These are terrible days for those of faith. Horrors and atrocities, savage accidents and others mean beyond measure, done by people in the name of our faiths. Planes falling in forest and sand; terror in tunnels, TB and ebola. Oh my lord.
“Search me, God, and know my mind; test me and discover my thoughts. Find out if there is any evil in me and guide me in the everlasting way.” This is the prayer of the Jewish Psalmist I noticed on the rock in the Labyrinth at the Adventist Hospital in Glans Switzerland last week. We were meeting to talk about how we leaders of faith-based healthcare organizations could be more deeply accountable for what is possible to do in the world, which is a lot, when you really look carefully at it (faithbasedhealthcare.net). We can do way more. Why don’t we?
It is also the prayer of every Muslim giving themselves to the “great Jihad”–the inner one–during these sacred days of Ramadan. People of every faith know that God doesn’t have to look very hard to find our evil and complicity in the banal evils that kill far more people every day than all the rockets have ever managed. I live in Winston-Salem a few blocks from where the cigarette machine was invented which is just a few blocks North of “God’s Acre” in Moravian Salem. Ironically deadly complicity is us–all of us.
About two miles south of the epicenter of irony in Winston-Salem is a former church on Waughtown Street, now the Community Mosque. Among its many ministries in part of town that could use many many ministries a free clinic is offered twice a month by physician faculty from the Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. There are healing ironies, too. And there are healing complicities in people of faith and hope find ways to subvert the cold deadly hands of our time.
Matt Gymer, one the main innovators at our “competing” hospital across town (Novant), said over dinner once that there is nothing quite so subversive as unexpected collaboration. This Ramadan staff at Baptist Hospital are working with our Muslim physicians and a Methodist physician at the Federallly supported clinic down the street to help some neighbors get within healing range of 21st century medicine. The Muslim physicians have figured out the medical part (they volunteer!) and we’re figuring out the laboratory part (much more slowly…). A thread of decency and practical kindness seems so slender and weak in these cold days. But they weave a web of trust and build patterns of hope strong enough for a few—then more—people to receive care God intends for them.
Tomorrow dozens of people will arrive in Winston-Salem for the first-ever Chawumba event. We will be an odd assortment of wonks, techs, administrators and program leaders all drawn by the hope that our lives can be part of the Great Turning away from death toward life. We have been a learning group under the flag of stakeholder health (stakeholderhealth.org) but are a more motley assort of tribes that impressive website might suggest. We planned this even months ago on the model of the Cree Nation annual gathering of healers. They were not a warrior people, but frequently sent their members as healers and guides with other tribes widely scattered. It felt like jus the bird we’d want to fly with. So we asked Heather Wood Ion who works closely with Jonas Salk on the “epidemic of health” to guide us.
We will share our programmatic ideas and latest tricks of data analysis. But mostly we will find in each others’ company assurance that it is not delusional to hope that our lives might contribute to something worthy and good. Those who hope are by definition those who are bruised by the savage world we hope for. So there will be lament as we name what is lost.
And we will raise each other up in song and laughter for what we still find and that which marks the path –the everlasting one the Psalmist hoped for. And then we will share out skills and programs and methods and analytics and tools we are using to walk thta path.
If you have read this with any resonance, please lend your prayers and your spirit to those hopes this weekend as we gather.