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Governor Cuomo assembled an inter-religious advisory council of faith leaders in the last year to advise him and his staff. My understanding is that he wants to increase the moral voice of faith leaders within the political structures of New York State in light of the moral bankruptcy in Washington DC. Serving on this council has been a source of real joy for me. The intersection of the political and religious life is a place where I come alive. We joke in the Kast home that the two things we always talk about as a family are politics and religion, and boy do our politics vary. Yet we talk and we pray for each other. Our shared faith calls us to this action. I am marrying a political scientist this summer. This intersection of politics and religion makes so much sense in my life.
Yesterday was the first Inter-religious Prayer Breakfast in the history of New York State. Clergy from all walks of life descended upon Albany to pray for and with each other and our state government. I sat at the head table with my esteemed colleagues who helped lead the morning prayer. Reverend Jim Wallis was our keynote and called us back to listening to the student’s leadership in gun reform. When it came to the benediction time, I made my way up to the podium and began the carefully crafted blessing I wrote for my state.
Since so many of our Reformed churches are in New York state, I offer this blessing to you, too.
“Gathering in the spirit of honoring God’s image in each other, we consciously choose to bless each other in our different religious devotions. This is not something we should take for granted in our tumultuous world. It is a gift from our Creator to be woven together in a multi-colored tapestry of prayer. From my tradition, Jesus consistently surrounded himself with various religious leaders. I believe Jesus is here, today. In the spirit of loving our neighbor, how good it is to dwell in joy and celebrate each other.
We gather in joy and in prayer and we find encouragement in each other to keep going, keep loving, keep speaking out and praying. We refuse to let disappointment and discouragement stop us, we are needed to make the world right.
So we pause to breathe in this gift and in joy we exhale our gratitude. May the blessing we have found in each other’s company nourish our work and our witness in our communities. May the resolve we have to make the world more tolerant, more loving, more generous sustain the daily grind. And may we be quick to speak words of encouragement and prayers of blessing to each other. Our country is watching us, New York, let us be marked with the seal of joy for as Alice Walker said the world will follow joy. Go in God’s joy. Amen.”