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You’ve been exceeding gracious in reading (tolerating?) my reflections on what it means to do church, and be church, in an age when the usual metrics brand us a failing institution. As you have read, I struggle with that at times.

And yet, just when there have been one too many sleepless nights, one too many wondering looks in the mirror, this happens. Two weeks ago, at Temple Israel, the Minneapolis – Saint Paul community was invited to come together in a gathering titled, “No Hate, No Fear”—a public denouncement of the growing wave of antisemitism across this country, and a public affirmation of what it truly means to be community with each other.

At one point in the proceedings, religious leaders present in the overflow crowd were asked to come to the front and join our voices in a prayer. There we stood—pastor and imam, priest and rabbi—sharing common words of comfort and support.

Here’s the prayer we said:

For the expanding grandeur of Creation,
worlds known and unknown, galaxies beyond galaxies,
Filling us with awe and challenging our imaginations.

For this fragile planet earth, its times and tides,
its sunsets and seasons.

For the joy of human life, its wonders and surprises,
its hopes and achievements.

For human community, our common past and future hope,
our oneness transcending all separation, our capacity to work
for peace and justice in the midst of hostility and oppression.

For high hopes and noble causes, for faith without fanaticism,
for understanding of views not shared.

For all who have labored and suffered for a fairer world,
who have lived so that others might live in dignity and freedom.

For human liberties and sacred rites:
for opportunities to change and grow, to affirm and choose.

We pray that we may live not by our fears but by our hopes,
not by our words but by our deeds. Amen.

Turns out the prayer was written by a Unitarian-Universalist pastor. (Thanks, Google.) I’m not sure it was the words themselves that mattered, but that those of us who in some way represented God had stood in the gap, between good and evil, heaven and earth, right and wrong. Stood there with the one thing we had in our bag: a prayer.

I know there are important psychological truths about so much of what we do in the church. But that night, sleep came quickly because I knew, at the very core of my being, that I had made a difference simply by being present…even if there was no number to quantify it.

To all of you, then, who because of your faith remain present to this rough-and-tumble world: thank you. Thank you for being faithful at all times. May your roof not leak this week.

Jeff Japinga

Whether you remember him this way or not—and for most of you, it would be not—Jeff Japinga is an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). He currently serves as executive presbyter for the Presbytery of the Twin Cities Area, following seven years as associate dean for doctor-of-ministry programs at McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago and twenty-one years in denominational staff service for the congregations and people of the Reformed Church in America.

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