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This morning found me at an interfaith spiritual community of which I have been a part since I walked through the door in 1984. It is called Pebble Hill Church and is comprised of folks of all religious/faith traditions and some who consider themselves atheist or agnostic. It is a Peace Site, which means it is dedicated to bringing about peaceful solutions to the challenges facing us on a personal and global scale. What drew me there today was that the celebration was to honor President Obama as he serves his last week in the Oval Office. Although I can’t speak for everyone in the community, what was verbalized was a profound sense of gratitude and respect for the man and the progressive changes his administration made on the fronts that we value, such as woman’s rights, LGBTQ rights, the environment and general peace and social justice. We are also experiencing trepidation about the changes the incoming administration will bring about. Many of us are ‘gracefully aging hippies’ who have marched in various rallies since the 1960’s.

One of the components of the service is welcoming people to verbalize their commitment to become active members. A relatively new couple stepped up to light their candles and claim their role in the community. They were accompanied by their two small children who helped their parents kindle their candles. The other person to stand before the congregation named Julia, has been attending since she was a small child. She is now in her 20’s. Her parents Gretchen and Michael have both been active members for many years and her father had passed in 2015.

What moved me about this ritual was observing that these young people will be immersed in a community that values love and peace. It encourages both activism and pacifism. It offers opportunities to get involved and not just sit back and bemoan the state of the world. When a religion teaches and preaches hatred, poisoning young people, I can’t fathom that a God of love would be any too pleased with that. It isn’t a matter of believing that ‘our way is the right way’. It leaves room for open-minded conversation and finding equitable solutions.

Another ritual we did was lighting candles to bear witness to groups whose wellbeing may be at risk if the new administration fulfills its campaign promises. Children, women, people of color, LGBTQ folks, the environment, those enslaved in sex trafficking, those with mental illness, those who may lose insurance benefits, were all acknowledged with the words, “We bless you, encourage you, and empower you.” As I stood up, I spoke on behalf of journalists who have much to say in this time of upheaval and endeavor to do so while freedom of the press is still in place. I pray that it always is.

Members of the congregation took turns reading snippets of President Obama’s speeches.  Each moved me to goosebumps and tears. His farewell address, like the other ones before, called on the American people to be a force for good in the world and evoked a sense of the power of the collective. He expressed gratitude and humility, as he praised those who stood with him.

It had me wondering (and I don’t plan to tune in) whether the word ‘we’ will be used as many times in the president-elect’s inauguration speech, or whether the word ‘I’ would overshadow it. I already know the answer.

At the end of service, we sang the hymn that has becoming a rallying cry for peace…We Shall Overcome. I changed the word ‘someday’ to ‘today,’ since we need not wait for a time in the future to affect positive outcomes. Now is the only time we have.

Some of the takeaway messages that were shared were about letting light overcome darkness, taking positive action, blessing those with whom we disagree, no matter how vehemently, and being a convert to love.

presidentobama

 

Bless you, Mr. President. Thank you for your service.

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