Greetings Emerging Voices!
We are officially into #EV2015, although as I begin to write this post at 6pm on December 31st, 2014 we are teetering on the precipice of tomorrow, and tomorrow’s tomorrows. In this place of waiting I am hopeful, maybe even surprisingly hopeful, surprising even myself.
A Year In Review
The year 2014 was a year of transition and chaos, pain and rebirth, possibilities and crushing spiritual defeats for many of us in many ways. It has been a time of increasing racial and social polarity, but also a year in which marriage equality has gathered speed and traction, both politically and socially.
It was a year which disappointed me in ways I didn’t expect–like increased enforcement of inhumane immigration laws and aggression against racial minorities, and a polarizing racist backlash which reminded me with new certainty that the work of civil rights requires a new wave of voices to speak out against and into the din of inequality and suffering plaguing our present world.
It was also a year I found hope.
One way, in particular, was seeing through the eyes of my undergraduate and graduate social work students, as they looked towards their own roles, seeking to eagerly, passionately and peacefully engage with contemplative action and facilitate healing into a hurting world. Another way I found hope was in the Emerging Voices, those many voices I have found in the posts of this blog; each author exemplifying this next wave of aspiration, passion, and justice-seeking into a world on the precipice. The profound weaving of personal, theological, and sociological I encountered amid these writers has given me true inspiration and reminded me that, for all the voices–on all sides of every issue–which may garner speed and intensity through hate, there are still those who wish to find grace in the margins of hate, and peaceful routes to contemplative justice. I have increased belief in the existence of peaceful action and passionate compassion because of the voices I have discovered and rediscovered on this blog.
I was watching the preview for Selma this weekend with my ever-pragmatic husband. We began to argue about the potential after effects of a movie like this–one that reminds us of the battles past, the peaceful resistance once brought forth at great cost, and speaks very intentionally into the hurting racial space of today.
He posited that this film, intended to inspire peaceful action, will, instead, provoke further polarizing aggression from those who see all the worst things and birth rage without compassion from our history and our present racial situation.
I, the social worker and mystic, believe, truthfully, that while those that have anger as their primary motivator may take anything to bolster rage, there are many others who are seeking and will see this film through a different lens. For those people, I believe this movie can offer three things:
1) A reminder of what justice in action looks like…
2) A picture of how action can be both peaceful and powerful…
3) An aspiration and a call for the need for a vocal and vast next wave of civil rights and civil action to engage with this need [civil being the operational word].
The Year of the Sheep
So, this is why, against all odds and all pain and suffering that has been breathed into 2014 I am hopeful, even personally aspirational, about 2015. I believe in us, the voices, emerging from the midst of chaos and suffering and hate. I believe in our will to participate in the next wave of civil rights and social justice in a way that embodies the message and memory of Selma and the many other moments in history when compassion and faith met action and activism. I believe in the voices and the feet marching out to the rhythm of conscience and a consciousness which understand that we must be both action and contemplation to create change that is worth having. I believe that there are many who see that we must find peace in ourselves to walk the long walk to freedom in our hearts, our souls, and our communities.
I got an email the other day from a local Japanese garden where I facilitate healing walks which offered a wish for a happy new year and a reminder that 2015 is the year of the sheep. Now, perhaps, my pragmatic husband would [and did] suggest that this means we are all sheep for the worst of ourselves–our greed, materialism, consumerism, and mass media providing us the news that will most incite anger and fear. Which we could be, but I would rather hope this is the year of sacred sheep-hood. I would like to hope that this is the year where we find the true shepherd, in our hearts, our spirits, our faith, in the streets, and in the cosmos.
I hope and believe we can be sheep moving together on a sacred path towards a better future, together. To me we are sheep with the opportunity to rise like the phoenix, from the ashes of much pain, but into a place of transformation. I think we are a hybrid sheep, if you will.
…And all of this talk of sheep reminds me of the sacred call in all of us towards the shepherd. I saw Exodus a couple of weeks ago which I have lovingly hash-tagged both #MOSESPrinceofThieves and #BraveheartMoses. How far have we come from the sacred call when Moses becomes the “General” for God.
There is, literally, a part in the film where God comes to Moses as the figure of a small boy and says, “I don’t need a Shepherd. I need a General.” This is the God we have created, but it is not the God we are called to follow.
We are supposed to seek Holy Shepherds, not Generals. My hope is clear, but the question and call is for all of us–are we willing to live into the God of all creation or do we want to keep living into the God of our creation? We have enough Generals of hate, we are is people needing a Shepherd to guide us forward to do the work laid before us–the work of justice and faith, hope and grace, and contemplative action.
I believe in us. I believe in our ability to live into the best parts of ourselves in 2015. We have great work set before us and there will be very painful moments of humility and brokenness along the way. I also believe there will be moments of working together, as sheep for a common Holy Shepherd.
Thank you for walking through 2014 with us, here on this blog and in the many places and spaces where we met together in community. Thank you to all who came out for gatherings like Wildgoose and Transform where we came together to discuss these difficult things and these holy tensions. I hope to hear even more of your beautiful voices and see more of your lovely faces in 2015.
In closing, I want to thank, again, all the bloggers who have given their hearts and their voices to this virtual space and to say congratulations to all of you for bringing those voices to Patheos and the wider community. As a result we made Christian Piatt’s list for “25 Christian Blogs You Should Be Reading [2014 Readers’ Choice].” It is because of all of you that we are reaching those in the Christian, and wider, community.
Thank you, also, to all our readers who voted for us and who read this blog regularly. It is because of all of you that we have this space and this great community moving our work and this blog forward. I look forward to all that is in store for us, writers and readers alike, in 2015! I have hope–great and holy hope–for this year, for our community, and for those that wish to do good works, great justice, and sacred healing into this world so desperately needing all we have to offer.
Blessings to you all,
Teresa B Pasquale [& the rest of the Emerging Voices Moderation Team–Holly Roach & Robyn Henderson-Espinosa]