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May 18, 2013

Birth pangs of a new humanity

Old South Church is one of Boston’s best-known churches. It is a flagship congregation of the United Church of Christ, the denomination that I serve. Founded in 1669, the congregation is proud of its history and its identity that it describes today “as unabashedly Christian and unapologetically progressive.”

Because of its location at Copley Square, Old South Church is known as the church of the finish line for the Boston Marathon. The church has developed a special ministry to those who run the marathon. Each year on the Sunday before the marathon, they invite runners to join them for worship. The Rev. Nancy Taylor, pastor at Old South, reports that the runners come in the hundreds.

During that special worship service they are invited to stand and a sea of hands rise in the air as the congregation blesses them with those ancient words from Isaiah, “May you run and not grow weary. May you walk and not faint.” This year, Old South Church stood vigil over the chaos and confusion and bloodshed after the explosion of two bombs near the marathon’s finish line.

One month has passed since we were shocked by those events. One month since Boston joined the list of locations associated with acts of terror and violence. Many would like to move on and pretend that a month is enough time to mourn the lives lost and heal the wounded bodies and souls. Yet if we’re honest, we recognize that we still have more questions than answers about the events of that day. If we’re honest, we recognize that many of our responses are dominated by anger and a desire for vengeance, rather than justice. Anger has its place as a response to any traumatic event, but it cannot be our destination. Vengeance only leads to more victims.

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