What’s Not Decided On Election Night

from Rev. Gretchen Haley

Like a lot of people across the US, I spent much of Tuesday night watching election results come in.  As I did, I was constantly flashing back to the same night 2 years ago,  when the national elections went a direction that many people of progressive faith never imagined. I remembered – with quite a bit of detail – the Governance Task Force meeting I was in, the policies we were discussing, even as I started to get alerts on my phone, and texts saying “Oh, no….”

A few hours later I was home, and the worries became reality.  We quickly started to plan what would become an impromptu vespers service overflowing with a crowd of people needing a place to hold the shock, pain, fear, and grief, especially for those in our community who are people of color, immigrants, GLBT, chronically ill, disabled, or poor.

Two years later, I was at church again, as the returns starting coming in.  This time, in a Board meeting.  The Board was beginning to digest the data nearly 350 of you provided in our visioning sessions this last month.  As we began, we each acknowledged the lingering memories from 2016, and wondered together where this night might end.

Elections have consequences.  The families separated at the border, and the new make-up of the Supreme Court are two easy examples of the consequences of our last election.  Equally so, the increased engagement from many non-immigrants to the longstanding crises around our broken immigration system – including our own determination to become a sanctuary congregation, and to work even more diligently to address the needs for affordable housing and food insecurity in our own community.  As Gloria Steinem said of the 2016 election, there are upsides to the downsides.

And yet, when it comes down to it, voting is the easy part of democracy.  There are so many things that will remain undecided, even after all the votes are counted.  Which is where the harder part of democracy lives.  And also, the part that has the most potential for real impact in the long run.  The part where we live as citizens of our country, our state, and our city – every day.

Where we resist the forces of dehumanization, fear, polarization, isolation – growing in our country.

Where we re-humanize the “other,” and ourselves, even in the midst of these continuing fears, losses, losses of control.

Where we address the unresolved feelings of trauma, loss, pain, and violence that live in our bodies and in our bones – the stories that we carry from generation to generation both due to systemic injustices and personal failures and tragedy in our families and across our lives.

Where we unlearn and relearn, release and rebuild – entire systems of justice, kindness, equity, community.  To undo the consequences of lovelessness person to person, community to community, generation to generation.

Where we remain connected to beauty and gratitude, to our place in the web of life – interdependent and interconnected – of which we are simply a part.

As I said on Sunday, “There’s so much human work that was left undone, work that does not just go away with the passing of time.  Work of mending and tending, healing and transforming; holy work, spiritual work, religious work.  Work that asks us to step back from political affiliation as a stand-in for religion, and instead ask what our actual religion offers us, and requires of us in these times, in this moment.” (Check out the whole text of that sermon here.)

This is our work – as a church – long past any particular election day.  Work that pushes us beyond our comfort zone, and into that place where we can grow and change and become leaders of change in our world – and in our lives – leaders of healing, of transformation, of hope.  And also work that feeds us, and reminds us that we too are worthy of love, and belonging – just as we are.

Sitting there with the Board Tuesday night – looking over all of your values and stories and wishes and dreams – for this congregation, and for our world – it couldn’t have been a better antidote to the election returns coming in.  Because it reminded me, and all of us.  Regardless of who the Speaker of the House may be, or which propositions passed, or failed (but hey! nice work Larimer County on the mental health facility!!) – we have work to do.  Big work.  Joyous work.  Work of unleashing – as in: releasing something that is already there and that is just itching to be set free – courageous love.  And work to remember, and to practice, through everything, how love unites us all.

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