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A Letter from Pastor Mary



Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

I’m sure I’ve shared with virtually everyone at one point or another my addiction to National Public Radio, if not in an outright endorsement then in repeating a story I’ve heard on NPR.

Some time ago, however, I gave myself a Sabbatical from TV news. I find current affairs tiresome when they are not downright infuriating, and so I decided to opt out of watching.

I thought I was keeping up with current events by listening to the radio. And I was – to some extent. But I hadn’t SEEN the news, particularly the tragic stories reported from Syria. That all changed last Sunday evening, when I happened to be in front of the TV in time for “60 Minutes.” I grew up hearing the tick, tick, tick of the stopwatch, and lo these many years later I can still recognize recordings of the voices of Mike Wallace and Morley Safer, although they are both long deceased. So I watched “60 Minutes.”

I was devastated. The first feature on “60 Minutes” was about the voiceless, heretofore (to me) faceless Syrian civilians who have been murdered by chemical weapons since late 2015. I KNEW this was happening, and I was appalled, but I hadn’t SEEN the pictures of it. The images broke my heart.

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning?” The words of Psalm 22 are claimed as Holy Scripture by Jew, Christian, and Muslim, and were among Jesus’ last words on the cross. They were the only words I could come up with in response to seeing this momentous tragedy. I saw the bodies of beautiful brown-eyed babies and children were laid out in death along with their young parents and their grandparents, who were my age when they died. They drowned in the foam that the chemical weapons induced in their lungs. It was not painless.

It is not to be borne.

It’s a privilege NOT to know about other people’s sufferings because then it need not trouble a person.

What can I do? I was ready to pack my bags to go to Syria and figure it out, but realistically, I don’t really have much to offer. But I realized an important Lenten lesson last Sunday evening – which is, that at the very least, it is my responsibility as a Christian to know – to SEE – the anguish of my brothers and sisters, even when they are on the other side of the world. I feel helpless to help them, but I am not. I can pray for them. I can learn about them. I can ask people who know what we can do to help – and then I can do those things.

I learned, through brief research today, that our denomination supports relief work in Syria, currently through the Syria Lebanon Partnership Network and the Jinishian Memorial Program. JMP began working with refugees when Christian Armenians were fleeing to Syria to escape persecution. It was originally staffed by American Presbyterians and is now staffed by native Syrians.

You will be hearing more about the ways we can make a difference through our One Great Hour of Sharing efforts as well.

Love one another – that was Jesus’ last lesson to his disciples. If we are to love, we must also know. I’ll be keeping my eyes open now; it is the least I can do.

See you in church.