Steve’s Letter to Reservoir
May 6, 2020
Since our COVID-19 shelter in place began nearly two months ago, our church has had an unusual amount of opportunity to think about love of neighbor, love in public, and public justice. It’s ironic that so many of us could be spending so much time in our own homes and yet also be so connected to our place, our work, and God’s work in the broader world.
I want to share a few things I’ve learned as I’ve watched you do this, and as I’ve done my own public work as a clergy member, and leader in the interfaith justice work of Greater Boston Interfaith Organization. I’ve had the opportunity to be part of meetings with our governor, our state attorney general, sheriffs, district attorneys, and more, and want to share things I’ve learned there as well. So this is a longer email; thanks for taking the time to read!
Stuff I’ve learned from public officials first, then other things:
- No one wants anyone to lose their housing right now. We’ve helped encourage legislations to protect people on this. If you’re being threatened with eviction or foreclosure, contact the Attorney General’s consumer complaint line: 617-727-8400. They’ll fight for you if the law allows.
- Politicians are people too, even really powerful ones. Whether you voted for them or not, pray for people like Governor Baker and others; these are hard times for them.
- Advocacy works. In our meeting with the governor, we watched and heard lights turn on for him as we advocated for health care access we’ve been fighting for, for years (greater mental health care access, ending surprise billing, lowering prescription drug costs, etc.). I’m hopeful Massachusetts will keep leading the way towards better work here, even if it’s not as fast or thorough as many of think it should be.
- More and more of us are aware that our country imprisons way too many people, that racism is deeply baked into our criminal justice system, and that prisons and jails are dangerous places to be – especially during a Covid outbreak. However, few public officials want to let people out. The political, logistical, legal, and service-providing barriers are still large, but we’re part of a broad-based coalition that is working hard on this issue.
- If you want to get involved in advocacy on these and other things, you should! Contact Lydia (firstname.lastname@example.org) about our emerging Faith Into Action group and work. We have a growing number of skilled, passionate leaders in our congregation!
- Our public leaders are really worried that people with urgent health care needs aren’t getting the care they need. If you have a chronic health condition or an emergency, call your doctor or, as needed, go to the ER. It’s scary, but we need to attend to our health.
- Elders have it really, really hard right now. Reach out to your elders. Offer help. Offer connection and communication. Pray for them. Please. Today.
- I’ve learned through Attorney General Healey and through my work with Samaritans that domestic violence and child neglect and endangerment are on the rise right now. If you’re being abused or neglected, or if you wonder if you’re doing that yourself, stop reading this now and contact me or another one of our pastors, and we’ll help put you in touch with the help you need.
- Help is available. If you live in Cambridge and meet certain income guidelines, look into our city’s Mayors Fund, for cash relief for people impacted by this season. Millions are available, literally.
- If you can offer help, you and your community group should check out our growing list of resources for how you can help right now!
- Our church just decided to make a $1,000 donation to the recently established One Church Fund, where churches that are still well provided for in this crisis can share with churches that face larger barriers.
- You are amazing. You’ve worked with our city’s homeless, sometimes getting sick as a result. You’ve sewn masks for others (email Ivy to join this ongoing effort of mask donation to Pine Street Inn and Victory Programs, Inc.). You’ve done your work in human services bravely, admirably, courageously. You’ve raised funds. You’ve transformed our sanctuary into a holy space for blood donations. You’ve loved your kids as well as you can. You’ve borne your losses honestly and courageously. You’ve given stimulus money to people who needed it more. You’ve grieved. You’ve hoped. You’ve raised important issues. You’ve raised your voice for others. You’ve challenged scapegoating and racial stigmas. You’ve cooked up a storm. You’ve done the work of healing – medical and otherwise – in impossibly hard conditions. You’ve shopped for others. You’ve made your needs known. You’ve practiced public love, even when that just meant staying home. You are amazing.
- This has been so hard. Everything from missing our routines, to seeing our kids’ losses, to mental health challenges, to isolation, to … I can’t name it all; it’s just hard. Hard is normal right now. Hang in there. Reach out for help. Help where you can. This will not last forever.
- This may not be true of you personally, but on the whole, our church is very privileged. Few of us, compared to the state at large, have lost our jobs. Few of us, compared to the city at large, have been hospitalized. While our shared inconvenience, fear, and suffering is real and important, our church community’s economic and social privilege shows. And it is our opportunity to decide what to do about that – how to be generous, how to advocate well for others, how to choose solidarity with those who are hurt or hurting. Our church is collectively choosing ways to do this, and if you can, I encourage you personally to do the same.
Two last bits of news, before our usual reminders.
- Our church was eventually approved for a low interest, forgivable loan through the Payroll Protection Program. Thanks to our Board and Cambridge Savings Bank for their work on this, helping protect our bottom line so we can sustainably serve our city.
- My planned sabbatical for this summer has been postponed, at my request. It’s just not a great time to take 3 months off, for a whole bunch of reasons. I’m excited to serve our community this summer and excited to take the sabbatical in 2021.
(Announcements to the church congregation omitted here.)