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Jan 09, 2017

Faithful Presence in Uncertain Times

By Tom Ewell

Well, here we go into this new year of the very uncertain era of the Trump administration! The initial shock of the election has now subsided somewhat, and we are most likely looking for next steps in preparing ourselves to cope with the coming months ahead. The primary purpose of my WIFOR Saturday Evening Post has been to encourage a practice of nonviolence and to provide a moment of uplift for the spirit, especially for times like these. That continues to be my goal in the post below and in the weekly posts that follow.

The approach I am developing for myself to cope with this era has three components:

One is to recommit to my practice of nonviolence - seeking ways to resist injustice through a practice of disciplined compassion while also offering alternatives and aspirations that support justice and peace. An excellent example of these type of aspirations is provided by the Friends Committee on National Legislation’s “We Seek” statement:

We seek a world free of war and the threat of war; We seek a society with equity and justice for all; We seek a community where every person’s potential may be fulfilled; We seek an earth restored.

The second is to nurture community. In order to cope with the uncertainties and potential dangers ahead I need to foster and deepen relationships with people I know well and trust; people who know where each other are most of the time; people who share my values. I need to have strong reassurance that these people will be there for me and each other when we are in danger. I need them to be able to honestly share our truths together - our hopes, fears, visions, and what we can expect from our common life together. And I want us to be able to reconcile with forbearance our conflicts and differences. Some of these communities will be among intimate and immediate close friends such as my Quaker meeting, my book group, my men’s group, my local clergy lectionary group, and family members. Some will be the wider Quaker fellowship I enjoy in the state and across the country. Still others will be my professional groups and coworkers. I will make an effort to maintain and strengthen these communities to the best of my ability and availability of time. And I will encourage my own communities to support those people and communities who are threatened who are less known to me.

A third component is to engage ever more deeply and regularly in my faith practice. I need to have a sense of the transcendent in my life, especially at this time. I need to believe there is a “force more powerful” at work to bring justice and peace beyond my ability to recognize and understand how it is working and to find my place in the historical moment I am living. Toward this end I will strengthen my faith through prayer, common worship, and the regular practice of awe and joy.

You will have your own set of aspirations. I have appreciated the opportunity for this assessment, and perhaps you would benefit from the same.

We simply don’t what to expect personally, socially, or politically in these coming months. We don’t - and  we may not know for some time yet. But we do know we are going to need to live with a new level of vigilance for ourselves and others while also living as courageously, hopefully, and fully - and perhaps more so! - that ever before in our lives.

I want to close with two additions to my post. The first is a quote from Thomas Merton that perfectly expresses a timely reflection on the topics I have shared above: “In a time of drastic change one can be too preoccupied with what is ending or too obsessed with what seems to be beginning. In either case one loses touch with the present and with its obscure but dynamic possibilities. What really matters is openness, readiness, attention, courage to face risk. You do not need to know precisely what is happening, or exactly where it is all going. What you need is to recognize the possibilities and challenges offered by the present moment, and to embrace them with courage, faith, and hope.” - Thomas Merton, "Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander"

And the second addition is a short video about starling murmuration, a phenomenon which I just learned about this week. Although we humans are not starlings capable of this amazing capacity for the synchronicity of murmuration, when we experience moments of deep trust and graced engagement with one another we engage in what has often been called “flow,” or a kind of “murmuration” of unity of purpose and soul with another person, or a whole group, that I find to be one of the most gratifying, transcendent moments of my life. May we find and recognize these graced “murmuration” type moments in our personal and communal lives even amidst these tumultuous and chaotic times!





Tom Ewell is a Quaker writer and peace activist with the Whidbey Island Chapter of FOR (WIFOR) in Washington. The above reflection is republished from Tom's WIFOR Saturday Evening Post.

Photo Cred: Starlings over Aberystwyth Pier by Ian Capper via Creative Commons

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