by Rev. Bill Gupton
It is here. A watershed year in our history – as a nation, and as a species. A recent CNN headline about turning-point elections this year both in America and abroad began with the words “Brace Yourself.” Spoiler alert: In 2024, all over the globe, democracy finds itself teetering on the brink.
As if that weren’t enough, climate change looms over everything like the shadowy monster of a bad B movie. Hot wars, cold wars, and culture wars abound. Many in our country are struggling to pay the rent, put food on the table, and afford health care. Others – the majority, in fact – are losing rights and freedoms at an alarming clip. Still others belong to groups who have, for generations, lived without many of the rights and freedoms (and privilege) that I have enjoyed my whole life, as a white, cisgendered, straight male.
We are deeply divided. We don’t seem to trust one another anymore – perhaps because we don’t even seem to be living in the same world. Consider, for a moment, that a fairly large chunk of our fellow citizens (apparently, as large as a third of the population) wouldn’t even agree with the description of our current situation that I just outlined.
But like it or not – believe it or not – the next 12 months are going to be very, very difficult. At a macro level, the challenge will be nothing less than holding the fraying fabric of our society together. Closer to home, the strength and resilience of our families and communities will be tested. I give thanks that I am part of a religious community like Heritage – but even here, we will be tested. We will be called upon to do what this congregation has done for nearly two centuries – love one another. As the electronic sign outside the church building reads, “Love one another. It’s just that simple.”
But of course, it’s really not that simple. This year, more than ever, we will need to be intentional about how we behave, and how we treat each other, because anxious people are not able to be their best selves. Fear can cause us to lash out, or to retreat into a shell. Either response would be detrimental to this community we hold dear. Instead, as we navigate our fears and face the inevitable crises that lie ahead in 2024, let us commit to being open-hearted, open-minded, and open-armed (by which I mean loving) in all our interactions. A hug can go a long way. Words – whether expressed thoughtlessly in anger, or with excessive calculation – are far less transformative, far less healing, than are hugs or smiles or compassion.
I know that there is no other community I would want to be a part of this coming year than the one we call Heritage. May each and every one of you have a happy, safe, and loving 2024 – and may we make it so, together.