Yesterday morning, I heard a statistic that said 57% of Americans supported Trump’s current immigration ban. The number surprised me because I had watched all weekend as people poured into airports and joined protests against the Executive Order. Perhaps one could argue that the press loves to cover controversy and made the hype feel bigger than the numbers. Regardless, watching the passionate, immediate, and spontaneous emergence of protests, I was surprised to hear such support in opposition to the protestors’ visceral response. As I thought about that contradiction, I realized that there must be some part of the supporters’ position that I do not understand.
I have been thinking a lot this past week about how we are going to move through this tense time as a country. One of the constant refrains I have been hearing is about how we need to listen – really listen – to each other and engage in meaningful conversation with the “other.” I have appreciated articles like this one, that present a point of view without comment, which is one form of really listening. But I have not been sure how I would go about engaging in these conversations myself. But, as God often does, I have found it happening in spite of me.
Last week, Hickory Neck joined another Episcopal Church to host an emergency winter shelter week. I volunteered for an evening shift. During dinner, I found that the conversation between guests and volunteers slipped into a conversation about politics. My initial instinct was to shut the conversation down – worrying I might step on some toes. But I took a deep breath and tried to do what I kept hearing about – listen. The points of view varied widely among our homeless guests and our parishioners. Some points of view were extreme – on both sides! And some of the things we shared I worried would cause alienation between my parishioners and I. But we all stayed at the table.
That’s one of the things I have always loved about the Episcopal Church – we stay at the table. Every week we bring our opposing views, our sinful hearts, and poor hearing to the table, and kneel side-by-side, remember whose we are, and go out into the world renewed and made whole. Our table fellowship at dinner that night was not a Eucharistic meal. But the results were quite similar. As my volunteer shift ended, we shook hands, we looked each other in the eye, and we nodded in mutual respect. Our conversation did not change the world. But hopefully it changed each of us just a little. And that may be the most we can hope for – small changes, made possible by staying at the table. On Sundays, the church shows us how. Our job is to create table opportunities as often as we can throughout the week.