Recently, just prior to rise of meeting, our congregation sang Bob Frank’s hymn, “Hallelujah, the Great Storm is Over,” and I found myself singing it again and again all the rest of that week. I realized, though, that “the great storm” is unfortunately not over. Far too many people who have lost everything to hurricane Sandy still struggle to cope with conditions reminiscent of 19th Century urban experience: living in crowded situations lacking adequate sanitation and power.
I have heard this storm, the effects of which linger, referred to as an act of God. The insurance industry relies on that terminology, and many people think of major disasters as such. Hoping to interpret God’s intention, some individuals have suggested that as the topic had been so glaringly absent from campaign rhetoric, God sought to inject the environment into politics. A number of pastors proclaimed the great storm to be God’s vengeance upon us in response to gay marriage. Humans have long viewed natural disasters as evidence that God’s intentions align with one ideology or another.
Friends, however, have tended to consider it not to be God’s practice to wreak vengeance, to be close only when we are perfect or to become distant when we are not. God is here with us whoever, wherever and whatever we are. God’s presence is ours for the asking, without question, always.
But even among Friends this deep, abiding presence may be missed. Childhood fear of a vengeful God or fear of a great storm attributed to this vengeance, can lead some to reject the idea of a manifest God. Others may simply forget, the presence of God being so close, always with us, at hand in the events of our daily lives. Thus, God can be overlooked.
Varied perspectives driving the varied patterns of modern Friends can impair the capacity to appreciate God’s presence. A member of my meeting, Becky, recently made a wonderful statement suggesting this truth. Reminiscing about a conversation in which she participated with the General Secretary of Friends United Meeting (FUM) and a Friend affiliated with Friends General Conference (FGC), she said, “The reason I sojourn between FUM and FGC is that in the FGC mission statement there is no mention of Christ, and in the FUM mission statement there is no mention of God.”
Why is this significant? If we leave the latter out, we may miss God’s deep abiding presence; if we leave Christ out, we may fail to experience the living power, the healing potential of the Light within, the Light that is here for us. We can easily fall into the trap of turning God or God’s physical manifestation, Christ Jesus, into a mere idol or theory. We can fail to understand our relationship with the presence, the power. Importantly, we may miss the message that the Word, the Logos, is right here among us, right now. We are the Word made flesh; that is what George Fox meant when he spoke of, “ …that of God in everyone.”
So, here we are now, and though we have been singing, “Hallelujah, the great storm is over,” in truth, it is not. Our time, our place, our context is calling us to be the Word, the Logos, and to become healers of our own moment — NOW.
Daphne Clement, Pastor, Durham Friends Meeting, Durham, Maine, carries a Minute of Endorsement for Ministry from the Atlanta Friends Meeting where she worshiped while completing her Doctorate of Ministry degree at Columbia Theological Seminary. She acted as the Coordinator of Spiritual Care at Hospice Atlanta for a number of years before coming to pastor the semi-programed Meeting in Durham. She is the author of the Pendle Hill Pamphlet “Group Spiritual Nurture: The Wisdom of Spiritual Listening.”