The Jericho Walk is Pastoral and Political.
“The trail is the thing, not the end of the trail. Travel too fast, and you miss all you are traveling for.” Who would ever think that I would be quoting Louis L’Amour?
I am on a Jericho Walk. I walk them once or twice every week these days. We walk, slowly, a moving vigil of a hundred or so with quiet signs around the large block of the Norris Cotton Federal Building in Manchester, New Hampshire, where people we love and people we have never met come to discover whether they will be deported. We walk around seven times hoping the walls will come tumbling down. I come because I teach in an English Language literacy program of the New Hampshire Humanities Council and know so many stories of so many new friends. I also come because so many here are my old friends, Indonesians from Maranatha Indonesian United Church of Christ and the other sixteen small Indonesian churches around me. These friends, many who have lived here fifteen to twenty years — kind, hard-working, tax paying, family-loving people who give much to our communities — will be sent, because they are Christian, into terrible danger. Last week’s class action suit that was filed may help, may delay, may give hope.
We will keep walking – there will be many more fearing deportation into danger and away from family as policies become unbending and my homeland unwelcoming.
I am not all that virtuous. As I go on this Jericho Walk I also am thinking how cold the wind is, how the bus driver puts his job on the line honking and calling out support, how I should definitely not have drunk the second cup of coffee, how hard it is to stay silent while the man with the very red face creeps beside us in his pickup shouting out crude remarks, how I am probably going to get a parking ticket. And I think — if a parking ticket is my greatest fear – what a safe life I have!
This time, as I am walking, I also think that I am not all that fond of the motivation for this spiritual practice as described in the sixth chapter of Joshua. Invasion. Powerful as this walking meditation is for those of us in the Sanctuary Movement, as opposed to the talk-talk-talk of so much of my advocacy and activism, I am not fully down with downing someone else’s home. I am painfully aware that Jericho walks or marches have been used for purposes with which I have no affinity, an example being the Christian Jericho March, by Christians who feel very differently than I do, around the White House seven days before the inauguration of Donald Trump in hopes of bringing down all that Barack Obama had built.
And so that is the truth of the “Pastoral being Political.” It always is. All our churchy forms are shells for the intentions of those who use them. I will not agree with the content of every prayer, but I pray. I will not agree with the way the table is opened in every house of worship, but I go to the table again and again. I do love those labyrinths, but I remember that walking them prayerfully began as an alternative to the Crusades.
Not perfect. Not pure. Like church. Like life. Like every trail. I walk and pray week after week – tomorrow, perhaps Wednesday, perhaps Friday, and surely the Tuesday that follows – whenever people are called to the Norris Cotton Federal Building and expected to be carrying the plane tickets they were told to buy. It’s as political as it is pastoral and it surely is filled with holy intercessions and a few somewhat unworthy mental rambles. Pastoral, political, portapotty, and prayer.
Maren C. Tirabassi is a UCC pastor and writer, also quilter, swimmer, lover of beagles, attender of many science fiction and fantasy conventions. Her most recent book with seventy-seven collaborators is A Child Laughs: Prayers for Justice and Hope (with Maria Mankin, Pilgrim, 2017). She blogs at Gifts in Open Hands.
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