Leader Letter

Subscribing congregations should share this letter with congregational leaders.  Being oriented to the month’s theme, and equipped to help others in the congregation get aligned with it, builds the whole congregation’s engagement with the theme.  Which, of course, means unity and energy for the community.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Dear Friends,

The theme this month is “hope and despair,” and it seems there might not be a more basic axis upon which to carry out a life of faith.  Conventionally, we’re encouraged to move away from despair, and to embrace a pathway of hope, no matter what events and circumstances have shaped our lives, nor what horizon we can see with the naked eye.  But Liberation theologian, Miguel de la Torre, in recent years, has radically challenged the easy adoption of hope by people of faith.  He suggests that hope as the bright horizon of the Beloved Community and justice made real, after centuries and empires of oppression, is a way that people of faith make use of suffering, by putting it into a context that is ultimately redemptive.

De la Torre does not see oppression as only the prelude to an ultimate justice, but instead challenges the faithful to truly bear witness to the wreckage of domination culture, and the pain it has caused, and continues to cause.  From what I infer in his writing, if we can truly be present to suffering, in the absence of some transcendent hope, we will feel within us the crisis that moves us to liberating action.  This seems consonant with the Christian faith, in its recognition of God incarnate, in the form of embodied weakness.  But it also seems true of Humanism, with its focus on the here and now.  And also of Buddhism, in its centering of suffering as the primary human condition.

What about you?  Can you imagine dispensing with the hope that may have oriented you thus far in your life?  Can you imagine simply being present to despair, to hopelessness, as de la Torre prescribes?  For him, it is not a demoralizing gesture, to be present to hopelessness, but a sobering one.  An awakening one. Perhaps it’s when we are present to despair that we can summon the compassion that will produce solidarity in our hearts.  Solidarity not only with those who sing the same songs, and chant the same slogans, but solidarity with all the dispossessed, all those who are in misery, all those in despair. In this month of hope and despair,

I invite you to revisit your own axis of faith, to discern how each—both hope and also despair—might be helpful teachers, inviting you to look again at this world we inhabit, and what we are called to do.

Faithfully,

Jake

Rev. Jake Morrill
Lead Minister ORUUC
Executive Director UUCF
Launchpad Partner