and seeing more of it when it is not raining.  Here's the lodge.

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Upon arriving in Omaha, we drove by our house, stopped at the church to drop off a trunk load of books at the office (and empty the boxes for re-use), and at the place we were staying to settle in.  Then we headed out for sightseeing.

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We decided to begin at the Durham Muesum, which is located in the old train station, and covers the history of Omaha, including its rail history.  This was a fun, informative way to start learning more about our future home town.

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Then we had dinner at Omaha Prime, located in the Old Market.  We wanted to make sure and have a steak this time while visiting as tourists.

Then, we walked along the downtown pedestrian mall enjoying seeing all the other people outdoors.  This visit confirmed for us that Omaha is a town in which people do get out and use the parks and are active; we look forward to that. 

The downtown mall is filled with fun, quirky benches, sculpture, and other adventures.  I'll post just a series of photos next, but here's one of me enjoying the slide.  I can't wait to take my nephews walking in this park!

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At the eastern end of the pedestrian mall, it connects with Heartland of America Park, which is also adjacent to the ConAgra corporate campus and the Missouri River. 

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While enjoying this park and the fading day, we really felt good about our impending move and that, yes, this was a place we will enjoy and be able to create a life and call home.

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Monday's flood

I realized I had not posted pictures from our neighborhood of Monday's torrential rains (eleven inches in some places in the metro) and the resulting flash floods which affected even us on our hill.  Reports later said this was a 500-year storm.

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A semi was stuck for a while in our neighbor's yard, which had just been sodded.

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Sparrow Park was completely covered by water, having turned into a lake.

The backyard and garage of our neighbor across the street flooded.  They've spent all week cleaning up.

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The intersection of 30t & Hudson in front of our house.

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Our basement.

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After the waters began receding and were down about four feet from their high point, we went out walking.  Here are cars stuck on 30th.

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Storm 1

We helped push the above car out of the water.

In the picture below you can see from the debris line how high the water got.  It was up three feet into our yard.

Storm 2

We walked down Harvey Parkway as far as we could to see what was going on down by Edgemere Park, as cars kept turning around from there, though some, as you can see, ventured through.

Storm 5

This neighbor, with the picket fence, had their basement, including newly renovated media room, flooded.

Storm 7

This house at the corner of Harvey Parkway and 31st had its worst damage in the backyard, as you are about to see.

Storm 8

These next two pictures were taken in their backyard two days later.  As you can see the creek, which is underground, re-emerged and flowed forcefully along the backyards of Harvey Parkway and took out this brick wall!

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Pride Interfaith Service

What an honour to chair the planning committtee for last night's LGBT Pride Interfaith Service of Remembrance, which was a beautiful, moving event. 

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The program personalities covered a wide range of Christian denominations, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Unitarianism.  And each prayer or reflection was a beautiful statement from their respective tradition. 

After prelude, welcome, and congregational singing of "We Would Be One," Jonalu Johnstone, of the First Unitarian Church, set the stage with an insightful reflection on Loss and Remembrance that explained the significance of what we were doing in the service.

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Then we lit seven candles each remembering the lives of some group of people, and prayers were offered for each.

Rev. Dr. Henry Roberson, retired priest, prayed for Activists and Community Leaders.  His was a powerful prayer thanking God for sending us prophets who make the world a better place.

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Rev. Kris Ladusau, of the Dharma Center, reflected on Victims of Hate Crimes by sharing a story of a friend who was beaten, and then his simple, profound prayer for who each of should live as creators of peace.

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The prayer of the Rev. Loyce Newton Edwards, a retired UCC minister, drew from the African-American tradition with its rhythm and energy and evocative words ("bodacious" being everyone's favourite) and she remembered her transsexual sister and prayed for victims of HIV and AIDS.

Roshini Nambiar, the spiritual leader of the Vedic Temple, offered a traditional Sanskrit prayer for Friends and Loved Ones.  The beautiful, unfamiliar to many, Sanskrit lifted us to a mystical plane.

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Praying for Partners and Spouses, the Rev. Dr. Kathy Mcallie of Church of the Open Arms UCC, spoke about passion and romance and its ability to call forth our best selves.

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Rabbi Abby Jacobson of Emanuel Synagogue remarked on all those whom we do not get to saw our goodbyes to and offered a meditation for Goodbyes Unsaid that invited us to imagine what the funeral for that loved one should have been if we had been able to be there as our true selves and say and do what we needed to do.

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Then the Rev. Scott Hamilton, Executive Director of the Cimarron Alliance Foundation, concluded this portion with a ringing commentary on the Lonely and Forgotten, calling us all to commit that no one ever again die alone.

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This portion concluded with a musical reflection adapted from the Jewish practice of niggun, whereby the congregation hums a tune over and over. 

Then, individual names were read, with each name followed by the chiming of a bell.  Around sixty names had been turned in.  During this portion, I heard many fighting back tears in the audience, and Kathy almost broke down when reading the names of Bill Rogers and Paul Thompson.

After a minute of silence, we were lifted up by the song "Breaths" by the quartet Evensong.  This is a Sweet Honey in the Rock song, and its accapella rhythms and skat-like sounds honoring the dead and claiming that they are always with us, filled us with joy as we began to move upward in our service.

I brought the Reflection on Light and Hope, with the poem "Recovery" by Czeslaw Milosz.

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Then we passed the candle light throughout the congregation as we sang "Let There Be Peace on Earth."  This ended with everyone's hands raised in the air, an anthem declaring our commitment to one another and a better world.

Pride Interfaith Service 10


City votes NOT to cut bus service!

Just got this e-mail from Batch:

The Oklahoma City Council voted Tuesday (June 15) NOT to cut several bus routes or Metro Link service serving disabled people evenings and weekends. (The 25-cent fare increase was retained and will go into effect July 1st.) The Council responded to moving testimony by riders at Council meetings and special hearings (and maybe public demonstrations that generated local news coverage?)

Very, very good news!


Reich on the President's speech

Robert Reich considered it vapid.  His main point:

Whether it's Wall Street or health insurers or oil companies, we are approaching a turning point. The top executives of powerful corporations are pursuing profits in ways that menace the nation. We have not seen the likes not since the late nineteenth century when the "robber barons" of finance, oil, and the giant trusts ran roughshod over America. Now, as then, they are using their wealth and influence to buy off legislators and intimidate the regions that depend on them for jobs. Now, as then, they are threatening the safety and security of our people.

This is not to impugn the integrity of all business leaders or to suggest that private enterprise is inherently evil or dangerous. It is merely to state a fact that more and more Americans are beginning to know in their bones.

Our President must tell is like it is -- not with rancor but with the passion and conviction of a leader who recognizes what is happening and rallies the nation behind him.