Four More Words: Tolerance, Compassion, Curiosity, and Humility
Gleanings from the Pandemic
You probably know Grace’s creation story. It’s the story of a time when faithful people walked away from their once-beloved church and stepped into the unknown, with only a glimmer of hope that something new might arise out of brokenness. But because of their dedication, patience, and vision, the story didn’t end in 1992, and Grace Church was born. A valued part of that resurrection was a mission statement in the form of Four Words that guide us still: Inclusion, Service, Discovery, and Gratitude.
Then in 2020, another challenge arrived for the people of Grace: a worldwide pandemic requiring most of us to adopt lives of isolation. During Sunday worship, viewing each other live-streamed on screens, the words of Grace Founder Linda Fullerton once again rang true: “The church is the people, who together make up the body of Christ….people can be church anywhere, and under any circumstances.”
As often happens when people experience challenging conditions (think: the degradation of slavery, endless years of famine, the terrifying aftermath of a charismatic leader’s assassination), we have no trouble naming the hardships. But what about the gleanings?
What, specifically, have we learned from this time of pandemic?
I discovered “Four More Words,” ones that help me better understand the original Four Words. These four new words aren’t replacements. Rather, each new word is the predicate or underlying condition for each of the originals. And then, as if written on opposite sides of a Moebius strip, each word pair intertwines and fuels the other in an endless cycle.
|Photo by Vonecia Carswell on Unsplash|
TOLERANCE is the predecessor of INCLUSION
We cannot be truly inclusive and welcoming if we do not tolerate and accept all of God’s children as our brothers and sisters, equally beloved, honored, and gifted. Inclusion without tolerance is like putting a “Welcome” mat in front of our house and then locking the door.
The 2020 documentary “Crip Camp” tells the story of how disabled teenagers at a 1970s summer camp feel tolerated and accepted for exactly who they are. Some of them go on to become activists in the movement seeking equal opportunities and rights for people with disabilities—enduring a long series of civil rights protests that led to the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. Once those teenage campers understood they had been accepted into the Beloved Community, they naturally refused to be excluded from the mainstream of American life.
|Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash|
COMPASSION is the predecessor of SERVICE
We are not drawn to service unless we approach others with love. Service without compassion is like caregiving for a loved one with an attitude of obligation or condescension. But in the words of Somerset Maugham: “When love and duty are one, then grace is within you.”
In 2020, parishioners of all ages showed compassion through their service for Grace Church. This love was embodied in our faithful clergy, musicians, video and audio specialists, readers, and children who made online liturgy a welcoming, spiritual experience. Others cared for the building, flowers, gardens, and trails; planned and participated in an array of online programs; communicated information; supported Grace and its Outreach partners; served in leadership positions; attended services, prayed, cared for others, and much more. Such gracious service comes from compassionate hearts.
|Photo by Sam 🐷 on Unsplash|
CURIOSITY is a predecessor of DISCOVERY
Without a sense of wonder, we don’t feel compelled to experiment. Discovery without curiosity is like observing a rainstorm, but not putting a raindrop under a microscope to find out what lives there.
In 2020, we observed scientific and technological curiosity leading to the rapid development of coronavirus vaccines—and other discoveries providing new ways to go to school, work, twelve-step programs, restaurants, and more. Curiosity continues to point toward new discoveries about environmental stability, and ways to halt the un-creation of our planet.
HUMILITY is the predecessor of GRATITUDE
When each of us realizes that “it’s not about me, it’s about us,” we’ve made the Journey from I to We, and life will never be the same. Gratitude without humility is like saying grace before dinner while forgetting those who experience chronic hunger. Humility leads us to understand the interdependency of all life, and for that, we find ourselves deeply grateful.
In our 2020 Sacred Ground Circles, we discussed our nation’s history of European colonization and white privilege; how minorities carry the trauma of oppression and discrimination in their hearts, heads, and bodies; and how acknowledging our complicity in this continued inequality helps point us toward justice for all. Say their names: Indigenous People, Latinx, Asian Americans, the Disabled, LGBTQIA+, African Americans, those persecuted for religious beliefs.... on and on.
|Photo by Pavel Nekoranec on Unsplash|
We learned from Grace’s creation story that brokenness is often followed by resurrection.
Has anything been reborn in you during this time? What have you gleaned from the pandemic?