Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
The election earlier this month revealed deep divisions in our country and raised many important questions for Christian people of faith as we look to our future as the Church. For many faithful Presbyterians, one of the questions facing us this week has a particular urgency: How can we navigate the tensions surrounding the Thanksgiving dinner table with friends and family who voted differently from us?
In his recent message to our denomination, Stated Clerk J. Herbert Nelson expressed the hope that “that the post-election anger, pain, and frustration demonstrated on the streets will lay the foundation for a transformed political system in the years to come.” We believe and fervently pray this effort will begin with the demonstration of Christian witness at our Thanksgiving dinner tables this week.
Philippians 2:1-11 finds Paul counseling us to “regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.” We acknowledge that for some Thanksgiving gatherings, strict avoidance of any political discourse will ensure personal safety. For others, however, seeking to understand and engage others’ points of view, rather than simply working to persuade them of how right we are, may help defuse tense situations and lead to mutual transformation.
Some PC(USA) resources can be of help in preserving a respectful tone in dialogue. “Seeking to be Faithful Together: Guidelines for Presbyterian During Times of Disagreement” offers a helpful one-page list of suggestions for handling difficult conversations on controversial topics.
A more comprehensive resource, “To Strengthen Christ’s Body: Tools for Talking About Tough Issues,” published by the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program, is available to both individuals and congregations wishing to delve deeper into the biblical principles governing dialogue and practical tools for engaging subjects that raise the potential for serious conflict. Since the post-electoral tensions will continue throughout the Advent season and thereafter, we commend this more extensive resource for your ongoing study for the difficult weeks and months ahead.
Above all, we continue to pray that this week will bring peace to our world, our country, and our homes. At Thanksgiving and throughout the Advent season, “may everything good from God be yours!” (1 Peter 1:2, the Message).
For Love In A Time of Conflict
By John O’Donohue
When the gentleness between you hardens
And you fall out of your belonging with each other, May the depths you have reached hold you still.
When no true word can be said, or heard, And you mirror each other in the script of hurt, When even the silence has become raw and torn, May you hear again an echo of your first music.
When the weave of affection starts to unravel And anger begins to sear the ground between you, Before this weather of grief invites The black seed of bitterness to find root, May your souls come to kiss.
Now is the time for one of you to be gracious, To allow a kindness beyond thought and hurt, Reach out with sure hands To take the chalice of your love, And carry it carefully through this echoless waste Until this winter pilgrimage leads you Towards the gateway to spring.
May the peace of Christ be with you.
Tony De La Rosa
Interim Executive Director
Presbyterian Mission Agency