On January 21st, I got on a bus to go to the Women’s March on Washington. It felt like a secret mission as we boarded buses in the middle of the night. I went for a variety of reasons, but mostly I felt called to be a Christian witness to the gathering of all races, backgrounds, ages and religions at a time of palpable division in our nation. In the light of day on the streets of DC, I noticed the rhythms of liturgy: Calls and responses, prayers and hymns, psalms of anger and lament, psalms of God’s providence and benediction. It felt scandalous to be hopeful again.
And then I returned home early Sunday morning. Before church was over, all of the op-ed pieces were flying on social media, criticizing women for showing up with their bodies in DC. There was no time to process the experience before we entered into the chaotic first week of President Trump’s presidency. Executive orders banning immigrants from entering the country, protests breaking out at airports and ACLU lawyers being called to reunite families cast a shadow on the Women’s March just days prior.
In my politically diverse congregation in Canton, Ohio, the Women’s March wasn’t popular with everyone. But it was hardly a scandal either. Many of my people are confused and others are angry and still others are in support of their President. Regardless of whether or not I am an activist, I am their pastor first and foremost. And so, I have reassured my people that churches like ours (the “Both-And” churches) were made for such times as these. This is when our faith can become real. We can no longer just go to church and call it “good.” It is imperative that we follow Jesus Christ, our Lord, who caused a REAL scandal by loving humanity all the way to the cross. And now is the time to test how big WE can love in his name.
So I have challenged my church with this vision: What if Christians lived the Gospel out loud instead of in secret? What if our men and women, Republicans and Democrats, gay people and straight people, black, brown and white people discussed hard things and did the hard work of God with love and laughter and deep respect for one another? Can you imagine what people might say about Christians if we did such things? Now THAT, my friends, would cause a scandal!!
Rev. Heather Haginduff
Trinity UCC, Canton