June 14, 2020
8 minutes and 46 seconds of Solitude and Community
1 Corinthians 12:26: If one member suffers, all suffer together with him/her; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with him/her.
This past Tuesday at twelve noon, our church hosted a prayer vigil in memory of George Floyd. Anywhere close to one hundred members of our community gathered in Boyle Park under the canopy of broad-leafed shade trees with the sun delicately breaking through. We wore masks, kept our social distance, and saw some people for the first time in over two months.
Our reunions were bitter-sweet given the circumstances behind our gathering.
8 minutes and 46 seconds.
I could sense the pain, anger, and dismay of the crowd along with a strong sense of hope, purpose, and expectation. Now is the time for our nation to address the systemic racism plaguing our country. Now is the time to acknowledge our wounds, spend time with our brokenness, mend, heal, and be transformed.
Is it possible for us as individuals and as a nation to become more whole?
Desiree, a rising junior at our high school, a member of our church, and one of the few African Americans in our schools addressed the crowd. She shared stories of feeling isolated, being bullied, and crying and forcing herself to go to school on those days when staying in bed seemed easier. We listened and we were moved with compassion.
Then, we had 8 minutes and 46 seconds of silence. Some of us kneeled. Some lay prone with their hands behind their backs. Some sat. 8 minutes and 46 seconds of silence under the shade trees. We imagined or felt just a smidgen of the fear, the terror, and the hopelessness of George Floyd. We did not know that 8 minutes and 46 seconds could be so long. How long must it have been for George Floyd?
Something happened during that time of silence for many of us…something deep…
We experienced solitude and community. “The great paradox of solitude,” as Thomas Merton taught us so well, “is that as we enter alone (silent prayer) into the sacred presence of God, we find ourselves moving closer to others, indeed to the whole human race.”
“Solitude leads us into a greater solidarity with humanity,” writes John Dear. In a strange, uneasy way, in our silent prayer, we felt a connection with George Floyd. Our humanity was and is tied up in his humanity.
In silence and solitude, we find the strength to touch the pain and the suffering of others with deep compassion and love, says Dear. Our lives are interconnected; we mourn and celebrate life together. Our community stands in pain and grief this week. Callum, a bright Mancos High School student took his life. Abe, a long-term resident of Mancos died. George Floyd.
Through the practice of silence and solitude we can move through discomfort or pain and we can hear, feel, and see the spirit of peace and reconciliation moving through our world one breath at a time. The experience of solitude “gives rise to a hunger for communion,” says Gustavo Gutierrez. As we sat, kneeled, and lay prone in the park for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, we felt pain, sadness and a great desire for healing and community. We experienced empathy and hope for a new tomorrow. Everything old is passing away; yes, everything is becoming new (see 2 Corinthians 5:17).
Gutierrez writes that God does not call us to wander endlessly through the desert of despair and death, but to “pass through it, in order to reach the promised land.” Together, for 8 minutes and 46 seconds we spent time in the desert and discovered something, our shared humanity.
May we seek silence, solitude, and community.
May we have empathy for/with our brothers and sisters.
May we mourn together and rejoice together.
May we cross the river into the promised land flowing with milk and honey.
Blessings and peace,