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Business as Usual

One of the great joys of our recent trip to Africa was the opportunity to visit with South African Bishop Peter Storey.

Peter Storey

Now retired and pushing 80, he still has the twinkle in his eye and the fire in his bones that has always made him such a winsome and powerful witness for the Gospel, particularly in the years when he stood along side Bishop Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela in the struggle against apartheid.  For Peter it was not a political struggle, it was a moral struggle.  He was convinced that if the church was to be the church it had to be willing to confront the evils of the day and speak the word of truth, even if it was costly.  In fact, his book “With God in the Crucible” carries the sub-title “Preaching Costly Discipleship”.

When I got home I pulled out the book.  In so many ways it speaks to our own day in America when gun violence is killing all to many people and the rise of white supremacy and bigotry is tearing at the fabric of our society; when the jingoism of “America First” and the arrogance of greed is isolating us from our brothers and sisters around the world; when sexual aggression by men in power continues to dehumanize women.  The list could go on and on.  Peter’s words are a call for the church to be the church and to lift up the values of the Kingdom of God over/against those prevailing values.  He says “business as usual” for the church means living into that Kingdom now.  He writes:

“If false gods are failing and if God’s victory is assured, then even though this world has yet to acknowledge Him, we must live in His future now.  For the followers of Christ, he is already Lord–NOW!

In a world of cruelty we know that compassion and caring will one day rule, so we will demonstrate them NOW.

While this world bows to the love of power, we will cry “No!”.  We will live by the power of love NOW.

While truth lies fallen in the streets, we will affirm that Jesus, who is the truth, is Lord and we will live by His truth NOW. 

 While people live comfortably with injustice we know that justice will one day rule.  It must therefore be our standard NOW. 

While people continue to trust in military might, we know that the Prince of Peace is Lord and we will cast out violence from our midst NOW. 

That is what “business as usual” is all about for Christians.  That is what Christian hope is all about–not sentimental optimism but the insight that enables us even in the face of the darkest hour to know that Christ is Lord.  Christian hope is living by God’s future NOW. ”                                                                                        (“With God in the Crucible”, page 54)

In all honesty, I can’t say I have always lived up to Peter’s challenge and in my ministry I have not always been as bold as he in confronting the evils in our society that are out of step with the values of the Kingdom.  But in my own feeble and failing way I’ve tried to lift up those values and live into that future Kingdom because in my better moments, I agree with Peter–that is what “business as usual” for the church should be NOW.

Until God’s Kingdom comes and God’s will is done on earth, even as it is in heaven,

Jack Harnish

 

 

 

 

Accompany Them With Singing

A delightful obituary in our local paper was filled with funny stories of an evidently delightful woman. Loved by her family and remembered with great joy, one of the memories was the time she was on the golf course and yelled across the fairway to another golfer concerning his open golf bag, “Hey! Your zipper is open and your balls are falling out!”

One of the great losses of this COVID year has been the loss of our traditions and rituals around death. A neighbor was a victim of COVID-19 and with no opportunity to give his widow a hug and share warm memories, we just felt helpless. Thanks to the wonders of technology, we attended a couple funerals in my former congregation and the service for a friend in England on-line. However, when an aging saint died after a long, faithful life and when one of my former staff members died much too young, the church should have been packed. Instead, we viewed the requisite 20 family members scattered across the sanctuary at a safe social distance. I’m grateful for the technology, but it’s not the same as being there.

Thomas Long wrote a book which should be required reading for clergy with this eloquent title: “Accompany Them With Singing”. It talks about the importance of ritual and tradition in the ways in which we honor the dead, because as we honor the dead, we honor life with the witness to our faith.

And if we really believe in the promise of eternal life, the time of death calls not only for grieving, but for singing. My very proper friend Bob Neville, former dean of the Boston University School of Theology, said he hoped when he entered heaven he would hear the angel choir singing Wagner’s “Pilgrim Chorus”. I’d settle for “When We All Get to Heaven”, or maybe Vince Gill singing “Go Rest High Upon That Mountain”. As we rolled my Dad’s casket out of the church, the organist broke into the “Hallelujah Chorus” and forty years later whenever I hear it, the memory comes back.

Traditions matter. Touching, hugging, laughing and crying together matters. Witnessing in song to the faith that death is conquered in Resurrection matters. For now, we will all wear our masks, keep our safe social distance and refrain from congregational singing, but one day soon, we will once again be able to share the joys and the sorrows of life in our rituals and traditions and once again, we will be able to “accompany them with singing”.

