I sat in the back of the sanctuary as the Hector Gallardo trio played Cuban jazz on a rainy Tuesday night. It was a laid back evening in New Orleans with the windows shaded in fog from air conditioning blasting inside and steamy heat permeating the air outside. I looked around at neighbors who walked over for the concert and at church members who bounced their heads to the beat of the drums. I was delighted by the spectrum of humanity in the room that night — young and old, strangers and friends, straight and gay, lifelong New Orleanians and relative newcomers, descendants of Peruvian, Filipino, Cuban, Indian and European ancestry. Every shade, size and shape of person. It was a holy moment, looking around the room. Even my bones told me: This is good.
I don’t know what’s next for any of us — for my church or yours, for our nation seeking unity in the midst of a contentious presidential race, for neighbors who don’t look exactly like one another. And yet, showing up again and again as church gives me tremendous hope for the lot of us. Whether it’s Sunday morning worship or a night of Cuban music, we could be anywhere else. We don’t have to keep putting in the effort to share our lives with one another. We don’t have to fundraise or listen or make space for all voices to be heard. We could simply take care of ourselves, choose an easier path, and surround ourselves with only the most absolutely like-minded folks. And yet. Here we are. On a Tuesday in July listening to music and enjoying the warmth of that space, lingering for a while as the rain dies down and the streetcars roll down the avenue. This is good.
We have many challenges before us. Is that a tremendous understatement? It seems every choice before us is dripping with potential for change, for disaster, for unity, or for irreparable division. As U.S. political leaders across the aisle have reminded us in recent days, we have choices in how we move forward and in how we see the world around us. This is true in the church, too. Who we choose to be informs how we will live and move and have our being in this world. After all, we are people commanded to be known by the way we love one another. If that is our starting point in all things, we will see the good and hope and promise in the challenges before us.
Today, I am so grateful I do not face these challenges alone. I am amazed by my bold, smart, prophetic, compassionate friends and colleagues in the church. What a rich community! What a beautifully, broad swath of people to plot and laugh and dance and play and lament and march alongside! There is so much goodness, so much Spirit, so much hope pulsing through these transformational challenges and holy moments.
Whatever comes next for my church or yours, for our neighbors, for nation, we mustn’t be afraid. We mustn’t move in fear. We must look for what is good, true, just, pure, excellent and worthy of praise. We must gather in gratitude and love and keep on doing these things knowing whatever comes next, the peace of God will be with us. This is the lens through which we see the world. This is our hope.