Where We Are Being Called – Rev. Carter Smith

It has been more than a month now that we citizens of the world have been witness to the unprecedented unfolding of violence in Israel and Gaza. I am sure that each of us has stories to tell about the way these events have impacted us personally. For my part, a friend shared the news of the October 7th attacks she was getting live via text messages from her sister and Israeli brother-in-law who were visiting family in Tel Aviv. We didn’t know much that morning,  but we experienced the fear of not knowing how her family was going to get home.

As the war has unfolded, I have spent many mornings with my heart broken open anew by the reports I hear on the radio. I have cried listening to stories of Israeli survivors who are in temporary housing and cannot sit shiva for their loved ones. The same when I hear of Gazans with Western citizenship who were given a chance to flee, but had to say goodbye knowing that they may never see their families or homeland again. The toll is unimaginable, and it is ongoing.

I am tempted to share more harrowing stories I’ve encountered, or unfathomable statistics that keep coming our way. It is difficult to write a pastoral message on this issue because the impacts feel so big, the history so complex, and it is not clear how to be effective agents for peace in these days.

Maybe you are with me in feeling a sense of inadequacy for this task. My hope, however, is that this is not where we all are! Because we need each other. Please, let’s be in conversation as a community about how we are grounding, learning, engaging, and taking action?

Let all of us pay attention to where we are being called.

Acknowledging the political diversity that members of this community no doubt bring to this issue, may we work to solidify our values so that we are enabled to speak up and act out. I urge each of us to be loud in our stance against violence, on the other side of the world and in our own communities. May we join the international chorus for ceasefire and a more measured approach to responding to Hamas that prioritizes the care of Israeli civilians. May we make clear that there is no room for anti-semitism or islamophobia here, or elsewhere.

At Westside, our Racial Justice Change Team has in recent months been interested  in discerning how to support victims of bias crimes that have occurred in our state. Our partners in the Washington Faith Action Network are similarly working to address issues of hate impacting our communities. Please stay tuned to learn about  future opportunities to engage in these concerns.

To learn more about the history of UU engagement with Israel & Palestine, as well as a current call for de-escalation, you can read this Statement from the UUA as well as this Statement from President Rev. Sofía Betancourt.

I offer deep gratitude to members of our Right Relations core team who held a circle last month for people to process these events. I trust that we Westsiders will continue holding space for each other in similar and different ways in the days ahead.

Please be in conversation with me about how you are engaging in these issues, and if there are any particular resources you are looking for. I have few answers, but am here with you all in the unknown.

In closing, I offer a prayer, “The Tender Mercies of Our Times” by Lara Cowtan:

Spirit of compassion, source of life, God of many names 
We gather today in gratitude for our many blessings, 
for being in community, for the tender mercies of our lives.

A delicate pink flower on a white background, with a prism of light reflecting underneath
|We also ache with grief, concern, and anger 
about the terrible violence in the world and the human capacity to inflict harm on one another. 
We seek solace in our seeming powerlessness.
We hold in our embrace those hiding in shelters and mourning the deaths of loved ones; the tattered fabric of their lives.

We pray for those with power to create peace, that they may recognize the fragile and valuable humanity of those across from them and see how we are all one.

Holy Spirit of mercy, may all who seek comfort and safety find themselves in a place with no fear or hatred, and may all who suffer in pain or in anger be held in gentle loving care to ease and heal their wounds.

As we seek to build the beloved community, may we ever be guided by our faith in the ability of love to conquer injustice, and in our ability to love beyond belief.

May it be so. 

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