Closing Charge and Prayer,
CAJM Team Assembly @ St. James Presbyterian Church

There is a rhythm to the annual CAJM calendar, marked by certain key events. And, for those of us who have been involved in this for a few years, we each have our favorites. Perhaps it’s the intimacy of house meetings, when we hear the deepest concerns of our friends and neighbors. Or the sense of focus at our Community Problems Assembly, when we determine the singular issue to which we will devote our attention and efforts over the coming year. Perhaps it’s the commitment of the Research Kick-off, when we realize how much there is to learn, but take heart in how many are willing to help shoulder the burden of doing so. Or the enthusiasm of the Rally, when we realize there is something concrete we can do as a community and that a roomful of people are excited and energetic to make it happen. Perhaps it’s the creative tension of the Nehemiah Action, when we realize that, uncomfortable though tension is, there is simply no other way to bring about meaningful change, so we sit with it, use it, bring it to the surface — so that the tension so many live with on a regular basis might, that night, become a productive tension for the betterment of our community. Or maybe it’s the sense of accomplishment of our Celebration, noting the milestones we have reached, the successes we have achieved, the power that, collectively, has become a tangible force in our community.

But for me — this, our gathering tonight, is my favorite night of the CAJM year. Yes, we have heard so many stories of disappointment in our community; the ways in which lack of leadership or policy or even just concern manifests itself in the lives of our brothers and sisters. It would be easy to become discouraged. And yet every year, when I leave this meeting, I always feel uplifted — because is there anything more hopeful that coming together in truth?

A patient goes to the doctor with an unknown ailment. He doesn’t know why he’s hurting, just that he is. And so he does his best to describe it to his doctor. He tells her his symptoms, catalogues his fears, does his best to be as thorough and precise as possible. The doctor take it all in and makes a diagnosis; gives a name to his symptoms, outlines a course of action. Is the patient cured when he leaves her office? Of course not. Is the doctor’s work done? Far from it. But in that place of mutual meeting, something profound happens. The patient feels relief simply from being heard and understood. And the doctor, too, I have to imagine feels a deep sense of meaning, as well — for why did she enter into this most difficult of professions if not to care for her fellow human being; and how can she do that unless he can first share his burdens and let her in?

Tonight we embrace the Power in the Universe we know as Hope —
It’s been a difficult year, and there are times when it’s felt that You, Hope, are distant, dimmed, diminished. But tonight, we are fortified by Your presence. You are present in those gathered here, and the commitment they have made to this year’s CAJM journey.
You are present in the papers that line the walls of the room, enumerating the most pressing issues revealed in our house meetings — an indication that we are really talking about what really matters. We feel You here tonight, and we carry You with us
into our congregations, our neighborhoods, next week’s voting booths.

As we leave here tonight, let Hope travel with us and may we use it to build the power
of our Community Problems Assembly. For, as we’re taught in my tradition: “It is not up to us to finish the task, but neither are we free to desist from it.” We’ve heard more tonight than we can possibly tackle in a single year. But we can do something. We can change something. And with truth, community, and hope — indeed, we can do a great deal.

So, with Hope in our hearts, let the journey to healing begin tonight! And let us say: Amen.

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