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Assistant Minister Column

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  “Winds be still. Storm clouds pass and silence come. Peace grace this time with harmony. Fly, bird of hope, and shine, light of love, and in calm let us all find tranquility.”

     Last month I was the keynote speaker at a gathering of Unitarian Universalists leaders in the Dallas/Forth Worth area. In a talk titled “Come Hell or High Water” they asked me to speak on Baton Rouge, the summer of 2016, and how our faith responded

     In preparation I looked at old orders of service. I wanted to see how we responded in liturgy. That is when I noticed something. The Sunday after (during?) the flood, I noticed we sang a hymn: #83 Winds Be Still. I remember us selecting this hymn. It stood out to me because it’s not in our normal repertoire. In fact, that Sunday was the first time I can remember singing it. The words so perfectly fit the mood we wanted to strike after the flood for all who could make it to worship.

     Then I flipped through a few more orders of service. I noticed something in the July 10th service. I was away that Sunday, the Sunday after Alton Sterling was shot. We had a guest minister, The Reverend Darcy Roake. She and Steve worked on revamping that service after it was clear how pivotal an event the shooting was. I was surprised to see that we used that same hymn on the 10th.

     Then I wondered if that hymn was an omen. I started thinking of all of the other omens for this summer: the early deaths of Prince and Bowie, the passing of the Blue Lives Matter law by the Louisiana Legislature, the controversy at the Spanish Town Mardi Gras parade when a couple of floats decided to mock black people demanding justice with an image of a flamingo being beaten by police saying “I can’t breathe.” I wondered if we were destined for these tragedies.

     Then I reminded myself that our brains are obsessed with predicting pain. Our brains want to find patterns so that we can better predict where comfort comes from. My brain was looking for patterns. There are patterns, but not omens. The patterns are the systemic abuse to the traditionally marginalized, the neglect and abuse of the environment, and favoring industry over neighborhood safety to name a few. But the patterns are not coincidental disparate events. Our brains try to connect those dots when they can’t figure out why we hurt.