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March Peaceful Presence 2021

Hosted by Congregation Etz Chayim, our March 11 Peaceful Presence included wonderful music and prayers as well as contributions from Muslim, Christian and Jewish faith leaders. The theme was Compassion and Justice. 

Rabbi Chaim Koritzinsky from Congregation Etz Chayim focused on "March" and turned our attention to the March 25, 1965 "March on Montgomery." He read from a letter by Rabbi Jacob Pressman, a colleague of his who, along with other rabbis across the nation, had responded to Dr. King's call and joined the march. Pressman's impressions are personal, vivid and moving. Click here to download the full text. Some excerpts are particularly relevant for us today:

"At one point we reached a hilltop in the road, and I was able to look back behind me at a solid column of chanting humanity at least a half-mile long. Then I looked down the hill in front of us and again I saw a half-mile of solid humanity, united from everywhere by a common concern for other people, for human decency. I must confess as I stood on that hilltop and saw myself and felt myself surrounded by these decent, caring persons, I burst into tears and never really got my eyes dry for hours afterward. They weren’t tears of sorrow. They weren’t tears of hatred or frustration, but they were tears of pride in the goodness of which man is capable when he tries. ...
None of us who went was a hero, and many of us from time to time were afraid of things that might happen. None of us was a hero, but each of us felt that at least he was, in the fullest sense, a human being. I am glad I went. ... It will get worse before it gets better, but I believe even more now in the goodness of man because I went. And because I went and saw what I saw and heard what I heard, I believe even more in the goodness of God."

Rev. Dr. Eileen Altman from First Congregational Church UCC in Palo Alto and the MVPJ Steering Committee read from Anne Lamott's book, Hallelujah Anyway: Rediscovering Mercy. "Mercy, grace, forgiveness and compassion are synonyms, and the approaches we might consider taking when facing a great big mess, especially the great big mess of ourselves - our arrogance, greed, poverty, disease, prejudice. It includes everything out there that just makes us sick and makes us want to turn away, the idea of accepting life as it presents itself and doing goodness anyway. ...
In the words of Candi Staton's great gospel song, 'hallelujah anyway.' Hallelujah that in spite of it all, there is love, there is singing, nature, laughing, mercy."
(If you want to buy the book, we encourage you to order from your favorite independent bookstore. Not sure where to start? Try Reach and Teach in San Mateo, which offers an easy, online ordering process and supports many causes about which we all care. Reach and Teach hosts our MVPJ website, too!)

Our Muslim contribution came from Fattin Wekselman. She shared that an acquaintance of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) named Usamah ibn Sharik narrated:
I came to the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and his Companions were sitting (quiet as) if they had birds on their heads. I saluted and sat down. The desert Arabs then came from here and there. They asked: "Messenger of Allah, should we make use of medical treatment?" He replied: "Make use of medical treatment for Allah has not made a disease without appointing a remedy for it, with the exception of one disease, namely old age."
Fattin Wekelman observed, "Isn't it amazing, thousands of years ago and they believed in science and medicine. Let this be our prayer during this pandemic time: let us pray for a change of heart for those who have doubts or even refuse to get vaccinated. Hopefully there is a good chance that we can all move foward together by embracing the truth in science and medicine for the sake of our loved ones."

Many thanks to Ellen Stromberg from Congregational Etz Chayim who organized and led the gathering!

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