Doing God’s work in New England

There has been no shortage of bad things going on around us in recent years.

Yet it’s also true that many other things are happening that remind us that there are people who care. It’s a good thing to be reminded that people of faith are in the middle of many of those good things.

One of those things involves a campaign by churches in the New England region–in Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island, specifically–to pay the medical debts of Americans who were buried in mountains of debt because of illnesses or injuries.

The effort was spearheaded by an interfaith agency associated with the United Church of Christ denomination and successfully zeroed out 8.4 Million dollars in medical debt all told.

This is especially helpful, timely and noteworthy as many people have been taking on crushing debt because of the Coronavirus pandemic.

We salute what the United Church of Christ has done here. It’s a wonderful display of love and benevolence and a bit of good news that is most welcome, coming at a time when we long to hear good news.

Brother Ben

© 2020 The Fellowship of St Francis, Inc.


Herman Cain has passed

Former Presidential candidate Herman Cain has passed.

He died today after battling COVID-19 for the last month.

If Mr Cain and I had ever had a chance to talk about this pandemic and the way it’s taken so many lives, I’m quite sure the discussion would reveal that we were seeing things very differently.

Having said that, it’s a tragedy that Mr Cain has passed from the scene too soon. It’s tragic when anyone is laid low by this horrible disease. Anyone here in the US–anyone, anywhere.

But it’s also true that Herman was clearly in the denialist camp. When he attended Donald Trump’s Tulsa rally, he and his party sat proudly in the Bank of Oklahoma Center with no masks.

I certainly understand that it’s possible that Mr Cain became infected in some other way. That’s true without a doubt.

Nevertheless, I seriously doubt whether he and his family did anything that would put him at greater risk than attending that rally back on June 20th.

There have been many large gatherings in the last few months that have put people at great risk. And many Americans are paying a steep price for their apparent rejection of the facts about this pandemic. About the pandemic and ways to lower your risk.

It’s not too late to put the politics around all of this aside, embrace the science and protect yourself.

Do it for your loved ones. Do it because you have something to live for.

Do it even if you get no support–or even opposition–from family and friends.

So many have died because of this accursed virus. Please take the precautions you can to make it less likely that you’ll be one of them.

Brother Ben

© 2020 The Fellowship of St Francis, Inc.

Follow this link to see the guidance from the CDC on ways to lower your risk.

Where Common Sense and Compassion Meet

As you no doubt have noticed, there has been a lot of discussion — and a lot of legal fights, as well — about what places of worship can or should do while COVID-19 is ravaging our communities and our churches.

For me, it’s really just a matter of common sense. Of common sense and compassion.

To gather for corporate worship is a right, of course. It’s a right in our Constitutional Republic and it meets an essential and deeply-felt need for so many.

But it’s also true that churches — like any other entity or enterprise in our communities — also want to help keep their members and friends from contracting or spreading a serious and sometimes fatal disease.

Some houses of worship did not like restrictions put in place while the epidemic raged. And they took the route of legal action.

Some churches have unwittingly become incubators of this opportunistic virus and have been deeply affected; many have lost members to coronavirus.

It’s going to make this ordeal better — or at least mitigate the damage we’re experiencing — if we take common sense precautions and do all we can to safeguard the health and the lives of all our friends and everyone in the communities where we worship and work.

Brother Ben

© 2020 The Fellowship of St Francis, Inc.

Love Covers All

When we read this passage from the 10th Chapter of Proverbs, it may at first seem unremarkable.

Whoever walks in integrity walks securely,
    but whoever takes crooked paths will be found out.

11 The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life,
    but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence.

12 Hatred stirs up conflict,
    but love covers over all wrongs.

from Proverbs, Chapter 10

Those wise, clear exhortations to treat our fellows with courtesy and respect are timeless. The exhortations to let love be our guiding principle in all things.

These words of wisdom are common to all cultures and all religions. All spiritual paths.

As verse 12 wraps up, the clear emphasis is on love and how love can cover over all wrongs.

