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Facing Fear in a New Year

When we look around at the world these days, there’s a fair bit about which to feel disheartened: from the Syrian refugee crisis to climate change, air pollution in China to insurgents and instability across the middle East. What is going on halfway around the world is cause for concern.
Then something brings those far-away crises closer to home – for me, that was a good friend who had been in the area of Paris where the bombings were. Then the feelings of sadness or discouragement shift to downright fear. We may feel panic or want to match violence with violence. “What are we to do?” we ask ourselves. “We must DO something!”
Eric Law (designer of the Holy Currencies Cycle of Blessings that we have been using at Forest Hill as a way to develop sustainable missional ministry) dissects various manifestations of fear in his new book: Finding Intimacy in a World of Fear. In due course, he proposes that fear can be a channel to “God-given gifts of wisdom, courage, dignity, and self-esteem”. When used as a weapon, fear separates people one from another, especially from those we regard as different from us. What if, instead, we were to treat fear as a bridge over which to cross to get to know our neighbours, their concerns and interests? What if we
were to listen to their stories and life experiences and to share our own? Would that not build the kind of community you want to live in?
This strategy isn’t one that’s just for “Being in Community” out there in the world however. It’s also a healthier way of “Being in Community” in our congregation. Our new initiative “Meet and Eat”, a monthly after-worship lunch, is one way to get to know some new people. Often, though, the ones we’re more distant from are the ones we think we know. Who are you unsure of trusting, or wary of, or have you had a disagreement with? Instead of avoiding that person, or being dismissive of them, or even speaking unkindly about them to someone else, could you say hello, exchange a few words, even get to know them a little better?
A few years back, when the United Church had been divided and relationships with some of my colleagues strained, I decided to challenge myself by inviting one, then another and another, out for lunch . While none of those folks became friends, it did change my attitude. I learned to be less judgemental and dismissive, to listen better, and to be more respectful and patient. I invite you to challenge yourself to build a bridge with someone – you likely even know who that needs to be.