Worship Script 4
Community Is Our Resilience and Strength
Worship Script (4 of 4)
By Carolyn S Owen-Towle
Come into this house of worship. Come in bringing all of who you are. Rest and quiet your week-worn spirit, for you are here to touch again eternal springs of hope and renewal.
Calm your hurried pace. For this hour let the cares, the fretfulness and worry be set aside. Forgive yourself—you are so very worthy of moving on, of making new efforts, of trying again.
Know that you are not alone. There is strength and caring support for you here. You will find comfort if you but ask. Look around. You are a part of potential community. You can make it what you will.
Enter into this house of worship.
HYMN #347 Gather The Spirit
Excerpts from the Welcoming Reflections, by Mark Nepto of the “Community Resilience: A Cross-Cultural Study”.
Thank you for coming to this table; for bringing your experience and insight and questions to this table. The basis of this conversation is the timeless assumption that we are more together than alone. Our theme, as you know, is community resilience: What does it look like? What is its DNA? Is it the water that quenches the thirst? Or the thirst itself? Or both?
In her book tracing the history and meaning of heart, Gail Goodwin asks: “What would a communal heart be like? What would have to happen to bring such a thing into being around one conference table or in a single committee meeting—or in a single church? What would have to be left outside the door?”
What comes to mind (and heart) are two stories as a way into this conversation. The first takes place in the winter of 1943 in the Kovno Ghetto in Lithuania where the high city of Eastern European Jewish culture had been encamped by the Nazis for eighteen harsh months. Word came through the city walls that the Ghetto was to be liquidated. After days of shock and with no way out, Dr. Elkhanan Elkes, the elected elder of the Ghetto, convened the ablest remaining musicians of Kovno to rehearse Beethoven’s Ode to Joy as a gift to their own community and the world. As Goethe says, “When in pain or anguish, man sings.” What enables such resilience of spirit?
The second story comes from Sierra Leone where a project called Fambul Tok, which is Creole (Krio) for Family Talk, was recently initiated. In the aftermath of the brutal civil wars that took place in Sierra Leone from 1991-2002, the people – maimed, wounded, orphaned, and widowed – were ready to talk and to listen, and under that, to heal. So on March 23, 2008, on the very day the war started seventeen years earlier, in the village of Kailahun where the first shot was fired, thirty villagers gathered in a circle of chairs out in the open. After a significant silence, a man with one arm began by telling his story and was asked if the man who cut off his arm was there. He nodded and pointed across the circle and the man who lived near him came over, fell to his knees, and asked for forgiveness. Then, in their own way and in their own time, they began to ask each other, What went wrong? Such a simple and indispensable question, What went wrong?
We are here, in great measure, to keep the true being of community in view, no matter how briefly seen; despite the long, darkened periods we encounter. We are here to try to understand what happens in those 27 seconds of resilience between people that makes communities rise in compassion and strength greater than before.”
Community Means Strength by Starhawk
We are all longing to go home to some place
we have never been—a place half-remembered and half-envisioned
we can only catch glimpses of from time to time.
Somewhere, there are people to whom we can speak with passion
without having the words catch in our throats.
Somewhere a circle of hands
will open to receive us, eyes will light up as we enter,
voices will celebrate with us whenever we come into our own power.
Community means strength
that joins our strength to do the work that needs to be done.
Arms to hold us when we falter.
A circle of healing.
A circle of friends.
Someplace where we can be free.
HYMN #402 From You I Recieve
STORY FOR ALL AGES
The It’s Not About the Big Bad Wolf by Emily DeTar Birt.
You might know the story of the Big Bad Wolf. Once upon a time a big bad wolf came along, and after some interesting conversations with some pigs, gave one mighty huff and puff and blew down a straw house of one pig. He then gave a big huff and puff and blew down a house of sticks of another pig.
The two pigs were devastated. Their houses were destroyed.
In the tale, the pigs turn all their anger into planning ways of hurting the wolf. In the original story, they all join a third pig, their brother, in a house made of bricks, and figure out a way to trap the wolf into a pot of boiling water. In the original story the happy ending is revenge.
But what if there was a different ending.
What if the pigs came together not to plot revenge.
What if they came together and let each other be sad.
What if they came together and gave each other rest.
What if they came together and helped each brother build a new house.
True community doesn’t seek to hurt others for the tragedies we face. True strong and resilient communities, give each other spaces to feel sadness and joy, while getting up and helping each other out.
In the end, no matter the story, it’s not about the big bad wolf. It’s about what we do when our houses get knocked down.
Words by Jessica York, with additional closing by Emily DeTar Birt:
This is not a prayer that you may find hope
For hope is a luxury that some cannot find and others cannot afford
This is not a prayer that you find more love in the world
Though I hope you continue to feel love and send love to those near and far
I pray instead that you may find tools
A hammer lying half-hidden in the grass
A roll of duct tape, curled up and forgotten on a high shelf in the back of the closet
A wrench poking out of the back pocket of a stranger
Take these tools and gird thyself
A hammer for justice
Duct tape to hold together your broken heart
A wrench to “grip and provide advantage in applying torque to turn objects” – or turn the world
Take these tools and others you may find in places expected and unexpected
Take these tools and gird thyself
For weeping may last through the night
But the work begins in the morning.
. . .
In this community, may we be each other’s tools.
May we always find more ways to pull each other up
And start again in the morning.
CANDLES OF JOY AND CONCERN
Those who are so moved are now invited to come forward to light a candle, expressing a joy or concern in their lives. As you do, you may briefly share what it is. We ask that people coming forward speak for no more than a sentence or two, and speak from the heart about issues in their lives, rather than political issues, which we can take up at coffee hour or in the parking lot.
