If you’re a member of the clergy, you’re in the business of hope.
But for many who worship around here, that precious commodity has been in short supply lately. Some have found ways to reconcile their beliefs with support for a presidential candidate whose words and deeds mock them. Some didn’t, but have moved on. But others, even four weeks after the election, feel a sadness that has pastors summoning all of their powers of consolation.
“It’s like a chasm has opened at their feet,” Lee Bluemel, who leads North Parish, a Unitarian Universalist church in North Andover. Some in her church see the election’s outcome as a rejection of tolerance and compassion: “They feel anxiety, despair, anger, fear, disbelief, a sense of betrayal.”
In liberal congregations, or those that include groups targeted by the president-elect, there is desperate need for a way forward.
“We acknowledge that love doesn’t always win,” Bluemel said. “But that is still the path that we choose. Rather than a sentimental feeling, hope is love in action, and in taking a stand for hope, we actually create it.”
At Trinity Church Copley Square, which serves the rich, the poor, and many in between, there is heartbreak among some. Associate Rector Patrick Ward has reminded worshippers grappling with a post-factual world of an essential truth: Goodness prevails.
“We know how this story ends, ultimately,” Ward said. “That doesn’t mean there is not a lot of suffering and pain and despair along the road.” He went on: “Scripture reminds us to remember history. The world has [seen] a lot worse than our president- elect, and our nation has endured a lot worse.”
But none of this happens on its own.
“Christianity isn’t simply about solace,” he said. “It’s about strength, and remembering that we’re called to resist.” He cited a line from a poem by Marianne Moore: when what we hoped for came to nothing/we revived.
Ward and others see their congregations galvanizing, looking for ways to fight policies they disagree with and to connect with those in pain or feeling imperilled.
Members of the mostly-black congregation at Bethel AME, in Jamaica Plain, have always been acutely conscious of racial division, but they’re reckoning with the scale of what just happened: Not all Trump voters were racist, but none were sufficiently offended by racism to deem him unacceptable.
“It’s not like [African Americans] haven’t felt attacked and unwanted before,”said associate pastor Mariama White-Hammond. “But it’s part of our tradition to imagine ...we could make America what it’s always been meant to be.” Here, as in other churches, it looks like the dawn of a new civil rights era. Those who might have come to White-Hammond for advice on how to get their kids into college now want to march on Washington.
“I tell them we are called to take care of each other,” White-Hammond said. “That is the purpose of the church.”
Determination and despair are close companions. At Temple Sinai, in Brookline, members of the community are struggling to understand “why people who are not hate-filled could have voted for Trump,” said Rabbi Andrew Vogel. That a person who acts like a bully and disrespects women could succeed is hard to explain, especially to kids. Vogel tells them, “we ourselves have to continue to live by higher standards.”
At the heart of every sermon is the conviction that, as Martin Luther King Jr. said, “the moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” Those words are also a call to action, because that arc will not bend itself.
Vogel, like the others, tells his congregation that it’s OK to be upset, but that they have to keep going, working against the forces that got us here. This election has reminded us that living requires courage, he said.
He thinks of an old teaching:
The whole world is a very narrow bridge.
The important thing is not to be afraid.Yvonne Abraham is a Globe columnist. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @GlobeAbraham.