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Can disruption be a gift for meaningful change?

by Rev. Jessie Smith, Rector, Saint Ambrose Episcopal Church

Disruption can be a gift.  It might not always feel like it, but disruption is actually the gift of change trying to break through.  For more than a year much of life has been defined by the pandemic. Our lives have not just been interrupted they have been disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.   

Slowly our schools, houses of worship, libraries, hair salons and gyms are re-opening and the flow and pace of life is starting to feel familiar. It is estimated that by the end of June 80 percent of people over 16 in our county will be vaccinated.  For this I feel much relief and gratitude.

To express gratitude for all those frontline workers, for those who stayed home out of concern for others, for those parents who helped children zoom from home, for all those who gave of themselves the folks at Saint Ambrose Episcopal Church want to say thanks.  So we are joining our friends at Holy Name of Mary Catholic Church in San Dimas who invited the churches along Bonita Ave. to join them on May 1st from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. in giving a big thanks to all our neighbors with a drive-by gratitude event.  Everyone is invited to drive down Bonita Ave (between Claremont and San Dimas) and take in the signs and messages of gratitude and thanks posted and being waved by members at several communities of faith.

Now that many of us are feeling some relief from the pandemic of COVID-19 and talking about a return to normal or a new normal, another pandemic rages on.  But from the pandemic of systemic racism there is no “normal” to return to.  There is no vaccine for the pandemic of systemic racism, and unlike COVID-19 not all of us feel the disruption of this pandemic in the same way.  Hate crimes against Asian Americans, and the epidemic of deadly police violence against People of Color is disruptive to say the least.  But a disruption to some should be disturbing to us all. 

Just as COVID-19 has touched every area of life, we need everyone tuned in to the issue of racism so we can systemically address it.  To my neighbors in Claremont, as members of the same human family, I plead with you, across political, economic, and religious differences, that we all commit ourselves to self-examination in every area of our lives especially housing, education and policing.  Disruption and in turn disturbance can make fertile ground for seeds of change but it requires us to not settle into our personal “new normal” without asking who is still struggling for air.

There is a much loved prayer attributed to Saint Francis that begins “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.” I came across the reworking of this prayer and hear in it the call we need right now.

Reverse St. Francis Prayer

Lord make me a channel of your disturbance.

Where there is apathy, let me provoke,

Where there is silence, may I be a voice.

Where there is too much comfort, and too little action,

Grant disruption.

Where there are doors closed and hearts locked,

Grant me the willingness to listen.

When laws dictate and pain is overlooked, Grant me the willingness to listen.

When tradition speaks louder than need,

Grant me the willingness to listen.

Disturb us, O Lord, Teach us to be radical.

Grant that I may seek rather to do justice than to talk about it;

To be with as well as for the poor;

To love the unlovable as well as the lovely;

To touch the passion of Jesus in the Pain of those we meet;

To accept responsibility to be church.

Lord, make me a channel of your disturbance.

~Author Unknown


Most of us have been through a tough year.  My hope is that you, the residents of Claremont, continue to rise to the challenge of not only claiming and protecting our own plot of peace, but allowing the disruption of these dual pandemics to disturb us on the most loving and productive ways. 


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