This is one of a series of reflections on the joint gathering of the board members of Together, As One Board with the members of the boards of the historic Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island conferences. Find them all here.
Two weeks ago today, my husband got hit by a car. He was commuting to work on his scooter, going straight down the road he travels every day, when a driver turned left, and struck him. And in that moment, things changed in our household.
The good news is that Joel did not sustain any permanent or life-threatening injuries. But the bad news was abundant: he could not walk, he could not drive, he would require physical therapy and an orthopedist, and it would be months before things returned to normal.
My husband is the person in our household who does the majority of the cooking and cleaning, the laundry and the dishes, the taxi service for our kids. And so, all of sudden, those tasks fell to me. All my regular work, plus all the housework, plus all the parent work, plus transporting Joel to and from work, to and from medical appointments, to and from the pharmacy. Life suddenly got a lot more complicated and challenging.
All of a sudden, we couldn’t do it on our own. But we didn’t have to. A friend volunteered to drive our son to chess. A colleague volunteered to provide a meal. Congregants volunteered to bring Joel to the doctor’s office. And my children stepped up – mowing the lawn, doing the laundry, cooking and doing dishes.
These past two weeks have made one thing abundantly clear – we really can’t do life on our own. We really need each other.
And so, two days ago, I got in my car and drove to the Together, As One retreat. Before I left to spend that Saturday away from home, another friend volunteered to be on call for the day. If my kids needed anything, she would be there. If Joel needed anything, she would be there.
So why did I go and spend a whole Saturday at the TA1 retreat, less than two weeks after the accident? I did because I believe, with all my heart, that we need each other. And never has it been more apparent for me, personally, than recently. But it is not just about our personal lives, it is about our communal lives. It is about our towns, our states, our country, our world. It is only together that we can thrive. It is only together that we can heal ourselves and heal our world. We need to be together, as one.
And that is why we spent some serious time building community – laughing together, sharing our stories, eating, worshiping, and singing. We took time to build our relationships, knowing that it is through genuine, compassionate, human interaction that real transformation occurs. It is when we know each other, when we love each other, that we can bring healing into our lives and into our communities.
We also talked about our vision and our values. We imagined a conference that transforms New England, making it “more just, more compassionate and peaceful.” We shared in our values of making disciples, living the love and justice of Jesus, embracing change, and building partnerships. And then we talked about how to make this vision a reality. We shared specific ideas, in each of these areas, for exciting ministry. And finally, we asked ourselves the question, “If we are brave, what will we do to live out these values?”
We ended the day by talking about the seeds that have blossomed into beauty within our historic conferences, the good fruit that we do not want to lose, and the trust it will take to do something new, to plant new seeds, to believe that this new beginning is blessed and nurtured by God.
And why is this vital work? Why are we doing this new thing? Why are we coming together? Why do we care?
Here is the thing: My husband’s body was broken suddenly, and its impact has been painful. But we live in a world that is broken in much more significant and painful ways. We live in a world where black and brown bodies are abused, exploited, incarcerated and killed in appalling ways and in appalling numbers. We live in a world where anti-Semitism and Islamophobia are on the rise. We live in a world where “boys will be boys.” We live in a world where children are put in cages. We live in a world that is poisoned with white supremacy. We live in a world mired in injustice and hatred. We cannot pretend it is not true – there is so much brokenness. We live in a world that is in desperate need of healing, of redemption, of repentance, of change.
And we can only do this work together. We can only become more just, more compassionate, more peaceful, if we support one another on this journey. Because it is not easy, and it is not meant to be easy. Prophetic work, redemptive engagement, repentance and change – these are hard, hard tasks. But they are the tasks that God sets before us, if we want to truly transform our communities and our world.
I will say, that is what I truly want. I want my husband’s body to heal. But I desperately, passionately, and achingly want the world to heal. And I know I can’t do that alone. I know we can only do this together. With God, and with one another, we can “move our region closer to the realm of God.”
Sometimes, that involves committee meetings, resolutions, doodle polls, and survey monkey. Other times, it involves goofy team building and lots of giggles. And many times, it involves hard conversations, concrete planning, difficult listening, showing up, and putting our money where our mouth is. I believe we can do all these things. I believe we can do them together.
For the healing of broken bodies. For the healing of our world. May it be so.
The Rev. Kari Nicewander is Senior Pastor of the Immanuel Congregational Church in Hartford, CT
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