Obama Has Resigned His Membership at Trinity United Church of Christ
The sun has broken through the clouds several times this morning after a night of heavy rain. The newly set leaves are laden with water and bringing branches down to nearly touch the ground and petals are gone from all the older bloomers. Now gray sky again makes the noon hour seem damp and cold. Such is the weather of the season of spring – moments of wind and cold and heat of summers coming and going until in this part of the country we reach the 4th of July and some straight forward concept of summer. Everything needs this season of transition and the wind and seed scattering it promotes – even people.
In my church community when someone new visits our gathering there is a great deal of ceremony and sharing of information – trying to help the visitor understand what we are about and our traditions and rituals. We even have a brochure explaining us and how we practice our faith. You can sign a card if you would like to have a pastor visit or join a class and learn in depth what is happening. If you decide to join our congregation – well there is an upfront and public acknowledgement of your decision and your intended commitment. It seems as though whenever you make connections there are spring like changes that have to take place to assist you in finding your niche.
Then again when you leave a church community as it is not just “right” for you, folks either make a storm or fad away and there is not a ritual or class or public acknowledgement of what you are proceeding to undertake. Well, this is not quite true, in that if you are moving to another State or Country, there is usually a statement of that fact and your friends have a party to say fair thee well and here is myspace address to help us keep connected. “Promise me you will write.” I think there is an assumption that you are “falling from (the group’s) grace” when you are making the change to leave.
I have two thoughts about the Obama’s separation from their church community and lots of feelings. First thought is that Obama has found his niche and is proceeding to develop his spot and grow in the ways that are most “fertile ground” for him. Because he and his family are challenging a great many newcomers to be interested and involved in this transition and development they needed to make a solid, straightforward commitment to their future. It is a political future and thus not really possible at this time to just fade away. It is a brave thing to do and it is a model for others in transition to follow. When he is the top leader of the country, he will not publically need to be a follower, but rather be supported and his family supported by his community – even the faithful communities.
My second thoughts about this announcement are that Senator Obama wanted to leave Trinity UCC still strong in their community and faith. That the mentors and leaders of that faith community needed to regroup and to transition themselves – they have just called a new pastor after Rev. Wright retired and that is a huge transition in itself. A dynamic man and leader could not just fade away but needed to “reclaim himself and his community” – I would have liked it to not be so stormy, but it was and defensive and corrosive and healing. So by publically leaving, the Obama family graciously allowed a man to save face and show his many sides and now opens an amazing community to get out of the spot light and nurture its own growth and resolutions – keeping the faith and the actions powerful and strong.
My feelings are coming and going like the rain and sun. I do not know many folks who do not understand the pain and confusion of making a “dark night of the soul” transition in their living. I have one child who constantly tells me what I am thinking and what I am going to say – publically; I am forewarned to look into what her distress is and find her pain at these moments. I have been publically condemned for my faith and actions and I have been described as “not smart” enough – not by Fox News and not repeatedly over and over, but in numerous letters and phone calls. I can also recall the “freedom” feelings when I stuck to my actions and lived up to my own faithful expectations. I can look back and assess how my hard work and actions transformed a community into its own identity and faith journey and freed its growth. I needed to leave and move to a new niche. So I think my feelings are here to celebrate the lessons my country will hopefully learn from this modeled behavior/transition. I personally believe it is a mark of a good leader.
One more thing I want to share in this writing and then I want to share the words of the “Top Dog” of the United Church of Christ and the comments of my local Conference minister. I have heard a number of teachers exclaim that one of my three daughters fellow graduates from High School were the meanest group of people to one another that they have ever encountered in their many years of teaching. I would just like to say, I think this past decade has been the nastiest people have been to each other in my whole lifetime. Yes, I see my daughter and her friends go at each other and rip folks down to the bare bones and then go even further. One of the big problems in our schools is bullying and intimidation it is affecting our children and our future. I believe in this decade war is just bullying and intimidation to the death and is no longer the correct undertaking to remedy a situation and prove who is right or wrong. I take this public transition to be a sign of hope and a model of forgiveness and reconciliation that will short circuit out “nasty” endeavors and lead us into a greater vision and light. Thank you for the gift and the lesson. A lesson in hope.
Following Sen. Barack Obama’s decision on May 31 to disaffiliate with Trinity UCC in Chicago, the Rev. John H. Thomas, UCC general minister and president, released the following statement:
*Obviously, we are saddened that Barack and Michelle Obama have decided to resign their membership at Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago. And we are hopeful that, as they discern their future church membership plans, that they will consider retaining their United Church of Christ membership in another UCC congregation.*
*We recognize that this has been a difficult, painful decision for the Obamas — and a deeply personal one. It is also sad news for many members of the UCC, who grieve when anyone chooses to leave our fellowship, especially under such public and painful circumstances. We are reaching out with pastoral concern for the Obama family, as well as for the Rev. Otis Moss
III, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr, and for the members of Trinity UCC.*
*It’s also important to name the painful reality that many candidates and public officials now find it nearly impossible to be an active member of a particular religious community, given our divisive political culture. Faith is rooted in community. Persons in public office should have the same opportunity, as the rest of us, to experience the worship, prayers and close
personal friendships that congregational participation affords.*
Rev. Mike Denton, Conference Minister for the Pacific Northwest Conference of the UCC made the following statement:
Hi sisters and brothers:
Personally, I just find myself pretty sad about it all. In the reading from Genesis for tomorrow, there is this sense of God’s grieving about a people who seem unable to treat each other decently and act faithfully. Today, many of us may be finding ourselves grieving a political and social atmosphere that seems so divisive, tainted and fallen that, in its own way, we may feel that it is beyond redemption. Many of us may be feeling the desire to give up on it all and to isolate ourselves in some way. I have to remind myself that we’re just not called to that. We are called to be engaged and engaging; to challenge and be challenged; to redeem and be
redeemed. Let us all pray for the persistence, and courage, to continue to do those things that God requires of us; to do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with our God.