Hope United Cochrane
Letters from the Pastor
October 2023
From the Pastor’s Desk

As I write this the second Presidential candidate debate for the upcoming 2024 election has yet to happen. But based on what I’ve seen from both political parties, I don’t doubt it will be more talking past each other than a debate.

This style of discussion has spilled over from Presidential debates to everyday life. Conversation skills including listening atrophied due to the necessity of limited social contact during the pandemic. Why is this important? Because how can we love our neighbors as we would be loved if we can’t even talk and listen to each other?

I shared in a sermon a few weeks about a scene from the TV show "Ted Lasso" that reflects the problem with this. In it Ted talks about how people usually underestimate him. One day he realized that it wasn’t about who he was. It was that the others weren’t curious about learning about him. Instead of asking him questions, they prejudged. (For those who you who haven’t seen it, search online for it – the kicker in it is worth it even if you’ve never watched the show.) And of course Jesus was curious, asking people questions, listening to them, and seeing them for who they were, not how others labeled them

So this month I’m offering a sermon series "I’ve Been Meaning to Ask you…" Through scripture passages we’ll be looking at four questions. First "…where are you from?"- which is more than about your hometown. Second "…where does it hurt?" Next, "…what do you need?". Then finally, "…where do we go from here?" And for St. John's Church and Hope United Church joint "Fifth Sunday" service at the end of the month, we’ll have a "creative" worship service to tie this all together.

The writers of the resources for this series describe why they decided to create it: "We started by asking ourselves questions: "How can we listen to one another? How do we find connection despite distance? How do we create space for compassionate dialogue and for seeking holy in one another? We landed on our leading question, "I've been meaning to ask..." because it conveys intentionality, warmth, curiosity, and consideration. In essence, this question also implies … "I’ve been thinking about you, and I’ve been wanting to check in... You’ve been on my mind... I haven’t known how to have this conversation, but I’m getting started with a question." (T)he main objective of this series (is)to cultivate courageous conversations—and to keep having them, even if we need to pause."

For smaller communities like Fountain City and Cochrane, it may seem like "everyone knows everyone." Yet the pandemic and the spillover of political ideological divisions at times may still stretch the ability to fully talk and listen to each other. At the very least, reflecting on this may help individuals feel comfortable listening or know that they are heard, even if disagreement remains. At the very best, it can spill over into our world so that there are less divisive, judgmental conversations, and more relationship building, reconciling, and healing ones taking place.

God’s grace and peace.
Pastor Deb Kunkel
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