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This week's author is Charlie Kuchenbrod, Associate Conference Minister for Endowment Ministries for the Connecticut Conference, UCC.
Save me, O God,
for the waters have come up to my neck.
I sink in deep mire,
where there is no foothold;
I have come into deep waters,
and the flood sweeps over me.
I am weary with my crying;
my throat is parched.
My eyes grow dim
with waiting for my God.
He has told you, O mortal, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?
I recently spent a week as a volunteer at Back Bay Mission in Biloxi, Mississippi. I spoke with people that did, in fact, experience waters that came up to their necks, who had to cling to trees through the night to avoid drowning. Others did drown. Rich and poor both suffered during the storm; the poor have continued suffering more than the rich in the aftermath and recovery.
I sat on a remnant of concrete in the middle of the lower ninth ward of the city of New Orleans, contemplating the vast emptiness of what had once been a crowded and vibrant neighborhood. I couldn't help but the think that the "system" -- our American approach to free markets and democracy -- had failed, and continues to fail, the few current and many former residents of this place. I do not presume to have solutions, but I suspect some anger and indignation would not be out of place. As in the time of the prophets, the system is rigged to benefit relatively few at the expense of many.
Yet I have to confess that I am a beneficiary of the system in many ways. I have not sought to benefit at the expense of others, but I have benefited. I suspect this is true for most people that will read this, in varying degrees. We who have benefited must be willing to change the system, even at our own expense. It is difficult to characterize this as a sacrifice, given that we would be relinquishing benefits that were neither requested nor earned.
One of our touchstones for reflection on this trip was this quote:
"If you have come to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us walk together..."
--- Lila Watson, Australian Aboriginal woman, in response to mission worker
I have struggled with this as I think about how my liberation is bound up with the people of Biloxi and the lower ninth ward. I wonder if the wellbeing of each person is inextricably connected to the wellbeing of all people. I wonder if charity is liberating or if the inextricable connection of wellbeing requires more than personal compassion: it requires social and economic justice.
I wonder if the prophetic word for wellbeing is salvation.
Still speaking God, please be with all the victims of Hurricane Katrina, who even after four years need comfort and hope. Bless the people who have worked to help people rebuild their homes and their lives. Give us strength and courage to work for justice, for it is not only the victims of injustice that will be helped, but all people. Amen.
the loved ones and family of the Rev. Karl A. Phillippi, pastor emeritus of the Northford Congregational Church UCC, who died on Oct. 22;
the Rev. Karen Jodice, pastor of the Broadview Community Church UCC in Hartford, on the death of her father Benjamin Jodice on October 22;
the Rev. Nancy Allen, associate minister of Immanuel Congregational Church UCC in Hartford, as she undergoes cancer treatment;
the Rev. Dr. Kenneth J. Hoyt, pastor of the Middlebury Congregational Church UCC, recovering from surgery for a kidney tumor;
our Conference Minister the Rev. Dr. Davida Foy Crabtree and her spouse, David, as he undergoes chemotherapy and radiation treatment for stomach cancer;
the Rev. M. J. Hinchliff, pastor of First Church of Christ, Congregational, UCC of East Haddam, who is being treated for breast cancer;
the people of Samoa recovering from a tsunami;
the people of the Philippines rebuilding after storm and floods;
the people of Honduras and our ecumenical partners there amidst continuing political turmoil;
the Conference's partners working for peace in Colombia, amidst escalating violence;
the leaders of this nation, that they may meet the challenges of the day with insight, wisdom, and compassion;
those suffering due to the ongoing financial woes of the nation, be they struggling to meet an unaffordable mortgage, confronting the loss of a job, or working to find just resolutions to the crisis; and
those serving or living in war or conflict zones around the world, or where terrorists have struck, particularly in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Colombia, and the Sudan.
To be added to the prayer list, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
First Cong'l Church of East Haven, Inc.
P The Rev. Karen G. Johnson
AP The Rev. Amy S. Hayden
CE Ms. Diane Lewis
First Cong'l Church of East Windsor
P The Rev. Thomas V. Calderone
East Woodstock Cong'l Church
P The Rev. Susan J. Foster
CE Ms. Emily Murphy
MM Ms. Kristen Wedegis
Cong'l Church of Easton, Inc.
Ellington Cong'l Church
P The Rev. Donald Bailey-Francois
MM Ms. Esther Pezzella
CE Ms. Linda Crocker
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The Spirit Calendar: October 26, 2009 by Mr. Charlie Kuchenbrod, Executive Associate Conference Minister