Thanks be to God.

Long Day’s Journey into Light

Image result for long day's journey into night

One of my all-time favorite plays is Eugene O’Neill’s autobiographical “Long Day’s Journey Into Night”.  To say it is one of my favorites, along with “Macbeth” and “King Lear” might make you think I am downright depressed or a glutton for punishment.  All three are incredibly sad plays, tragedies in every sense of the word.  In fact, over the centuries there were times when theaters would not perform King Lear or tried to soften the ending because they believed it was too painful for an audience to bear and by the end of Macbeth, the stage is literally littered with dead bodies. Hence, the tradition of never saying “Macbeth” backstage.

O’Neill’s sad tale of his broken family and drug-addicted mother begins in the morning, then gradually moves toward night as the darkness descends on the house and the Tyrone family.  But here’s the amazing thing.  He dedicates it to his wife for their 12th wedding anniversary with these words: 

Dearest, I give you the original script of this play of old sorrow, written in tears and blood.  A sadly inappropriate gift, it would seem, for a day celebrating happiness.  But you will understand.  I mean it as a tribute to your love and tenderness, which has given me the faith in love that enabled me to face my dead at last and write this play—write it with deep pity and understanding and forgiveness for all the four haunted Tyrones.  These twelve years, Beloved One, have been a Journey into Light—into love.”

As they say, “That’ll preach!”

I think it is an incredible description of the journey of Lent. Sure enough, the tale we tell is a tale of old sorrow, written in tears and blood.  It is a time when we are called to face our own past with deep pity and to discover forgiveness.  The journey begins in ashes and descended into the dark night of the tomb. But in the end it becomes a journey into light, the light of resurrection bringing the hope for a new dawn and a new day.

It also feels like the journey of this past year. 

It has been a year of pandemic death marked by masks and body bags, a year that has forced us to face the racial injustices of our society and to confront the problematic conspiracy theories which threaten our democracy. It has been a long day’s journey into night.  But the hope of a new day lays just ahead.  Though the roll-out has been slow, vaccines are on the way.  The number of new infections and deaths are decreasing.  Hopefully we are taking seriously our deep seated racial disparities and our democracy will survive the attacks against it.  Though it has been a long day’s journey into night, it is also a long day’s journey into light. At the end of journey, there is the hope of spring, the hope of Easter, the assurance of a new dawn.

In the words of Eugene O’Neill, Lent is a tale of old sorrow, written in tears and blood.  It is also a tale of mercy and forgiveness, deep pity and understanding.  In the end, it is a journey into Light–into love.

About Taking the Bible Literally

May be an image of one or more people, people standing, outdoors and text that says 'U.S.NAVAL NAVAL OBSERVATORY'

I was raised in the camp meeting tradition where the Bible was taken very seriously, I would even say literally. I remember camp meeting preachers saying “God said it, I believe it, that settles it.” I even remember a Bible study at Cherry Run Camp Meeting where the instructor tried to teach squirmy teenagers about the Book of Hebrews and the Order of Melchizedek! In forty years of ministry I never tried that, but I am very grateful for that deep exposure to Scripture.

It didn’t take long, however, to realize that it wasn’t as simple as “God said it, I believe it, that settles it”. I discovered it was better to take the Bible seriously, rather than literally. If you really believe the Bible is inspired, taking it seriously means first asking what it meant to the original writers and readers before you ask, “What is the universal message God offers to every time and place?” Taking the Bible literally, as if God spoke in King James English, can get you into trouble.

For example, reading the Book of Revelation as if it is an “end times” timeline for the 21st Century distorts John’s purpose, imagery and message which can speak to the 5th Century, the 15th Century and the 25th Century. But first, you have to ask what it meant for his century.

Another example is St. Paul’s unequivocal admonition for slaves to be obedient to their masters. He repeats it more than once and there is a whole book in the New Testament dealing with a slave being returned to his master. But no one takes Paul literally today. The same with Paul’s word that women should keep quiet in church and not have authority over men. I’ve been blessed to know wonderful pastors and bishops who happen to be women and the church is enriched with their leadership.

So that is why it intrigues me when some folks want to take the Bible literally when it comes to homosexuality and same sex marriage. When St. Paul was so clear about slavery and women, but only briefly comments on what we might consider homosexual relations, why don’t we ask what it meant for him, then try to discover what God’s message might be for our day?

