A pastoral letter concerning Israel and Palestine and our life together

“Blessed be Abba God, the God of our Savior Jesus Christ, the Source of all mercies and the God of all consoling, who comforts us in our troubles so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the same comforting God has given us. For while the sufferings of Christ are abundantly ours, our comforting is just as abundant through Christ.” (2 Cor. 1:3-5, The Inclusive Bible)

Beloved Community,

The ongoing violence in Israel and Palestine weighs heavily on our hearts. These tragic events reverberate within our seminary community, evoking a breadth of emotions and concerns.

While I cannot offer a statement on behalf of the entire institution, I can provide some pastoral insights on how we might navigate this time of turmoil together. Our capacities for compassion, empathy, and understanding are vital as we endeavor to care for one another and foster a supportive environment in this moment.

We are acutely aware that many among us have deep-rooted connections to the individuals and communities in and near the combat zone. The fear, grief, horror, and despair stemming from the overwhelming loss of life are felt profoundly within our community. Particularly, our global community, inclusive of those who have lived and served in Israel and Palestine, may feel the impact of these events more intimately and immediately. It’s essential, therefore, at this moment that we remain open to understanding the diverse perspectives and emotional needs that may arise among us.

I encourage each of us to actively inquire of one another about what we each may need during this challenging time. While some among us may long to gather in community, others might need to withdraw to be with those who share their experiences and sentiments. Both of these impulses are understandable and remind us that we will not all process these events similarly.

As a Christian community, we are called to embody love, mutual care, and the ceaseless pursuit of a just and lasting peace. This urges us towards dialogue that fosters understanding and actions rooted in compassion. In the spirit of solidarity with our friends, both near and far, who are living in dread and facing unimaginable circumstances, I encourage us to offer hospitality to one another, make space to lament the forces of death and destruction that have been set loose, bear one another’s burdens as we each grieve in our own ways, and lift our voices in prayers that seek both divine consolation and human transformation in this time of despair.

The polarized political landscape within this nation and abroad underscores the necessity for thoughtful, informed discourse. Our advocacy for peace and justice should transcend borders, urging accountable actions from global leaders and promoting a vision for a future rooted in mutual respect and cooperation.

Amidst this heartbreaking violence, we are reminded of the divine image imprinted on every human being, urging us to recognize the humanity of the “other.” This faith claim propels us toward engaged non-violence—active resistance against oppression and injustice. It demands a persistent pursuit of peace, even in adversity. It calls for the courageous labor of fostering understanding amidst diverse perspectives, nurturing empathy, and tirelessly working toward reconciliation and justice, all while honoring the divine image in every person.

May we remain committed to nurturing a supportive community, embracing the diversity of experiences and views among us, and steadfast in our collective pursuit of peace with justice.

In Christ’s enduring love,

Pastor Erik Christensen

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