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November 6, 2015

Stories as Portholes

This fall, many in our Grace community have gathered in small groups to discuss some powerful stories. We’ve met in the theater, at church, in restaurants after church, and homes. (We’re a little short on space at Grace these days and so are going out and about more now.) Over cookies, noodles, and hot drinks, we’ve talk about the heartbreak, the hope, the problems, and the work that still must be done to root out the systemic racism and poverty so very present in our nation and culture.
We started with Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird and Go Set a Watchman and watched the story of Scout and Jem, Maycomb, Alabama and Tom Robinson unfold on the Guthrie’s stage.
Parents and kids gathered to discuss Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy, another historical novel that puts flesh and bone to a terrible, though little known, racist incident in the state of Maine’s history.
Many of us read (or are reading—keep going!) Just Mercy, a non-fiction book detailing our nation’s history and the present day atrocities in our legal system. This book is chock full of facts and figures, personal stories, good questions, and a prophetic call for action.
We’ve read and pondered, then gathered with others to discuss the controversial Atticus Finch, lament the horrors of history, and be gobsmacked together in learning what is still very much going on in our legal and prison system…. We’ve talked about what it would be like (or was/is like) to be told you can’t be friends with someone because of the color of his or her skin…. We’ve wondered what it could mean for white folks to use our white privilege for the good of all, and we’ve been reminded of how a sense of hope and purpose can propel not only individuals but whole communities…. We have marveled together at those who hold onto nothing but shreds of hope and work tirelessly at issues that are so ever-present….
Stories like the ones we’ve been reading ask questions of us: What are we being called to do right where we are? Where and how does our faith fit into this mess of poverty, racism, and corrupt systems?  Where is the light and hope, the justice and mercy, amidst all the darkness and despair, the injustice and inhumanity?
Stories—and the arts—can provide a porthole into another’s experience. We are always the richer for having read, heard, and shared such stories. If you haven’t read these books, I encourage you to do so. You can hardly turn around at Grace these days without bumping into someone who would love to talk about what it all means, where we are in it, and what we are called to do.
This in itself gives me, personally, a great deal of hope.
Pastor Melanie

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