COLUMN — A time for mourning

Published 6:00 am Friday, January 15, 2021

Even though we are still living in pandemic days, we did just hold our traditional time of celebration and fun between Christmas and New Year’s. That is my reference point, though I imagine Hanukah and Kwanza are festive enough, too.

I hope you found some room in these last several weeks to enjoy life and relationships. My own family was not able to get together as normal, but we still managed to have smaller, safer gatherings. It was nice to be off for a few days and enjoy the extra time with loved ones. Our church activities were a great blessing, too.

That is why it is so jarring for me to hold what happened last week in our nation’s capital. We had begun a new year with hopes for a better year. I had joked about holding an exorcism for 2020. It was that tough. Then, I saw the bizarre, surrealistic reporting of fellow American citizens attacking the Capitol building exactly when Congress was conducting the final piece of our sacrosanct democratic process. Well, I would have hoped sacrosanct.

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Yes, since the election that has been tested, but the reading of the Electoral College votes was just a perfunctory vote. There was really nothing that anyone could do to exact substantial change in those chambers. The change came from the outside.

We witnessed the loss of life and property. We also saw the loss of some of what it means to be American. While we can disagree and vote differently and advocate opposing perspectives, we have been able to agree on certain basic, shared convictions. Even though, many of us have fussed that Washington seems to be failing to do its job and that politicians are not very effective, it is still our government and our leaders. If a significant portion of us rejects that basic premise, has our political system ended?

Thankfully, it does not yet seem to be, but this has pushed us further down that road than anything I have ever experienced. To keep walking down that path is not going to “restore our Constitution” but lead to anarchy. I pray that we are able to regain our leg strength so that we can stand better together. After all, that is what the word “constitution” means in its roots – standing together.

Following the festive time of our culture, it is a shock to be confronted by such an existential threat. After such brightness of the holidays, I cannot help but mourn, and I suspect many of you share that sadness.

I do pray that something good come out this, that God remind us the need for greater community. I pray that we may be able to see each other as sisters and brothers rather than as political enemies. I pray that we remember our capacity to love more quickly than party allegiance, and I pray that God is glorified in our desire for community.

May God bless us all in this new year.

REV. DR. PETER SMITH is the transitional pastor for Farmville Presbyterian Church. He can be reached at