Whole books have been written on the subject. I recommend “Unclobbered: Rethinking Our Misuse of the Bible on Homosexuality” by Colby Martin and my friend Steve Harper’s “For the Sake of the Bride” for starters. In short, I have come to the conclusion that St. Paul was speaking primarily about abusive sex between men– the use of male rape by conquering armies to debase their enemy and boy prostitutes in pagan temple worship or Roman households. Everyone would join St. Paul in opposing such abuse. But might there be room for loving, committed same sex relationships? I have come to believe there is. I have known too many couples who have modeled fidelity and commitment to rule it out.

Because I believe the Bible is inspired, at all points including slavery, clergywomen, and sexual relations, I want to take the Bible seriously, but I can’t simply take it literally.

Like the guy in the photo above, Biblical literalism can get you into trouble.

If I Was Thinking of Joining a New Methodist Denomination….

My non-United Methodist readers might want to drop out now, but for my UM colleagues, here are a few questions I would ask before joining a break-away denomination. I’m thinking primarily of the Wesley Covenant Association but this could also apply to the Liberation Methodist Connexion.

1. How many churches will actually make the move?

The answer is “No one knows”. The WCA is projecting about 3,000-5,000 congregations out of 30,000 in the USA. They estimate that 95% will have less than 500 members.

Likewise, in Michigan no one knows for sure. The WCA website identifies 29 “WCA-friendly” churches in the state and based on informal conversations, I’d guess about 100+ out of 830 UM churches might choose to join. For the most part, they are typical UM churches with 250 members or less. If anyone has better numbers I would welcome them, but if these guesses are at all representative of the nation it makes for a fairly small denomination of medium and small membership churches with some large churches mostly in Texas and the south.

2. So the question for clergy is, “What are my opportunities for ministry?”

If I was early in my career, I’d be wondering where I might be able to serve. Since the WCA plans to do away with guaranteed appointment, will I be able to find settings for a life-long ministry? Will I have to search across the country, rather than in a geographical conference? With a weakened role for Bishops in appointment-making, women and ethnic minority clergy need to wonder about their futures in a theologically conservative, predominately white denomination.

3. And for local churches, “Will there be clergy to serve our congregation?”

UM congregations have always depended on the appointment system for trained, conference-approved pastoral leadership. Without the guarantee of appointment for clergy, there can be no guarantee of pastors for congregations. Will small rural circuits and churches in under-served communities be able to attract pastors without the power of episcopal appointment to make sure they are served? When an opening exists, the WCA proposes that a congregation will interview four candidates, one of which must be ethnic minority. Where will those candidates come from?

3. Which leads to a larger question, “What will an Annual Conference look like?

If there are only 100 churches in Michigan, perhaps the conference will be all of the Midwestern states. What about Bishops, conference staff, medical/health coverage, mission outreach, equitable salary support, clergy training and supervision, camping programs–all the things we have come to expect from an annual conference? Or will the conference be little more than a loose collection of local churches scattered across a large geographic area? For clergy, what will conference membership actually mean?

4. The WCA envisions broader evangelism, growing existing churches and planting new ones.

But in Michigan, many of our churches have been declining or plateauing for years despite intensive programs for congregational renewal. Will being part of a smaller denomination change these local realities? Who will do the hard work of planting new churches?

4. And then of course, “Who will pay for it?

The WCA promises lower apportionments but even modest denominational leadership cost money. Currently the weight of general church and annual conference budgets falls disproportionately on large membership churches, one of which contributes significantly more dollars than the combined support from many small churches. Who will pay for operating a new denomination, planting new churches, reaching young adults, serving the poor and supporting ethnic minority ministries, all of which the WCA envisions for its future?

5. The even larger question is, “What about Africa and the rest of the world?

The WCA is committed to a broad global vision, but global ministry is expensive. The UM Churches in the USA invest millions of dollars every year in support of the Central Conferences, paying up to 90% of their expenses. In a smaller denomination with lower local church apportionments, where will those mission dollars come from?

6. And at a personal level, how will it feel to be part of a “like-minded, traditional, orthodox” denomination?

UM clergy and congregations, whether conservative, liberal or somewhere in-between, enjoy a freedom that comes with a broadly inclusive church. Though I may agree with the WCA on some positions, do I want to join a denomination which requires a commitment to “traditional, orthodox doctrine and discipline”? Even if I am conservative, will I really be at home in a denomination where everyone is supposed to be “like-minded”?