Just in case a reader may think that Solomon had been imbibing too much of the fruit of the vine and had gone all hippy on us, there are, of course, hundreds–if not thousands–of passages from the Bible that put over that very same idea.

And from the literature and sacred books of a thousand religions and cultures.

The common folk saying found below is an almost word-for-word paraphrase of the familiar Wisdom we read in Matthew chapter 7, verse 12:

Do unto others as you would have done unto you.

Common folk saying

It is hard, at times, to understand why so many of us are in such great need of being reminded of these things.

The reminders, the exhortations, come from a thousand voices, heard at every turn as we walk along life’s path.

And often we aren’t listening.

I’m not. You’re not. He’s not. She’s not. They’re not.

Listen to those voices.

Heed them.

Let love be your touchstone, your all-in-all.

Brother Ben

© The Fellowship of St Francis, Inc.

War and Acts of Compassion

As is true for so many of us, the coronavirus crisis has had huge effects on how I live my life day-to-day.

Yes, I’ve got a day job and — like so many others — I’ve been furloughed by my employer for the time being.

And so I’ve been spending even more time than usual looking through my reading collection and all over the net for good things to read.

This piece I found today is about a German WW II veteran’s experience when an American medic risked his life — going behind German lines — to treat their wounded.

Reading stories like this one often touch me deeply and remind me that — although people often do terrible things to each other — we are also capable of acts of great love and compassion.

I’ll go so far as to say that St Francis would have loved reading this surprising story. It’s well-worth the next few minutes of your day.

Brother Ben

© 2020 The Fellowship of St Francis, Inc.

Some Love on World Health Day

The 7th of April is World Health Day each year. It’s always a good time to show appreciation to our health care professionals, of course. But that seems all the more appropriate now that COVID-19 is ravaging our world.

Nurses have been there for me in a big way the four times I’ve been hospitalized. One of those involved major surgery and — although that was a very big deal — the care I received from nurses, doctors and techs made a tough situation bearable.

I’m thinking that most of the folks who may read this could say something similar.

I know that many of us have been watching more news than usual while we’re in the middle of this crisis. I certainly have.

It’s striking to me that many in the field — nurses especially — are literally laying their lives on the line to care for their patients.

If you know a nurse — or anyone in the health care field — now would be a good time to show your appreciation for all they do.

A good time to tell them of your appreciation.

A good time to possibly bring over a meal, to watch some children while Mom or Dad is putting in insane hours to care for us.

Especially if they’re living apart from family members now in order to lower the risk of inadvertently endangering their loved ones’ health.

There are so many in that work dealing with a lot of really, really big challenges right now.

I’m so grateful today for our health care professionals. And I’m most certainly going to make it a point to speak those words of appreciation whenever I can.

Brother Ben

© 2020 The Fellowship of St Francis, Inc.

Sell Everything and Follow Me

17 As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

21 Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

22 At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.

23 Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!”

Mark 10:17-23 NRSV

We have come to an unexpected and very unusual place in the history of humanity. So many of us are very apprehensive about our futures and about our collective future.

That’s putting it mildly. It might be closer to the mark to say that many of us are terrified of what the future may bring.

Many experts and prognosticators have been warning of hard economic times coming. Some of the warning signs began to flash even before the crisis posed by the coronavirus came around.

And now that so many of us are staying at home, and most work and economic activity has ground to a halt, there is almost no possibility that a serious recession can be avoided.

Many who make their livings by studying such things say that we’re not headed into a recession, but that it will be a full-blown depression, the like of which we haven’t seen since October of 1929.

The story recounted here in Mark 10 can be instructive for us today. The Master plainly tells this 1st Century high-roller that his great wealth is an impediment to his ever entering God’s Kingdom.

We have been living in a time when people with great wealth — people who’ve amassed a lot of stuff — are greatly admired.

We write and read stories about them and may wish that we could get into that elite club.

Sometimes, we give them their own reality shows.

