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Dear Southeast Conference,
Grace and Peace to you in the name of the Risen Christ! I pray that the glory of this Resurrection Day is shining brightly upon you.
I find myself this Easter morn emersed in the experience of coming to Jesus’ empty tomb with Mary Magdalene and Jesus’ other disciples. I imagine the world was still hazy in those early hours, the first edges of the sun’s rays still trying to wrestle free of the horizon. Their minds were hazy, too, clouded over with the emotions that were colliding at a numbing rate, leaving hearts and minds exhausted and heavy. The path was dark, but this was where they needed to be.
I believe we, the Southeast Conference, the UCC in Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolin, and Tennessee, are where we need to be today, too. Just as those who followed and ministered with Jesus were enmeshed in a system of trauma, oppression, and political and religious warfare, so, too, are we. Lives are being taken daily because the rigorous effort has been made to keep guns both available and easily attainable – lives of children and school staff, of teens and young adults in the streets, of people out shopping or dancing or sitting on their porches.
Legislation is being meted out like candy to take away women’s rights to control their own bodies as the overturning of Roe v. Wade by the U.S. Supreme Court has given way to abortion bans and an assault on birth control. People who are LGBTQI+ are under constant fire as “don’t say gay” laws and bans on gender-affirming care are being set into motion with the strike intent of a nuclear bomb, harming children, youth, their families, and healthcare providers with no regard for their humanity. People of color and cultural diversity continue to be exploited and dehumanized by sanitized and lie-filled curriculum bans of books that offer a real history of the brutality of slavery and the systemic and intentional harm already done and continuing still in this country. Lines are drawn, creating wider and wider gaps between municipalities and communities around issues of environment, law enforcement reform and training, and land rights, building walls between sides instead of activating listening and collaboration. And the gap between the “haves” and the “have nots” is growing wider and wider, evident most recently in the many natural and human-made disasters that have left the most economically disparaged struggling to find support to recover.
Like Jesus’ disciples, we live in a place where trauma is inflicted on the most vulnerable time and again to the point of despair and even death. And now, like those beloved disciples, we are at the empty tomb, heavy with the oppression that is so standard, uncertain of how to create change, overwhelmed by the evil and the pain through which some of us live and to which others witness.
Jesus’ resurrection that day was not a magic trick. It was an unveiling: the stone rolled away, and the empty tomb, angels, and stunned guards. It was confusing. But then there was Jesus, bringing light to the shadows, reality to the mystical, joy to the sorrow. And, while the world was not fixed, its breach was filled, and the way forward was made clear.
Amidst all the alleluias and festivities of this Easter celebration, I hope you’ll take a minute or two sometime today to sit with me in those early moments of Jesus’ resurrection. I pray that the revelation of God’s promise, fulfilled in the resurrection, provides a glimmer of hope that calls us all forth with renewed determination to serve a risen Christ by actively affecting change and building bridges of love and compassion. Alleluia! Christ is Risen! Christ is Risen indeed!
Yours in Christ,
Rev. Kimberly Wood