Guest Post: From the Associate Rector
Grace to you and peace from God, our Father, and the Lord, Jesus Christ!
Two hundred forty-three years ago, the Second Continental Congress gathered in Independence Hall in Philadelphia and signed the Declaration of Independence. “We hold these truths to be self-evident,” they declared, “that all men (sic) are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Re-reading these words each year in July stirs my heart and enkindles anew a gratefulness for the founders of our country.
That said, it is helpful to remember that our founders were not as unified as we sometimes allow ourselves to believe. Jim Mathes, the Associate Dean of Students and Director of Anglican Studies at Virginia Theological Seminary and former Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of San Diego, reminds us that “the debate on the declaration was torturous.” Thomas Jefferson’s first draft was heatedly debated, and the final version reflected compromise after compromise. Our history books tell us that the declaration passed by unanimous vote. What we don’t generally learn is that a unanimous vote was possibly only because the entire New York delegation and other individual delegates abstained from the final vote. Mathes reminds us that “even our moments of greatest achievement, that call forth our greatest celebrations, are not easy affairs. Conflict and division are present in all critical moments in our history.”
Today, conflict and division seem omnipresent. Growing violence, upheaval, and forced resettlement are driving a global refugee crisis to which many nations, including our own, are struggling to respond. Rising health care and health insurance costs have left increasing numbers of people without access to affordable medical care. As we prepare to celebrate the grand experiment of democracy begun with the signing of our Declaration of Independence, it is important to recognize that “independence” has not solved all our problems. Perhaps we all would do well to spend time this week reflecting on the myriad ways in which we are dependent upon one another. Matthes suggests this “might lead us to see our diversity as a gift, not a threat, [and] invite us to live into our abundance rather than our fear.”
Let us pray together for this nation, and for all God’s people:
Lord God Almighty, you have made all the peoples of the earth for your glory, to serve you in freedom and in peace: Give to the people of our country a zeal for justice and the strength of forbearance, that we may use our liberty in accordance with your gracious will; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
And all God’s people said,
See you this weekend.