July 4th, will mark my twenty-fifth anniversary as a senior minister. Aside from relationships with my family, my ministry as a spiritual director represents the longest relationship I have had. Did you know that the 25th wedding anniversary represents harmony? I am borrowing the idea that my ministry represents harmony.
I remember so well my first service. Unbeknownst to my new congregation, I had always loved American patriotic music. I could sing along with all of the anthems but America the Beautiful was always my favorite. I also knew most of the military marches and could sing along to them as well. My cousins were from California. Of course most of the movies that I would have seen as a kid were made in Hollywood. I was very excited that my first Sunday would be on America’s birthday. I was especially looking forward to the music. We have always had some patriotic songs in the service that was closest to Independence Day.
The irony was Canada’s birthday is July 1. On that first Sunday, the wonderful music director of the Bonita Center, my new spiritual home, played a medley of Canadian songs in my honor. It was so kind and thoughtful and the truth was that I had a greater emotional attachment to the American music than I did to Canadian. Nevertheless, it was a very special day. We had a church picnic after service and I got to socialize with my new friends.
Now here we are, twenty-five years later. Over the years, I have learned so many things for which I am grateful.I have learned that some words have a political connotation — even if they were not meant to signify something right or left.
I have also learned that I cannot self-describe as any words that would imply my political leanings. For instance, I used to say quite often that I was a conservative person. I meant I was the kind of person who would likely not start a rebellion, the kind of person who would obey the law, and respect the rights of others. At some point I realized that people thought I was politically conservative. It is always my intention to keep my politics off the platform.
Not all of my learning has been easy. I have made my fair share of mistakes. Some of these mistakes have hurt others and I am sorry for that. Some mistakes have hurt our community. And I am even sorrier for that.
When I first came to the United States, I listened closely to American speech. I so wanted to fit in, to be liked. I kept practicing until all my “pro-cesses” became “prawcesses.” Little did I know that most Americans love an accent, and would have preferred me to speak proper Canadian English.
I have a great respect for American patriotism. I have great respect for the tradition of honoring the office of the president, even if you did not vote for him or agree with his policies. The idea of a first lady is new to me. I like the role she is encouraged to take. In Canada, one does not directly vote for the leader. The leader of the party with the most votes becomes the Prime Minister.
It is a difficult time for America. It is difficult to see a country that is polarized to such an extent that one side cannot see the other side’s point of view at all. In my daily prayers I have an intention to heal that sense of “them” and “us.” I pray that we are able to have civil dialogue and listen to differing points of view, without defensiveness or blame.
One of the greatest healing techniques I have come across is the Ho’oponopono prayer. It is a simple prayer of repentance, forgiveness, gratitude, and love. Dr Hew Len practiced this prayer and healed an entire mental institution. I offer it to us all because I know that we all make mistakes and we do care for each other:
I am so grateful for the generosity and love of all the people who have come to the two Centers in which I have served. Someone asked me recently why I would choose to become an American citizen at this time. I replied that I want to be able to vote, but it is really more than that. I want to be able to be part of what is good about this country.
May your Independence Day be a safe celebration of all that is good in America and in each other.