I am a second child, and second children everywhere may have a bit of extra insight on the events we’ve experienced in the past several weeks. My older brother is almost my Irish twin. We are seventeen months apart in age. He is, and has always been, a person of many accomplishments, and sometimes it seems that my entire life has been an attempt to make my own mark in the world at least as notable as his. And so, after the year 2020 piled up so many notorious and nefarious accomplishments of its own, it is almost as if its baby brother 2021 is trying with all its might to outdo the previous year!
With specific reference to the week we’ve just endured in Houston, I’m also reminded of a tactic from the biblical prophets. The prophets will often speak in metaphor, and then they’ll follow that talk by enacting, literally and physically, their prophecy. So, for instance, Jeremiah smashes clay jars before his audience. Isaiah walks around naked for three years. Jesus himself rampages through the Temple courtyard upending the tables of the moneychangers.
I was reminded of prophetic enactment this past week. After a year of using metaphors like “deep freeze” or “the new ice age” to describe the world in standstill due to the pandemic, last week the cosmos enacted our metaphors with a frigid literality. It was a frightening and dangerous several days. More than 500 carbon monoxide poisoning cases were reported. At least 25 people died from the cold, including eleven-year-old Cristian Pineda in Conroe.
Though insurance companies throw around the phrase “act of God,” last week was a meteorological event greatly exacerbated by human mismanagement of our power grid. It was not God’s doing, and it is uncharitable to lay it on God’s doorstep. But it is fair, and important, to ask how God may be attempting to speak to us through the event, just as in scripture it is always important to ask how God is speaking through the prophets.
One way to discern this question is to consider the way in which we care for one another collectively: how we produce, manage, and distribute electricity as a commonweal; whether the ways we structure this system are just and equitable; and whether the incentives used to encourage a reliable energy grid actually work. I am a priest rather than an engineer or economist, and I’m the first to admit that I am ill-equipped to offer solutions. In the priest’s own prophetic role, the most I will say is that the current system failed last week in the most horrific fashion, and changes must be made for the safety of the Texas’ people.
Another way to discern the question of what God is saying to us is to look at the all the ways we came together last week. Even as temperatures plunged, some parishioners opened their homes to one another, striving also to observe good COVID care. Others delivered potable water and groceries, or helped friends find warm hotel rooms, or offered a shower to a neighbor with busted pipes. The Cathedral itself did all of these things as well. In addition, The Beacon worked in collaboration with the city to open the warming center at the George R. Brown Convention Center, so that the homeless were not stranded outside in the cold.
This is its own kind of prophetic enactment. We speak continually of being a community marked by love for one another, but when crisis comes, we see if the metaphor translates into concrete reality. Again and again at Christ Church, it does.
This work is also ongoing. Our Good Neighbor callers, which reached out to parishioners earlier in the pandemic, are making calls this week to Cathedral members to check in and see if anyone has need. You can also proactively call or email our Minister for Pastoral Care, Jody Gillit at [email protected] or 713-590-3319. Jody can share information on water distribution centers, plumbers, and more. Finally, if there are Cathedral parishioners facing uninsured plumbing repairs, please let me know. We may be able to help.
My own family was without power for a total of 55 hours last week. It was, indeed, a chilly time. Even so, my heart was warmed knowing that I am blessed to be part of such a faith community that cares both for its own people and for those beyond its walls. The Cathedral is, indeed, a community of prophetic enactment. Today, I thank God for sunny, 60 degree Houston weather. And I thank God for you.
Grace and peace,
The Very Reverend Barkley Thompson,
Every Member Canvass
If you have yet to make a pledge commitment for 2021 but are planning to financially support Christ Church Cathedral this year, please know that there is still time to make your pledge online, over the phone, or via email. We are so grateful for the continued support of the Cathedral’s mission in the year ahead!
Ways to make your pledge:
- Pledging online is easy.
- Return the pledge card you received by mail to 1117 Texas Ave, Houston, TX 77002.
- Make a pledge over the phone at 713-590-3338 or by email by contacting Karen Kraycirik, minister for stewardship.
Ways to pay your pledge:
- Go online to make an electronic payment via credit or debit card. You can also set up recurring payments via this form.
- Donate using PayPal via the Cathedral’s website: christchurchcathedral.org/give/
- Text the word “Give” to 888-998-1634
- Send a check to the Cathedral address: 1117 Texas Street, Houston, TX, 77002.
- Make a gift of stock or securities, using our stock donation instructions.
Learn more about this year's EMC at: christchurchcathedral.org/emc