From the Executive Director

By Rev. Jane Field, Executive Director

In the wake of recent events in Burundi, San Bernardino, Mali, Colorado Springs, Syria, and so many other places around our state, our nation and our world, a denominational judicatory head called the MCC office wanting to talk about how we in the faith community should respond to so much despair, hatred and violence. We discussed the debate that blew up in the media recently when someone suggested it isn’t enough just to say “we are praying”…for the victims…for an end to the bloodshed…   “God Isn’t Fixing This!” screamed a headline in The New York Daily News on the day after the San Bernardino shooting.

As faith leaders, we are called and compelled to say something. But the faith leader who called was staring at a blank computer screen trying to craft a pastoral letter to the congregations in her care and no matter what she typed, it sounded like an empty cliché. We talked for a long time, and agreed that sharing our struggle lightened the burden and helped us each move forward in hope. When people of faith face a crisis or tragedy, coming together to grieve, pray, talk and act is one of our greatest resources.

And despite that newspaper headline, I remain convinced that prayer is also a necessary and effective resource for us. But not just any kind of prayer. Christian philosopher Soren Kierkegaard once said, “The function of prayer is not to influence God, but rather to change the nature of the one who prays.”  Prayers that only ask God to comfort victims or to stop such violence in our world, no matter how earnest, are not the prayers we need to be praying. Prayers that transform us and inspire us to act in the world are. Michael Stark, noted Christian philosopher and theology professor wrote this week: “Action is not separated from prayer. If we pray without action, we aren’t really praying.”

So in these remaining days of Advent, as we tend to flickering flames of candlelight that will not be overcome by the night, I encourage you to pray and to act. In that spirit, I give you this poem by Howard Thurman, along with my wishes that your Advent and Christmas are full of peace, joy, love, and most of all, hope:

   I Will Light Candles This Christmacandles

Candles of joy, despite all sadness,
Candles of hope where despair keeps watch.
Candles of courage for fears ever present,
Candles of peace for tempest-tossed days,
Candles of grace to ease heavy burdens,
Candles of love to inspire all my living,
Candles that will burn all the year long.