Resilience as a Spiritual Strength
by Jaco B. ten Hove, retired, minister emeritus for Cedars Unitarian Universalist Church, Bainbridge Island and North Kitsap County, Washington
One thing I’ve learned about the word “resilience” is that it initially came from the field of metallurgy, describing how certain metals when heated will lose their shape, but when cooled can amazingly recover their original form, resiliently. So we’ve come to define resilience generally as being “able to withstand or recover from difficult conditions,” which accurately makes it a reactive skill, often in response to external dynamics.
I think, for instance of baseball superstar Jackie Robinson, who in the 1940s and 50s showed immense resilience as the first African American to play in the major leagues, patiently enduring near-constant racial harassment from fans and fellow players alike.
We can also honor the high degrees of resilience required and shown in places hit by natural disasters, such as Japan, Haiti and Sumatra, let alone New Orleans, just to name a few. Meanwhile, stresses and repercussions around the current political climate in the United States call for great resilience from many of us.
All of which suggests that resilience can also be an ongoing quality of internal strength and hardiness, producing a supple capacity for prospering amid whatever difficult conditions might emerge. It can be an overarching practice—intentionally building a resilient way of life, both individually and together.
Resilience is not about merely recovering from one trial or another, one after another. Resilience is also a proactive skill and a way of life, both personally and in community.
In recent decades, as resilience has risen as a topic of interest, many global studies have explored how diverse populations have demonstrated various degrees of it. For instance, Community Resilience: A Cross-Cultural Study (from the Wilson International Center for Scholars and the Fetzer Institute) identifies qualities that appear to be characteristic of more and less resilient communities.
Three experiences are usually part of low resilience settings: the people there feel displaced, insecure and voiceless. They do not feel like they have a place where they belong; they are anxious about their safety, their future or both; and they are certainly not feeling heard. Displaced, insecure and voiceless, any of us would not feel very resilient.
In contrast, people in settings of high resilience, besides not experiencing those three feelings, generally portray a significant overall common characteristic: they stay in touch with the core, defining essence of their community. And when challenges or adversity arise, they believe they can change things for the better. They resiliently manage to find a way back to expressing that defining essence—their purpose for and mission in being a community together.
What I take from these comparisons is confirmation that resilient community is shaped by collective thought—a mutuality of purpose. Without that shared purpose a group of people will feel disjointed, more likely to experience the painful effects of low resilience. In the same way that the best medical care attempts to both repair damage as necessary and suggest good preventative behavior that builds physical resilience and helps avoid more trips to the clinic, so, too, can we look at our life in community.
We may be well aware of the problems (dis-ease) that besiege us, and our efforts to fix what goes wrong or is unfair are important. But we can also build systemic resilience that proactively improves the odds for strong communities that will ride relatively smoothly over whatever bumps are ahead. Mutuality of purpose can be seen in any community’s common sense of identity, expressed by its shared value system and collective spiritual strength.
I think immediately, for instance, of the Bainbridge Island/No. Kitsap Interfaith Council, in which I participated for numerous years, and served a term as president.
This institution that draws together representatives from umpteen faith groups for monthly meetings, has, since the late 1990s, cultivated warm relationships across what are often very stiff boundaries. As a couple dozen of us went around the table to name ourselves and our religious communities each month, it was truly inspirational to feel the diversity of spiritual paths convened there for common purpose.
It felt very much like acting locally as we think globally, where peace would seem to hinge on religions getting along better than they often do. Our motto, not original to us, was “Prays Well With Others.”
The business we conducted could seem rather straightforward—such as planning annual activities, like an Interfaith Music Festival. But what also happened through the Interfaith Council was that our mutual relationships, developed over months and years of dedicated attendance, built resilience into the fabric of the larger community.
Should some local emergency or calamity arise that might benefit from action by the interfaith community, I knew we would not have to reach out to strangers to fashion a response, because we had invested in these good relationships over time. I knew who to call and trust, and that person would likely know me. Our resilience, our shared spiritual strength, was palpable and very encouraging.
The eminent historical scholar Howard Zinn is also encouraging:
When you have models of how people can come together, even for a brief period, it suggests that it could happen for a longer period. When you think of it, that’s the way things operate in the scientific world, so why not socially? As soon as the Wright brothers could keep a plane aloft for 27 seconds, everyone knew from that point on that a plane might be kept aloft for hours. It’s the same socially and culturally…
We’ve had countless incidents in history where people have joined together in social movements and created a spirit of camaraderie or a spirit of sharing and togetherness which has absented them, even momentarily, from the world of greed and domination. If true community can stay aloft for 27 seconds, it is only a matter of time before such a community can last for hours. Only a matter of time before a beloved community, as Martin Luther King, Jr, spoke of, can come into being.
Resilient communities full of resilient people. I know it can happen.
As much as I strive for sustainability, I yearn for resilience, which shines as a somewhat brighter beacon for me these days. Resilience is a reasonable, personal, inviting path, actively honoring our Unitarian Universalist principle of “respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.” I see it as a spiritual strength to be cultivated.
Let the beloved community unfold in sustained resilience.
HYMN #318We Would Be One
Go Boldly by Jane M. Olson
May you be brave enough to expose
your aching woundedness
and reveal your vulnerability.
May you speak your deepest truths,
knowing that they will change as you do.
May you sing the music within you,
composing your own melody,
playing your song with all your heart.
May you draw, paint, sculpt, and sew,
showing the world your vision.
May you write letters, poetry, biography,
slogans, graffiti, the great novel,
laying bare your words to love and hate.
May you love even though your heart
breaks again and again.
And until the end of your days,
may your life be filled
with possibilities and courage.