This comment made me think a lot:
I think my best comment it that there will always be enough bad news to fill the newspaper. I am a big fan of reading newspapers but I have to remember that those things are far from my real life. My real life is lived in my town with my friends and acquaintances. The things that are arms length from me should matter more to me than what is going on in another state or country.
I get what you’re saying, Donna. We must be grounded in our time and place in our ministries.
But my own tradition emphasizes interdependence and interconnectedness, and I struggle with having a local focus that also acknowledges our place in the world. Unitarian Universalism is an eccentric religion that does not have a set liturgy and therefore no weekly Prayers For The World such as you would find in many church’s worship services. We write ours fresh every Sunday, and that means that we constantly have to make decisions about what to include, what to lift up, for our congregations. If we don’t do it ritually, someone will stand up during our infamous “Joys and Sorrows” segment (or sort of democratic take on the Prayes of the People) and give an off-the-cuff homily on the latest terrorist attack.
(Joys and Sorrows has been a practice among many of us for lots of decades now, and most ministers hate it. Many of us like it because we get a lot of pastoral information in that moment, and we frequently remind the congregation of the three cardinal rules of J’s and S’s: 1. Speak into the mic so everyone can hear you, even if you think you talk loudly enough without the mic. 2. Keep your sharing brief. 3. Keep your sharing personal — ie, this is not the time for anyone to hold forth on social issues.)
I never want my preaching to become a predictable “Rev. Vicki’s Response To The Latest Violence In The World,” but the fact is that terrorist attacks are part of our new shared global reality, and I feel that pastors must help our people build more spiritual muscle to confront that fact. If the church does not teach how faithful people respond to this reality, false prophets like Donald Trump will teach them how. This is not a time to let the same, comfortable litanies and Scripture passages waft over the ears and assume that those in the pews will know how to translate those passages to their own lives and the new frequency of mass shootings (domestic terrorism) and terrorist violence abroad. Clergy must actively translate, interpret our faith anew to people who are being passionately inveighed outside of the church walls to let fear and paranoia inform our choices as Americans. They are being taught elsewhere that Wisdom is the offspring of suspicion, not love. They are walking out of our doors and heading immediately to their couches and chairs and nodding their heads in agreement over ideas of walls and closed borders and profiling. If that’s not okay with their ministers, then we must address “the news” and not just our local relationships.
The new global reality means that what is happening in another state or another country is, in fact, happening to all of us. How we build wisdom to speak to it and capacity to absorb and integrate it as clergy is a real challenge of our times.