“Live for yourself and you will live in vain; Live for others, you will live again.” – Bob Marley, 20th century
Dear Members and Friends,
This is Valentine’s Day Weekend (I know the actual day is not until Tuesday) and we are deluged with images of hearts and roses, chocolate candy and little cupids, and all manner of expressions of love. All of that is about romantic love and erotic love, but St. Valentine. But the original Valentine (at least the one most traditionally associated with this day) was martyred primarily for standing up to an unjust ruling of the Roman Emperor Claudius the Cruel. Claudius had banned all marriages and engagements in Rome because he felt it was leading Roman men to be unwilling to join the army because of their attachments to their wives and families. Valentine realized the injustice of this decree and defied it by performing marriages for Christian lovers in secret. He was caught and put to death for defying an unjust order by the supreme ruler of the land. That is a courageous, loving action which should truly be honored and celebrated.
Increasingly in our society it feels that our relationships with family, friends, colleagues and church members are becoming strained because of the actions of our government and our political parties. Many of us, on all locations of the political spectrum feel alone, isolated, and unable to share our fears, our hopes, our dreams, and really enter into conversations to seek better and deeper understanding of the world around us.
The Church should provide that place for us. Especially a church as open, welcoming, and affirming as the United Church of Christ. And yet many of us do not find that to be so. Our Conference Minister, the Rev. John Vertigan, recently shared some thoughts about the core values of the UCC which should help us to be this community of exploration, honesty, sharing and support that so many of us hope for. He wrote:
Someone suggested to me the other day his astonishment that church, what we always pray is a safe space, too often becomes an unsafe place for difficult conversations. I pray we might each rise up to the ideals of our UCC values: that we might be extravagant in our welcome of divergent points of view; that we might look to scripture and tradition for guidance on our path; that we might be willing to change ourselves just as much as we’d like to see others change.
To live these ideals: to extravagantly welcome other points of view; to hold our own views up to the light of scripture and tradition for assessment of how close they match; and to be willing to change ourselves and our views, not just expect that others will change – this takes courage. To truly live this way is to exercise courageous love.
R. Steven Hudder
Pastor, Christ Congregational United Church of Christ
Palmetto Bay, Florida