But — as was true in 1st Century Palestine — there are so many of our elites who are sitting on huge piles of cash today but are stunningly spiritually-impoverished.

Although we can’t know exactly how events will play out as this crisis unfolds, I have no doubt that many people who have been at the top of the pyramid, so to speak, are going see a lot of their wealth — and the power and influence that usually come with it — disappear.

And we’ll be reminded once again that great riches and prestige and all of that do not enrich us spiritually; that they are — for so many of us — great burdens we carry through life, burdens that may well keep us from entering into God’s Kingdom.

This is a time for all of us to desire above all else to enrich ourselves spiritually, to lay up treasure in heaven, as Jesus said to this would-be follower in Mark’s Gospel.

Those who amass this kind of wealth know well that these riches cannot be taken away by anyone or anything.

They know that their loving, compassionate actions bring them closer to their fellows, closer to true wealth and closer — most especially — to God’s Kingdom.

May we remember this as we go — together — through these uncertain and trying times.

Brother Ben

© 2020 The Fellowship of St Francis

Heroes in the Medical Profession

There’s no doubt that the healthcare catastrophe the world is facing now generates almost unlimited bad news.

Like so many of us, when I read or hear good news, it’s a real ray of sunshine piercing through what seems like an impenetrably dark cloud.

I read a story yesterday that provided one of those occasional bright moments and I’m passing the story along today. I’m hopeful that it might provide a bit of relief to you while we’re dealing with this dark, unfolding tragedy.

As you most likely know, New York has been hard hit by the coronavirus. New York governor Andrew Cuomo is holding daily press briefings while his state and her medical professionals are straining to deal with the crisis.

He’s repeatedly appealed for more Doctors, Nurses and other professionals in the healthcare field to come to the aid of his beleaguered state.

A band of dedicated, compassionate professionals from Georgia heard those appeals and boarded a Southwest Airlines flight bound for New York yesterday.

I have no doubt that what these dedicated and selfless folks did yesterday made a lot of their hard-pressed colleagues smile.

If only for a few precious moments.

And it most definitely inspired me and brightened my day. At a time when I truly needed it.

I hope there are some moments of budding happiness for you and your loved ones today.

As I read and hear more about the crisis we’re facing, I look for those rays of sunshine.

I’m grateful that I’ve found a few.

And very grateful that we have people of compassion — like the ones who boarded that flight yesterday — while we endure this dreadful scourge together.

Brother Ben

© 2020 The Fellowship of St Francis, Inc.

Photo courtesy of Southwest Airlines

Nurses and Doctors Lay It All on the Line

The first nurse in New York City to die of COVID-19 contracted in the line of duty has passed.

Kious Jordon Kelly had told his family that he thought he had contracted the virus while at work.

He most certainly was right.

He’s passed and his colleagues fear he will not be the last.

Our doctors, nurses and techs–healthcare professionals of all kinds–are on the front lines as the coronavirus ravages our communities.

Pray for them. Pray for them and advocate for those who make decisions to do whatever must be done to get them the tools they need to continue to serve our communities and the patients whose care has been entrusted to them.

God bless Kious and all who are on the front lines.

Take good care of yourselves; there are rough times ahead.

Brother Ben

© 2020 The Fellowship of St Francis, Inc.

The Coronavirus, the danger of comparisons and our task today

It’s natural that when we have a new threat–talking about the Coronavirus–that we compare it to something we already know about.

But the Coronavirus is very different from the flu that we’re all very familiar with. Different in several important ways.

This article will help greatly if you’d like to know more and see why this is a much bigger deal than, for instance, a new strain of flu.

This is a time to look out for each other.

A time to ask for help if you need it, especially if you’re in a high-risk group.

A very good time to keep one another in our prayers. And most of all, to help one another when we’re able to do so.

That was a great priority for St Francis in his day; the need was very, very great.

And that’s certainly true for us today.

Brother Ben

© 2020 The Fellowship of St Francis, Inc.