By Jane Brazell • Photos by Pastor Terri Stewart
Friday night’s memorial service was filled with remembering in order to move into the future.
Riverton Park United Methodist Samoan Fellowship Youth Choir sang “Go Light Your World.” The voices spoke to us encouraging us to take the gifts we have and share them with the world. It set the tone for the word that District Superintendent the Rev. Sharon Moe would bring to us, reminding us of the work those who came before us contributed to the world.
Recalling a recent lecture of Dr. Cornel West, Moe shared the question around which Dr. West’s lecture revolved – how do we redeem and transform the tragedies of our past into life giving futures? Dr. West looks to Abraham Heschel for his answer, which comes in the form of Heschel’s Three Pillars of Piety: Remembrance; Reverence; and Resistance.
Remembrance is looking back so that we can move forward. From whom do we come? For the members of Annual Conference, the memorial service is a reminder of our ancestors. They bind us together; though I may only know one, together we know them all.
Our relationship to the saints reminds us that we are not alone – we are connected to one another and to God, who has brought us through trouble and has not left us abandoned. This connection, to God and the saints, strengthens the work we do and keeps us bound to our ancestors.
Reverence is understanding the value of what our ancestors have given us. It is the act of honoring the work that was done by those who came before us. There is also a strong sense of remembering that we are human; we will make mistakes; yet we know that God forgives and continues to walk with us as we work to bring the kingdom of God to earth.
Finally, West speaks of resistance. This is a resistance to fear – to allowing outside forces influence our actions. Sharon Moe quoted lines written by Alice Walker to clearly illuminate this point – “Resistance is the secret to joy.” Resistance is standing in opposition to those things that would rob us of our humanity.
Moe spoke of remembering accurately and truthfully. This remembrance will bring us to a place of being a people of truth in a world that lacks solidarity. A world that needs us to remember that we are the body of Christ; we are connected.
We will remember that we are not broken.
We will remember that we possess the secret of joy.
We will walk in the paths that our ancestors created; we will remember the risks they took to be faithful to the call of God to transform the world, and we will go and do likewise.
Jane Brazell is a member of United Church in University Place. Pastor Terri Stewart serves as Director at Youth Chaplaincy Coalition.