Until now, it has been relatively easy to view this matter primarily in terms of the political or theological issues like homosexuality. However, at some point, the tough, practical questions come to bear. I assume the WCA Transitional Leadership Team (which remains incognito) will address these questions and perhaps some of my friends who are part of the WCA or the Liberation Methodist Connexion can offer a response. I’d welcome that.

But if I was thinking of joining a new Methodist denomination, these are some of the questions I would ask.

Ground Hog Wisdom

My Grandmother, my cousin Janet and my great-nephew Alex share a birthday–GROUND HOG’S DAY! Not as sparkling as a Christmas birthday, not as festive as a Fourth of July Birthday, but it does help a guy like me who hardly remembers any birthdays remember theirs.

Grandma would have been 125 years old this week. She lived a beautiful, simple, sometimes hard and difficult 100 years without ever being in a hospital or an airplane, then evidently decided a century was long enough and quietly died. (Thinking about the amazing times in which she lived–1896-1996 –might be worthy of another Monday Memo.) I won’t disclose the age of my wonderful slightly-younger-than-me cousin Janet and nephew Alex is a budding 16, an outstanding soccer player and an all-around really neat kid. Happy Ground Hog Birthday to all three of them.

Grandma lived and died in the county where she, Janet and I were born–just over the hill from Punxsutawney, PA, a little town that time forgot except for one day a year when the world turns to Gobblers’ Knob to watch a bunch of grown men in top hats pull a recalcitrant rodent from his man-made den, then listen to him whisper in their ear, “Six more weeks of winter”. Science confirms there is no connection between prognosticating Punxsy Pete and the resulting weather, but hey…especially in this COVID February we all need something to celebrate, right?

The tradition of Ground Hog’s Day goes way back into Pennsylvania Dutch and German lore to a time before Doppler Radar and the Weather Channel, back to a time when people were closely tied to the earth and looked to nature for signs of what was to come. With all of our advances in the science of weather predicting, maybe we have lost something of that connection.

Living in a time of rapid man-made climate change which threatens the very existence of life on this precious planet, we have allowed earth care and climate concerns to become political footballs rather than a shared commitment to the welfare of the God’s good earth and the people who live in it. Just like predicting the weather we can predict the demise of the planet, but whether we are willing to do what we need to do to protect it is another matter.

Maybe we need to listen to the ground hog and the voices of nature once again. Maybe we need to pay attention to the sounds of the planet groaning under the weight of man-made pollution and abuse. Maybe we need to get closer to the earth and learn the wisdom of the ground hog.

Maybe we should remember that “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and they that dwell therein…” -Psalm 24

“She Looks Just Like Me”

My Harnish family roots go back to a small town in Western Pennsylvania, the home of a state college and a lovely place to grow up. In downtown Clarion, Main Street is dominated by an elegant court house with a steeple that rises up in glory, the landmark which shows up in just about every photo. The area is basically rural with some small industries, lots of deer hunting and fishing on the Clarion River. My dozen cousins and I grew up in a town we loved, where we knew who we were and where we were.

And like most northwestern Pennsylvania small towns of the 50’s it was almost entirely white. The only diversity I remember was an Italian family that ran the fruit company, the French World War II war bride who lived next door and a Jewish family who owned the clothing store. Then of course, there was Uncle Frank whose parents immigrated from Italy before the war. After he married into the clan, he always liked to joke about God telling him to go up to Clarion County and thin out the blood line. We all loved him.

How our family has changed since then. Within that extended family of a dozen cousins today we have members who are Korean, Mexican, bi-racial and another Italian in addition to Uncle Frank. One of the newest members is Mattie, the African American daughter of my niece Deborah.

During the Inauguration, when Amanda Gorman read her incredible poem, Mattie said, “She looks just like me!” And she did. For Mattie and for all of us, representation is not just “political correctness”, it is a matter of being able to say, “This looks like me.”

The Inauguration included Roman Catholic and African Methodist Episcopal clergy, Latina and country musicians, the Pledge of Allegiance in sign language and Lady Gaga in that amazing dress! Of course Vice President Harris carried her Indian/Jamaican/Black/Hindu/Baptist heritage as well as her gender, and her Jewish husband was standing right beside her. The National Cathedral prayer service on Thursday included a broad array of religious representation and as the new Presidential Cabinet takes shape, more and more Americans will be able to say, “They look like me.”

And as an “old white guy” from an old white town, I love it!. I’m not losing, I’m gaining a larger community and family as we celebrate the incredible diversity of a nation which represents every race, every tongue, every religion of the world. There are only two ways to be an American–either you are a Native American or you came over on the boat. We are a nation of immigrants and as the minorities become the majority, everyone needs to be able to say “This nation looks like me.”

