What it Means to Remember
The first Sunday in November is always a special Sunday here at First Baptist. We celebrate it first as “All Saints’ Sunday,” a holy day in the larger church that remembers and celebrates all those saints of the church who’ve come before and whose lives still touch us. Here at First Baptist, we focus our attention especially on all those from our congregation who have “gone home” over the course of the past year.
This Sunday is also our Commitment Sunday, when we once again commit ourselves to each other and the mission and ministry of our church. We process down the aisle to deposit our commitment cards into the little model church, committing once again to living and working together as members of this congregation, while also honoring the memories of those who came before us. The interplay of these two markers of “Commitment” and “All Saints’” is a powerful testimony to what it means to be the church.
And yet this year we do these things in the wake of a week that has seen other services of remembrance, the reading of other names, and the coming together of other communities to recommit themselves to each other and to their common hope for the future and the present. I’m thinking specifically of the memorial services held around the country and here in Macon for the victims of the atrocity at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh.
We as a nation are getting so accustomed to mass shootings that we risk becoming numbed by them. And yet, on the other hand, this shooting was of special significance as perhaps the most lethal act of antisemitism in our nation’s history. A sobering testimony to the state of things, given that antisemitism has been called the world’s oldest form of racism.
A Shabbat service of remembrance and unity was held here in Macon this past Friday evening, hosted by Temple Beth Israel and Congregation Shar’arey Israel. Kelsey represented our church in the program and many of you attended. I also reached out to Rabbis Aaron Sataloff and Aaron Rubenstein on our congregation’s behalf the Saturday of the shooting, and sent letters to their congregation this past week.
The letters offered words of sorrow and support, but also words of confession. The sad truth is that the Christian church has long perpetuated antisemitism and repeatedly provided theological cover for its many violent fruits. I felt it important to confess these sins on behalf of the wider Church, and reaffirm our congregation’s commitment to “dismantling this part of our tradition in the way we read and interpret scripture together and understand our own spiritual heritage.”
Confessing, too, is part of remembering and committing. It is good and right for us to remember those who have come before and honor all that we’ve been entrusted with. Yet, as we have learned in recent years through our relationship with First Baptist Church on New Street, honest remembrance also acknowledges the harder parts of the past.
This kind of remembering isn’t easy, but it’s only through an honest reckoning with the tradition we inherit that we truly honor the best of what we’ve been given. And that is something worth committing ourselves to.