This week’s post is from Rev. Elivette “Elly” Mendez Angulo (whose pronouns are she, her, hers, ella) serves as Project Coordinator of Encuentros de Gracia y Bienvenida, an initiative of the United Church of Christ that seeks to engage the faithful in prayerful dialogue regarding the intersection of sexual orientation and Latinx identity. Rev. Elly also serves as Co-Pastor-Teacher of Manantial de Gracia “Spring of Grace” UCC in West Hartford, CT.
¿Como decir en Ingles todo lo que siento..? en medio de la gravedad de la injusticia contra mi islita, mi Borinquen. How do I share my emotions in English when I am reeling from them, grieving in them, living those emotions in Spanish? Can we study the numbers and not be affected by what they mean?
We are mere days short of the 1 year anniversary of 9-20 (the day Hurricane Maria reached Puerto Rico). And the blame game is still being played. Officials question the response time, the numbers of those affected, the time without resources, and even the death toll. People of faith, little faith and no faith sent (and continue to send) packages and positive energies. Those, for whom prayer offers comfort, pray. And some wonder if prayer is enough during what feels like dire times.
The Washington Post published an article titled “A Tale of Two Puerto Rico’s: What Trump Saw and What He Didn’t.” In this article Trump is quoted as saying that “What has happened in terms of recovery, what has happened in terms of saving lives — 16 lives, that’s a lot, but we compare that to the thousands of people that died in other hurricanes that were not nearly as severe.” The seen and the unseen…the number of those who had lost their lives to Hurricane Maria where already days old, the number climbed to 34 and remained persistent at 64, though many questioned this number as being problematic because it did not take into account areas of the island that remained uncounted due to lack of access.
On September 29, 2017 Kate Shellnutt wrote about the thousands of churches in Puerto Rico damaged by Hurricane Maria and how they were offering sanctuary while working to repair their own. Over 3,400 churches were damaged or destroyed and according to recent statistics, 8% of Puerto Rico’s 3.3 million residents have migrated to mainland U.S. And while most of us wonder where God is in tough times, for evangelist and doctor, Luis Paz we need to remain grateful. “We thank the Lord no matter what,” said Paz, who later ended up singing hymns with his family as they scooped water out of their flooded home. “The Lord is not good when Irma started to go out and not good this time [when Maria hit]. The Lord is good all the time.”
Where do congregants who remain worship? In homes and in action, according to some who have migrated to Connecticut after the hurricane, many who experienced the loss of their buildings congregated in homes, taking part in cleanup efforts. Here are some statistics:
- Churches Damaged/Destroyed: 3,400
- Deaths Associated with Hurricane Maria: 2,975 to 4,645
- Migrants from Puerto Rico to continental U.S.A: 135,592 of 3.3 million.
Where do those who leave find sanctuary? Is there space and room for those who are hurting in your congregation? Is there space and room for those who speak a different language or who offer a different perspective on faith? Is there room for those who are angry? And for those whose politics are your polar opposite?
Last week as I read Rev. Dr. Christopher Xenakis “Something is profoundly wrong at the heart of white church” I realized that what I would like us to take away from that writing and from my own offering is about space. How much room and grace do we leave in the sanctuary for those who are not us? Please consider reading the points of view of those with whom you disagree. They may need sanctuary too.