A guest post by Pam Turos
Faith. It’s not something I can easily explain to my agnostic husband or my friends and family who have been hurt and confused by the church in many different ways. I also believe in miracles. This isn’t something we talk openly about at my “Pantsuits and Prose” book club, where we intentionally dive into other tough topics and political conversations.
Because of my faith, I feel called to speak out against injustice, to show up at Black Lives Matter demonstrations, and to welcome immigrants and refugees into my home and community. My faith and social justice work are deeply spiritual and interdependent.
I have long struggled with how to explain this kind of faith to those who feel disconnected from its source. Whether I’m in a hilltop chapel in the woods of Cape Cod or a pew in Cleveland’s ornate, historic Trinity Cathedral, I make my way to church as often as possible because it connects me with the quiet voice inside that says I am a beloved child of God – and so is everyone else.
For years, I have struggled to describe my belief in the power of prayer to those who consider themselves spiritual but not religious. “If I pray for less traffic, that doesn’t change my morning commute. Prayer isn’t going to have any impact on the number of idiot drivers on the freeway.” True enough. But prayer changes me. It changes how I see the challenges I am faced with and how I view other people. It also makes me more likely to notice the opportunities and blessings that surround me, instead of the obstacles. A clear mind and spirit also increase the odds I will leave my house on time, which means I will reach “dead man’s curve” on I-90 before the inevitable morning slow down.
As a busy mother and business owner, prayer is central to the nurturing of my family and my business. Does prayer pay the bills? No, but it helps me find peace during tough times. Faith also opens my heart and mind to the helpers around me who have become a supportive tribe of generous friends, talented colleagues and rockstar clients – including the Very Rev. Tracey Lind.
Last week, I was blessed to share several days in Wellfleet, MA with Tracey and Emily in their adopted summer community, where Tracey serves as the part-time Priest-in-Charge for The Chapel of St. James the Fisherman. We talked little about business; instead, my spirit is rich and refreshed from lazy freshwater swims surrounded by nature’s tree-lined cathedrals and quiet talks with God along the rocky shores and wooded trails of the Outer Cape.
As a perfect end to my visit, Tracey’s Sunday sermon included a powerful interpretation of the familiar New Testament scripture, John 6:1-21, in which Jesus feeds a crowd of 5,000 with only five loaves of bread and two small fish. Her description of Jesus as a community organizer resonated deeply with my belief that faith and human connection are integral parts of effective social justice leadership.
In her words, “I know that I’m reading into the text, but I think that when the loaves and fish were placed within the community, in the middle of the circle, people began to share what they had brought for lunch that day, for many, if not most, of these folks had not come empty-handed. Fruit, cheese, bread, cucumbers, olives, fish, and yes, wine, began to emerge from bags, baskets, and packs. There was enough food for a feast, a banquet. And of course, like all good potlucks, there were abundant leftovers, 12 baskets full.”
The miracle was in the sharing.
Tracey continued, “How often do we get trapped in the scarcity myth – our fear of not having or being enough? The Bible tells us that there is enough of what we need to survive, and even thrive, if we, and those around us, are willing to share what we have.”
Too often, we think the miracles of life are in the abundance – the fact that there was magically enough for everyone to eat. Personally, I’ve experienced this phenomenon with my Cleveland neighborhood’s Front Porch Wednesday events. Our casual, weekly summer get-togethers seem to grow and flourish in direct proportion to our faith that whatever we have to share will be enough – tables, chairs, food, drink and participants included.
Miracles occur when we open our hearts and minds to discover the blessings within each other and all around us — whether it’s right next door or in the face of a stranger beside us in a crowd. I believe that the same unwavering faith Jesus and the disciples used to open the lunch sacks and feed the masses can work miracles of connection and opportunity within our broken communities. That is my kind of faith. And it doesn’t require regular church attendance, guilty confessions or weekly tithing, just our mindful presence and loving, inclusive participation.