It matters for Mattie and it matters for all of us.

Can You Meet God on Zoom?

What would we have done without Zoom during the past year? One of the great blessings of 2020 has been the opportunity to connect with each other and the chance for churches to develop new on-line ministries through social media in the midst of the pandemic. On a Sunday morning, I am able to worship in several of my former churches, my congregation here in Beulah, Washington Cathedral or Duke Chapel with a simple click on my key board. It is particularly helpful for folks who are home bound…and really, aren’t we all?

But can you meet God on Zoom?

Writer Esau McCaulley says,”No“. He writes, “Zoom worship services are fundamentally inadequate.” I would agree. Without the brush of warm bodies, the smell of broken bread and the blending of human voices in liturgy and song, zoom worship is fundamentally inadequate.

But then, if you are looking for a chance to meet God, isn’t all worship inadequate?

Any given Sunday, the preacher might be off his/her mark, the choir off key, the sacramental bread too crumbly, the liturgy too wordy or the hymns downright boring. McCaulley says, “The very inadequacy of our worship, zoom or otherwise, is a reminder that we do not come to worship for a life lesson on raising children, or how to be a good American. Our aim is more audacious–we are attempting to encounter God.” And if that is our audacious goal, then I suppose nothing we do is truly adequate.

This is the season of Epiphany, the “revealing” of the Christ Child. The Wise men came with totally inappropriate gifts to a stable entirely unsuitable for the Prince of Peace, in a world overseen by a narcissistic ruler accompanied by the cries of dying babies–a fundamentally inadequate and imperfect place to find the Son of God, but still they came. They worshiped. And the Gospel says, “they went home by a different way”. I like to think they went home as different people. They had an epiphany.

And so we come.

On-line or in-person, we come to our always inadequate worship in the wild hope that once in awhile, in broken bread or shared song, in spoken word or stunning silence, God might just break through and we too would have an epiphany.

And once in awhile….it happens.

Goodbye WASP, Welcome New World

It’s just a little plastic do-hickey meant to extend my inhaler. I stick it on the end of the inhaler and it should help the distribution of the mist as I try to control my asthma. But the fascinating thing is it comes with this huge instruction sheet like a bed-sheet measuring 20″ X 20″ printed in 15 languages!

Canada is bi-lingual so Canadians are used to seeing French and English side-by-side and we are becoming more comfortable with the Spanish option on the phone. In suburban Detroit we are seeing more signs and advertisements in Arabic. But 15 languages for one little inhaler adapter? Wow!

First, it reminds me of how inter-connected we are on this small planet when even a simple instruction sheet is printed in 15 languages. Those who want to put “America First” and require the use of English are living in the 18th Century. In today’s world, we are all connected.

Second, since my passions still revolve around the life of the church, it reminds me how difficult it is to communicate the Gospel in all the diverse cultures of our nation and the world. I’m working on a book about the great Methodist evangelist and world Christian E. Stanley Jones. Back in the 30’s and 40’s he was concerned about “naturalizing” the Gospel for India. He wanted the truth of Jesus Christ to take root in Indian soil and a message tied to American or British culture wouldn’t do. In today’s diverse world, the challenge is even greater.

Third, in the light of the vicious mob incited by a revengeful President attacking the Capitol Building this week, I am reminded that the old WASP (White, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant) World I grew up in is dying, but it will not die quietly. The overwhelmingly white Trump-loving crowd of Confederate flag wavers, Proud Boys, Neo-Nazis and QAnon will resist the coming of a diverse nation, even as it grows up around them. John Lewis’s vision of the “Beloved Community” was met with violence, and regrettably, the same thing is happening today. But ultimately, the vision will win. The good news this week is that John Lewis’s pastor has become the first African American senator from Georgia and Lewis’s intern, a Jew, will represent the state in the Senate as well. Just look at the make-up of President Biden’s new cabinet. In the end, Lewis’s “Beloved Community” will come, celebrating all the diversity of the nation. In the end, the Kingdom will come and God’s will will be done on earth even as it is in heaven.

I’ll see if this plastic thingy improves my breathing, but this instruction sheet reminds me that our nation and world is becoming more diverse, more connected and more like the world God intends.

Goodbye WASP and welcome to the new world.

