With election results still undecided, nearly 100 members of the Gamaliel community gathered on November 4 to close out 40 Days of Reflection on Our Journey to the Polls – and to look toward the future.
The event was more than 40 days in the making. On April 15, the Gamaliel National Religious Leaders Caucus(GNRLC) drafted a theological statement and call to action in response to the rise of hate crimes and white nationalism across the United States. But as the GNRLC Steering Committee and Gamaliel National Staff discussed their concerns about the upcoming election and the hatred displayed therein, they wanted to find a way to continue the work of their public statement.
40 Days of Reflection took shape out of these conversations. Rev. Dennis Jacbosen, of MICAH (Milwaukee), wrote a Common Prayer that named the power white supremacy and hatred hold over American democracy and asked for the strength to “vote our conscience and encourage others to do the same.” 40 religious leaders, representing a variety of religious traditions and geographic locations, offered reflections on and posed questions inspired by the Common Prayer which were published on the Gamaliel website, posted to social media and sent to those who subscribed to a daily e-newsletter.
The reflections struck a chord with the public. Over the course of the 40 days, subscriptions to daily emails from the GNRLC increased significantly, and many of those who saw and engaged with the posts over social media were not otherwise affiliated with a Gamaliel account. The posts and emails also created an uptick in traffic to the Gamaliel website.
The GNRLC partnered with WISDOM (Wisconsin) to end the 40 Days with a time of prayer and processing over Zoom, which brought together a group of religious leaders and Gamaliel members representing a variety of faith traditions, affiliate organizations, and states. Led by GNRLC Co-Chair Rev. Marion Boyle Rohloff (Wisconsin), the audience was addressed by Executive Director of the Menikanaehkem Community Guy Reiter, Gamaliel Executive Director Ana Garcia-Ashley, Gamaliel Board of Directors Chairman Rev. Dr. John Welch, and GNRLC Co-Chair Rev. Charles Coleman.
Each speaker offered a unique perspective on the election’s aftermath and encouraged their audience to find what grounds them in their work for the coming days.
For Reiter, the post-election anxiety and tension reminded him of the day following the 2016 Presidential Election. On that day, his thoughts turned not to himself, but what the election meant for the Earth. Reiter urged listeners not to forget the Earth that we share in the coming days.
“Look up at that beautiful sky and put yourself in Creation,” Reiter said.
Gamaliel Network Executive Director Ana Garcia-Ashley spoke of a need for spiritual grounding in a time of upheaval that goes beyond the polls. Garcia-Ashley said the pandemic presented a challenge: how would Gamaliel carry on its work if its members couldn’t gather in person?
The prayers and reflections offered over the course of the 40 Days showed that Gamaliel’s strength is in its grounding in faith, Garcia-Ashley said. Drawing on the question posed by Rabbi David Cohen on September 25, “Where do you find the strength to be a decent person when those around you are making different choices?”, Garcia-Ashley said, “I believe we find it in prayer.”
Gamaliel Board of Directors Chairman Rev. Dr. John Welch closed the time of prayer with a call to revisit the 40 reflections and share them with people outside the Gamaliel community. He called the reflections and prayers “a great tool to help us recenter ourselves” in the effort to return the United States to “a place of moral normalcy” and empathy.
But as with the theological reflection that led to 40 days of active prayer and outreach, the reflections offered in this meeting led to a time of prayer and discussion, and a call from Rev. Coleman for religious leaders to join the GNRLC and for all those listening “to be willing to
act in whatever way is needed for the sake of God’s justice.” Then, participants broke into groups with others from their state to plan for the work that still lies ahead.
Note: The GNRLC is co-chaired by Rev. Marian Boyle-Rohloff (Wisconsin) and Rev. Dr. Charles Coleman (Michigan).
The Common Prayer on Our Journey
Source of all being, Sacred mystery, you are the wellspring of justice. Weaver of the warp and weft of history, weave our lives into the fabric of your will. Guide us towards the Beloved Community. Forgive us when we have failed to give shape to the Beloved Community in our communities and in our lives.
All around us the ugly onslaughts of white nationalism, hate crimes, and systemic racism devastate your people, divide us, and threaten our democracy. All around us the wicked strut, and in high places are those who encourage the basest of attitudes and actions. Grant us wisdom and courage to confront these evils with the power of love and truth. Free us from timidity and equivocation. Help us to be bold in thought and action. May our lives and our faith communities model the change we hope to see in the world.
As we approach the November elections, keep us mindful that the right to vote is a sacred trust won by beatings, by imprisonments, by blood, by the relentless struggles of many who came before us. Help us to honor that legacy. May we vote our conscience and encourage others to do the same.
Heal our nation. Heal our hearts. Heal our nation. Amen.
Gamaliel National Religious Leaders’ Caucus invites you to 40 Days of Reflection on Our Journey to the Polls
Few national elections have had similar consequences as the November Election in 2020. Our nation stands in crisis and at a significant crossroad. The Gamaliel Network, an interfaith coalition of persons of faith who stand and act together for justice and equality, pledges to undergird the 40 days leading up to the election with prayer and reflection.
We urge you to use the Common Prayer below every day. On each day, we have asked a faith leader, from different traditions, to offer a reflection on the Common Prayer at this Moment of American Crossroads. We urge you to begin this prayer preparation with a day of fasting on Sept. 24,(or a similar expression of spiritual preparation), and then to engage in prayer at a time of your choosing each day, to prepare yourself, your friends and neighbors, and our nation, for this election.
The Gamaliel Religious Leaders Table has written a “Theological Statement on Hate Crimes and White Nationalism.” a faith statement on “White Nationalism.” The link to this statement is: https://gamaliel.org/our-work/religious-leaders-caucus/gnrlc-a-faithful-response-to-hate-crimes-and-white-nationalism/
Each reflection will include the leader’s personal reflection, questions for contemplation, and a suggested scriptural text from their tradition.
The Gamaliel National Religious Leaders’ Steering Committee