By David Rommereim
Congratulations! We have turned the corner of a new year!
We have celebrated the radical hope of God through the Nativity of our Faith. We have an invitation into a new way of living through the teachings of Jesus the Christ. As a Christian, for me the nativity begins the story of a life nurtured by hope. It is a faith nurtured by the radical hospitality of grace; Such grace is limitless.
Then, as a species, we have watched "the ball drop" and a new year begin. Having "the ball drop" is a perfect metaphor for the troubles and the trauma we human persons cause one another. We have a year of racialized tensions all across our land. The question I ask for this new year and new age of a life born of the Nativity is this: Will the hope of Christ challenge us to look at our lives in a new way... a hopeful way.
I was deeply honored by our Chinese community, many of whom attended the funeral of slain police officer, Wenjian Liu, in Bensonhurst last Sunday. They went to pray and show support for a tragic moment in our city. I was not honored by the police who turned their back on our Mayor during that service. As a citizen and a Christian it made me feel dirty and deeply sad. I pray our leaders enter this new year able to heal the wounds of this city with dialogue and just laws while, at the same time, leading our way into a new age of racial honesty and secure policing.
I make no apologies that, as your pastor, I seek to provide space for public conversation in our neighborhood and city so that we dignify our church ministry and discuss together the challenges which separate us as a people. Healing begins with dialogue. Attempting to heal society without dialogue is akin to going to the doctor when you are sick and telling her, "I'm not going to tell you I'm sick. I'm not going to talk to you." And leaving her to figure it out without you.
I remain deeply grateful to the leadership of the Arab American Association as we partnered together for a public conversation on race, racism and national mourning last month. The Soul Cafe was filled with inter-religious people of light who sought to clarify and lead our way into healing as a society, especially when it comes to race and racialized divisions.
To be honest, I have noticed that these dialogues are vastly attended by the non-white community. For some reason the white community tends not to show up as much as the Black, Hispanic, Asian. It could be a historic reluctance to talk about difficult subjects. It may be deeper than that. But this is what I observe. As a society we need deep healing which can only begin through that face to face conversation.
Throughout my pastoral career I have experienced a hesitance on the part of the white community to talk about race, or, in our present circumstances, about public policing. I have learned to talk about race because of my relationship with African American, Latino, Chinese, and Arab friends. I see no other way to enliven both the grace and hope which guides our way of life than by getting involved and talking. This sort of talk is not easy, but it is healthy and soul affirming.
For those of you who have shown up, I am deeply honored to serve you in this way. The dialogue has been a hopeful display of kindness and honesty. Thank you.
Now our calendars have changed. This reminds us that we cannot recycle them into the new year. We begin anew. Therefore, I dedicate myself to the Nativity of our Hope and the embrace of Grace which guides this community of faith.