A Word from Our Warden Henry Faulkner About Holy Defiance in the Face of Fear

A Word from Our Warden Henry Faulkner About Holy Defiance in the Face of Fear

I recently revisited the Michael Moore documentary "Bowling for Columbine". In it, Moore attempts to understand the reasons behind the school shooting massacre by unpacking all of the reasons people gave him for why it happened. The gist of the movie is this: the cause of these repeated catastrophes can't be the movies--the whole world sees our movies; it can't be video games--those come from Japan; it isn't our violent history--ours pales next to England's or Germany's; it isn't gun ownership--Canada has as many per capita.

But what makes us unique as a nation is our fear. We are made, every day by anyone who has anything to sell, to be afraid of germs, carbs, sharks, Halloween candy, immigrants, the poor, the rich, the religious, the non-religious, liberals, conservatives, aging, weight gain, corn, wheat, the weather, cars without their headlights on, anyone in a hoodie, and the list never ends. People who are afraid tend to buy more things. They are easy to manipulate (and Moore concludes that when people are afraid and armed, bad things happen).

We, as a church, have to walk a fine line: we are called to be present and responsible in the reality of this current pandemic crisis, but also to live fearlessly in the world. And whether it’s a viral pandemic or another mass shooting, the world will always give us a reason to be afraid.

I believe that what makes the church so alluring to so many people is not just a wonderful community (and ours is incredible!), but that it is a rare oasis: a fear-free zone.

For the time that we are together in worship, the barrage of messages meant to cultivate panic, insecurity, and division go silent in the wake of the peace of God that passes all understanding.

To resist fear in this world isn’t just a pleasant way to live. It is nothing short of an act of defiance, one that takes constant vigilance.

Last night that peace began to buckle for me and the temptation give into the fear grew strong as I read in the news that our former rector and dear friend Janet Broderick tested positive for the Corona Virus and is in the hospital. As I prayed for her, her family, and her parish, I remembered one of her sermons where she talked about “real and illusory religion”.

Janet said, “Illusory religion says ‘I am afraid of this thing, so I will pray to God, who will save me from it.’ Real religion says, ‘I am afraid of this thing, so I will pray to God, who will show me that there was never anything to be afraid of.’”


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Grace Church Van Vorst  | 39 Erie Street  |  Jersey City, NJ 07302  |  Phone: 201-659-2211  |  office@gracevanvorst.org