Question: Is it just me or has the world gone mad? Maybe the isolation created by the pandemic has gotten on everyone’s nerves. I’m a peace-loving person, and I attend church every Sunday where getting along with others is always included in the pastor’s sermons. I’m overwhelmed by the war in Ukraine and the recent shootings, especially the one in Texas.
Please suggest how to deal with these problems that seem to be everywhere. ~ Deeply Sad
Dear Deeply Sad,
The day after the shooting in Uvalde, as I dropped off my 11-year-old son at school, I realized that I was not going to get anything done that day. In fact, I felt that it would be wrong to go about as if everything was normal because it wasn’t (and still isn’t). I think being deeply sad is one of the ways we can begin to deal with these problems. Often, feeling our sense of sadness produces a sense of loneliness, too – that we will remain sad and there will be no one to comfort us.
In my desperation, I invited people in our community to come together to share their anger and sadness … not as “thoughts and prayers” but rawer and uninhibited by the rituals we often associate with Christian practice. The few who came shared and by the end I think we felt better. We promised to continue to do the work, to be sustained by the depths of our grief as it is shared with others.
The reading for this past Sunday, the day of Pentecost, is in John 14 when Jesus tells those who follow that they will do greater works than he has done. How is that possible? Because love multiplies. We encounter divisiveness because we have failed to let love for one another lead us. The greater work we do is made possible by the spirit of love that we practice – not simply feel. And often the way that Jesus expressed God’s love was to give it to those who might be overlooked by others.
It sounds naïve but I believe that’s how we deal with the problems of the world – by loving our neighbors (and redefining what we mean by neighbor). Who in your immediate circle needs to be loved? And who just beyond that circle? And on and on and on as love multiplies in us and through us.
Rev. Kyle Sears
Dear Deeply Sad,
I agree that there is an outward appearance right now of so much anger, sadness and craziness going on in this world. It is a manifestation of the hate, anger and frustration in the consciousness of too many people. Although we can’t control what others do, feel or think, we can change our own reactions, thoughts and perceptions by affirming, visualizing and taking the peace and love consciousness within us and envisioning it as a white light flowing throughout the world. Give it to God and let it go with a knowing He has a greater plan in mind as you visualize a better world rising up and being created from this. According to Ernest Holmes, “Because the Divine Mind has created us all, we are bound together in one infinite and perfect unity. In bringing about world peace, I know that all people and all nations will remain individual but unified for the common purpose of promoting peace, happiness, harmony and prosperity.”
When you hear of any further upsetting situations, rather than propagating any fear, hate or anger you feel, turn it over to love knowing in your mind you have given it to God and He is in charge. I continue to visualize a world of peace and love consciousness as I drift into sleep, knowing that God is working to manifest peace consciousness into reality and healing the hearts and souls of our people.
Rev. Katie O’Brien
Question: I have a friend who I’ve known since college. We’re both in our 40s, live in the same community and often stay in touch. My problem is I have attended the same church for over 20 years. My friend recently “got religion” and is nagging me to go to her church with her. I am active at my church and look forward to church events and Sunday service. I have to admit I’m getting annoyed by my friend’s constant talking about “her faith.” I really like her and I want to remain friends with her. I’m concerned that I may say the wrong thing that could end our friendship.
Any suggestions? ~ In a Quandary
Dear In a Quandary,
First, I want to say you are blessed – blessed to be settled and happy in your home church for so long and blessed with such a long friendship. My first advice is guard both of them.
I was also a friend like your friend once. I “got religion” in my 30s and wanted everyone I knew to get it, too. I was unintentionally a bit obnoxious in my enthusiasm. I really had no clue how I was coming off to my friends and family. So maybe a bit of grace-filled directness would be helpful.
Here is my suggestion: As nicely as possible tell her how you feel. But then soften the conversation by offering to visit her church on one condition – that she also visits yours. Tell her you are happy for her and want her to be happy for you. And give her time. Your friendship should ride out the new enthusiasm, which will settle out.
Coming from another direction, I also had a friend like your friend once. He wanted me to come to his church and, by implication, not to mine. The problem in this case was his was “the true church.” This left no room for, “I’ll visit yours if you visit mine.” In the end we had to have some frank conversations and give it time. Just pray ahead of any conversation and remember to conduct yourself in all Christian charity.
Finally, as a Christian pastor I have a word about churches. There are lots of denominations among Christian churches and then there are “churches” that aren’t Christian churches. If your friend goes to a different denomination, seek to bless and affirm whatever is right, true and good in your friend’s church. They are all brothers and sisters in Christ. Then maybe she will have the freedom to bless and affirm whatever she sees is right, true and good in your church.
But if your friend wants you to go to a church that isn’t Christian, and by this I mean in agreement with the two ecumenical/universal creeds (Apostles’ and Nicene), it’s important to know you are visiting a group or religion that will likely be full of lovely people but isn’t another Christian church but some other set of teachings and beliefs.
I hope that is helpful.
Rev. Rob Holman
Dear In a Quandary,
It’s great that you have such a long-standing friendship. They say old friends make the best friends, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t without their challenges. It’s understandable that your friend is inspired by her newly discovered church and, because you’re friends, she wants to let you know all about it so you can be inspired too; then the both of you can have one more aspect to share together.
Sometimes when we first discover something that moves us we are overcome with excitement and want the entire world to know. Eventually that over-zealousness tones down once the new ideas are incorporated into our lives. Have you shared with your friend that you find your church message and Sunday service rewarding and that you’re an active participant in the church events? Maybe when she understands that you are not looking for another church, she will stop bringing it up. Another approach would be to suggest that she come to your church.
For your own peace of mind, as with anything that is bothering you, the best way to handle it is to be completely truthful, though in some cases it’s not always easy to do. Faith and religious practices can be delicate topics to talk about because it is so personal to each individual. Our faith and belief are what anchor us in life and guide us as we navigate through our experiences. What inspires one person may do nothing for another.
For any friendship to be sustained, honesty must prevail. You will feel better once the issue is openly discussed. You can let her know that you value your friendship and don’t want the discussions of church and faith to diminish your friendship. Agreeing to not talk about the subject can be presented as being in the best interest of your friendship.
Once you’re clear with how you’re feeling and share those with your friend the decision to honor your feelings will be up to her. As always, the best policy is “to thine own self be true.”
Rev. Mary Morgan