by Holly Haile Thompson
“Wunneshauwanitoomoh – to all that is beautiful – Spirit of God” – Shinnecock Prayer
Mrs. Vicky Tarrant, Hidatsa from Fort Berthold; mother, grandmother, beloved; our hearts are broken. She and more than 200,000 people around the world have recently died from the Covid-19 virus. As our minds try to accept all that is going on in our world, in our families and in our lives – it is not the ‘merry month of May’ we might have anticipated 6
The Revised Common Lectionary shows us the Gospel of John – with readings from chapters 10, 14, 17 and 20 – calling for an exclusive and excluding Divine Care? No, that would not only paint a narrow-sighted manifestation of the
Holy, and it too easily lends itself to misappropriation by the likes of Crusaders, anti-Semites, religious zealots – and those who see nothing wrong with cultivating what Dr. John Dominic Crossan identifies as the “genocidal germ” inherent in fundamentalism – and in other modes of ferocious self-righteousness.
A pandemic seems to be an ideal time to broaden our reflection; an ideal time to seek and to share in promoting various ways to care for one another. Sadly, it is also crucially necessary in this time to share ways in which to mourn all whom we must surrender to a most unexpected death – there has been and shall yet be lives and dear ones lost to this disease. Although John’s gospel expresses ‘farewell’ discourses this month, we do well to remember that we are not alone – in this world, even in this time of sickness or weakness. Making phone calls, writing letters and e-mails to ‘visit’
with those from whom we are separated; enabling young people to be OK even in the midst of the unknown, and to be OK with envisioning more than one alternative plan for their immediate future while showing them appreciation for
helping the elders in their families and in their neighborhoods. Continuing our justice work – by serving those whose suffering is due to – and is increased manifold by – this virus.
The John passages will show us cowering disciples, and we might well see ourselves trembling at what-all goes on round about us just now – but ‘fear not’ the divinity and holiness of Spirit is with those who tremble, not fearful but
empowering us to be creative beings, in the self-same image of our loving Creator.
Memorial Day – I’m aged enough to have grown up with old-folk who called the national holiday at the close of May “Decoration Day” – it is always a remembrance, the reading of the Honor Roll, decorating graves with flags and flowers, and generally honoring those who have, mostly, died too soon amid the conflicts and war zones that patriotism demanded. But this year, might we broaden our focus, and create a Memorial Day – dedicated to those now gone due to this illness, and strongly representing our commitment to caring for the living who are hurting, by caring for and remembering all those who have in these months lost their dearest loved ones, and who are grieving so deeply. Might we memorialize – not for embattlements, national or political enlistment, but to allow for all of us together to reclaim this ‘In Memoriam 2020’ and create a way to truly honor also those whom we could not memorialize with wakes and funerals – for it was not within our reach to do so. Strength, hope and honoring those now gone – and those now surviving – that is within our reach.
Inasmuch as we are not ‘waiting’ for the world to return to what it was several months ago, let us find ourselves ‘creating’ for newness; not waiting but creating mutuality in the struggles of societal division, of poverty, of racism, of classism, of ‘war-ism’, of the violence that has now visited millions of our neighbors in new and fierce circumstances. May we humbly recognize ourselves in each other, and take steps to walk new roads of love, and peace, and
The Rev Holly Haile Thompson, DD is a blood member of the Shinnecock Nation, Long Island, NY, studied at the University of Dubuque Theological Seminary, IA, was graduated in 1985, ordained by the Presbytery of Western Colorado in 1986 becoming the first Native American Woman to become Minister of Word and Sacrament/Teaching Elder in the Presbyterian Church (USA). Holly served congregations in Colorado and in New York state, is a member of several churchwide committees including the Racial Equity Advocacy Committee (REAC), the Native American Consulting Committee (NACC), and serves on the Doctrine of Discovery Speakers Bureau, all of the PCUSA denomination. Currently, Holly volunteers with the United Methodist Church’s northeast Native American Ministries Committee – supporting the UMC ongoing ‘Act of Repentance’. Holly most recently concluded her service with 1st Presbyterian Church Potsdam, NY as Transitional/Supply Pastor to explore what an “Anti-Racist Church” might look like. She works with the Poor Peoples’ Campaigns of Northern New York and of Long Island. Holly is married to Kahetakeron Harry Thompson of Akwesasne, and together they share 7 children, 16 grandchildren and 6 great grandchildren. “May our paths lead us to a time when we shall live together in Peace on Good Mother Earth.”
Holly is also a member of the NEXT Church blogging cohort and her writing focuses on indigenous theology and the lectionary.