Mary was urged to “fear not” when an angel told her of the child she would bear. The shepherds were told as well to “fear not” by angels who assured them that they brought good tidings of great joy, the birth of a Savior. In fact, throughout the Bible, Old and New Testaments both, people were regularly commanded to “fear not” when faced with difficult news and trying times.
Can we really say “fear not” though to the young children of Newtown, Connecticut who saw their classmates gunned down? Can we really say “fear not” to every parent in America? How much do our lives of faith really mean when we’re held hostage by an out of control gun lobby and lack of care for the mentally ill?
My own reaction to last Friday’s shootings took me by surprise. I felt the horror and shock and sadness that everyone felt of course. I was at the gym, exercising on a cross-training machine and watching the unfolding news on CNN. Suddenly I realized that I couldn’t breathe and that uncontrolled sobs were not a cliché, but could really happen. I could do nothing more than put my head down and apologize through my gasps for air to those around me for making a scene in such a public place.
And no one spoke to me. No one put a hand on my shoulder to ask if I was okay or to express solidarity with this expression of grief. After a few minutes I stood and tested my legs to see if I could walk downstairs. Those around me averted their eyes, and I wanted nothing more at that moment than to see one of the familiar faces from St. Alban’s that I often see at this particular health club and to hold on to someone who knew me and didn’t think I was crazy for crying in public. I wanted a community.
I tell you this story not to call attention to my needs, but to express what may be a widespread hunger for a sense of community that is missing from many parts of society. The people of Newtown are today finding strength in their community at the worst of times. The people of New York City found strength in their community following Hurricane Sandy. St. Alban’s has provided the strength of community for many in times of grief and times of joy.
Let’s not forget joy. Pure and simple, it is an outgrowth of our love, gratitude, hope, faith, and just as much, a symbol of fearlessness. Our choice is to live with fears that close us off from one another, or to live with a joy that brings us closer together.
There will be no joy this Christmas for some. But may all find a way to come together in a community – here at St. Alban’s or wherever you are. Sing. Hope. Love. Share. Find joy where you can.
A choir member recently reminded me of the many YouTube clips that have captured the joy that singing flash mobs have created around the world. And we then joked that every Sunday morning at St. Alban’s there is a flash mob that suddenly stands and sings hymns! Hallelujah! Fear not.
Last January, I sat in the Portland airport, having just spent a week with my Oregon family. I was checking email, and found one from my friend Jonathan’s Facebook account–an invitation to a memorial & requiem. Now, Jonathan was a church organist–he played at our wedding at St. A.’s back in 2000–and I was excited to think that he was going to play a big requiem on some lovely organ.
I then clicked through to RSVP, and realized that, no…it wasn’t a requiem *by* Jonathan, but rather one *for* Jonathan, as he’d passed away unexpectedly at the age of 40.
The next thing I knew, a woman had walked up to me, handed me a box of Kleenex, and then pressed a package of cough drops into my hand. “After I cry, I always need a cough drop.” She squeezed my hand and was gone.
I wish, Sonya, that someone had pressed a cough drop in your hand.
What a small world–my step niece is singing in this video (don’t know if you noticed but it was done in Canada). I’m going to take it in to her grandfather, my stepfather, who is in hospital right now. I know it will bring him joy. Thank you for reminding us of impossible joy–joy not restricted or determined by circumstances.
Also, for what it’s worth you weren’t the only one sobbing but for me it was my day off so the only ones who might of heard me were the neighbors. I was with you in spirit my friend. Bless you!
Sonya, I would have held you in my arms in a heartbeat. And as a member of your extended community of faith, that is what I am doing right now. Much love,Carlyle
It is so sad that no one showed you any empathy, that you were the only one showing emotion after hearing about the horrific events at the school! That in itself says something about our society, how disturbing!!! A late & virtual hug to you!! I think most of us were crying & will continue to cry for that community!!! Susan
Right on, Sonya. Let’s hear it for joy. Let’s hear it for community. Let’s hear it for fearlessness. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. Love, Gordon
Sonya thank you. Community, love, and joy are what saved my life–here at St Albans. I also know that by embodying this, I have changed others and helped to create community outside of St. A’s, including that Friday among my colleagues.
Sonya, I saw your car outside while you were at the gym…I wish I would’ve seen you come out….I would’ve hugged you in an instant. In hard times, it’s SO comforting for someone to just lay a hand on your shoulder, or give you a hug. I needed a lot of that while we were in England. But as everyone has said, finding a community that you can connect with–in joy and in sorrow–is the most comforting thing of all. I never expected the St. Alban’s community to have the impact that it does in my life…and I am truly grateful. Thank you.