If you didn’t learn to play the guitar…

My son David owns a guitar. I say he “owns” a guitar because he does, but also because that’s all he does–he has never learned to play it. His wife bought it for him several Christmases ago and it has been sitting the corner of the family room ever since. It seemed like a good idea at the time, he thought it was a good idea at the time, but he has never actually played it. When he mentioned it over Christmas, his friend Greg said, “If you didn’t learn to play it during this last year, you never really meant to do it anyway.” The point being, if he didn’t pick it up and pluck it during a year of pandemic lock-downs and stay-it-home orders, he was never going to do it.

This time of year we like to talk about “New Year’s Resolutions”, those things we think we would like to do, the things we know we ought to do, but we’ve never done. We make promises to ourselves about self-improvement, then by the time Ground Hog Day comes around, we have long since forgotten them.

But Greg’s comment led my mind down a wandering path:

First, this pandemic, as dreadful as it is, has provided us with an opportunity. Since we can’t go anywhere, can’t spend time with friends, can’t even go to work in some cases, we do have the gift of time. As we begin a new year, what will I do with the time which is given me? Are there things I have always intended to do (like doing something with those old 8mm family movies) and never got around to doing which I could be doing now?

Second, what can I do to make this new year new? I love the invocation from the “Order for Morning Praise and Prayer” which says: “New every morning is your love, great God of light, and all day long you are working for good in the world.”

If we really believe that, if we really believe God’s love is new every morning and that all day long God is working for good in the world, then perhaps we can find ways of making every day new and working for good in the world. The rest of the prayer gives us a to-do list: “Stir up in us the desire to serve you, to live peacefully with our neighbors, and to devote each day to your Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ the Lord.

Third, maybe it’s time to let go of some of those things we intended to do. That sounds a bit strange, but sometimes I think we beat ourselves over the head with the things we should do, or ought to do, or always intended to do. Maybe there are some things we should simply admit we are never going to do–like playing the guitar–and let them go. Maybe it’s time to focus on the things we can do and will do and lighten our load of guilt about the things we haven’t done. Join Queen Elsa in singing “Let it go, let it go, don’t want to go back anymore” and find new freedom from old burdens in the new year.

Well, they always say a preacher preaches best when he preaches to himself. I don’t know if you need to hear all this, but maybe this preacher does.

Happy New Year, and may every morning be a new morning when we begin by saying, “New every morning….”

Who said, “Pandemic and Lock-down?”

At this time last year, if you were playing a round of “What Do You Think Will Happen in 2020?”, who said, “A global pandemic and a lock-down which would kill thousands of people and wreck our economy?” Anyone? It’s hard to remember where we were this time last year when you realize the difference this year has made in our lives and the life of humanity on this small planet. So after 2020, anyone who would dare to predict what the New Year will hold should pause and hold his breath.

After this year, there is very little I am sure of and few predictions I would make. The one simple phrase that comes to mind is from Psalm 59:10:

My God, in his loving kindness, will meet me.”

—I am hopeful that the vaccines will help us confront this pandemic, but I am also aware there will continue to be stubborn folks who will refuse to do the simple things that can be done to stop its spread. And I am sure that “My God, in his loving kindness, will meet me”.

—I am hopeful that sometime in this new year we will once again be able to invite friends into our home, go out to dinner and return to Interlochen, but I am also willing to continue to do whatever I need to do to protect myself and others from this dreadful virus. And I am sure that “My God, in his loving kindness, will meet me.”

—I am hopeful a new, sane administration will bring calm leadership in the place of chaos, but I also know that the vile hatred and bitter divisions which have been set lose our society will still be with us. And I am sure that “My God, in his loving kindness, will meet me.”

—I am hopeful our congregations will be able to gather together once again in praise and worship, but I can’t predict what impact this year of absence and innovation will have on church life going forward. And I am sure that “My God, in his loving kindness, will meet me.”

—I am hopeful the painful awareness of racial injustice and the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement will help to reshape our society, but I am also aware of the deep strains of racism in our nation which will continue to bedevil us. And I am sure that “My God, in his loving kindness, will meet me.”

—I am hopeful our time of “social distancing” has taught us to place a higher priority on social connections so we will be able to repair the social fabric of our communities, but I also know it might take time to find our way back to a shared commitment to the common good. And I am sure that “My God, in his loving kindness, will meet me.”

I can still hear my mother playing her old upright piano, singing a song that said, “Many things about tomorrow, I don’t seem to understand; but I know who holds tomorrow, and I know who holds my hand.”

And that is about the best I can say for 2021.

With hope for a Happier New Year,

Jack Harnish