Two Steps Toward Understanding

Two Steps Toward Understanding


This week's author is Tiffany Vail, Associate Conference Minister of Communications for the Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts Conferences, UCC.

Scripture:  Psalm 122: 6-9 (NRSV)

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
   ‘May they prosper who love you.
Peace be within your walls,
   and security within your towers.’
For the sake of my relatives and friends
   I will say, ‘Peace be within you.’
For the sake of the house of the Lord our God,
   I will seek your good.


This Psalm was written by David, for the people to sing as they entered Jerusalem for a holy feast.
This is Thanksgiving week, so most of us have feasts on our minds and in our plans. And if your family is like most, you're saying your own prayer asking for peace among relatives and friends.
This fall's presidential election has exposed rifts in many families. For some, the divide we see across our country is often a divide we see in our own personal lives as well.
It is difficult to know how to find peace. We don't want to bury our own principles and morals for the sake of a nice dinner. But we don't want to start a war of words on a day of thanksgiving, either.
So what do we do?
The always wise Rev. Molly Phinney-Baskette recently posted online a list of things she plans to do in response to this election. From that list, I want to lift up two in particular.
The first action was to subscribe to a newspaper that still practices investigative journalism, such as the New York Times or the Washington Post.
My background is in print journalism, a dying profession. When I studied journalism, objectivity was highly valued. It was something reporters and editors would strive for, and take pride in.
Today, objectivity in the media is difficult to find. News reporting and opinion – once carefully separated in the pages of traditional newspapers – has been mixed together. More people have a voice – but fewer seem to be using it responsibly.
This skewing of our media has resulted in echo chambers. People end up only hearing from voices that reinforce what they already believe. Some may not even realize that what they are being "fed" is skewed. Facebook has long used algorithms to show us what they think we want to see, based on other posts we have reacted to and shared. The Wall Street Journal has posted a fascinating tool which shows, side by side, how the newsfeed of someone who is strongly conservative looks compared to the news feed of someone who is very liberal. The contrast is stark. I recommend taking a look – it is both disheartening and illuminating: WSJ Red and Blue Feed Comparison
We need to get out of our echo chambers, and to make an effort instead to receive our news from sources that still value objectivity and truthfulness.
The second action Molly said she was taking is to sign on with a "pen pal" who voted the opposite way as she did in this election. It's the beginning of an attempt to understand why the people on the other side of the divide feel the way they do.
Not an easy conversation, to be sure. But an important one.
Maybe we start with a pen pal, as Molly suggests. Or maybe we start with those sitting across from us at the Thanksgiving table.


Dear God, help us. Help us to find peace without turning our backs on our convictions. Help us to hear truth. Help us to understand others. Help us.

Special Prayer Requests:

New Requests:
  • those in law enforcement after 4 separate shootings on November 20 left 3 officers injured and 1 dead;
  • those grieving in India after a train derailment left more than 140 dead on November 20; and
  • may peace prevail over violence between Dakota Access Pipeline protestors and law enforcement officials in North Dakota.

Continuing Requests:
  • the family and friends of Pauline “Polly” Parmalee, former President of the CT Women of the UCC, who died on November 11;
  • those grieving or stranded in New Zealand after a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck the South Island on November 14;
  • the friends and family of the Rev. Dr. Don Westerberg, former pastor of Roxbury Congregational Church, UCC, who died on November 1;
  • the Rev. Paul Goodman, interim pastor of Plantsville Congregational Church, whose father died on November 3;
  • the Rev. Edwin Ayala, transitional pastor of Bloomfield Congregational Church, whose mother-in-law died last week;
  • the people of Italy who experienced a high magnitude earthquake, their second in 3 months, on October 30;
  • those grieving or suffering after a bus accident in California killed 13 and injured over 30 others on October 23;
  • the people of Iraq impacted by the renewed fighting in and around the city of Mosul where Iraqi forces are trying to retake control of the city from ISIS;
  • Rev. M. John Arens, Pastor of the New Preston Congregational Church, who had surgery on June 28;
  • Rev. Da Vita McCallister, Associate Conference Minister for Leadership and Vitality, and her family as they face a loss and difficult illness in the family;
  • The Rev. Sara Smith, pastor of United Congregational Church of Bridgeport, and her sister Ellen, who is recovering from a stroke;
  • Rev. Kelly Hough Rogers, Associate Pastor of the Norfield Congregational Church in Weston,  whose parents were involved in a tragic car accident.  Kelly’s father, Wallace, has died and her mother, Janet, is hospitalized;
  • Michael White, former Operations Manager at Silver Lake Conference Center, who was diagnosed with colon cancer;
  • Juliane Silver, the daughter of the Rev. Jim Silver of Middletown, who is in dire need of a liver transplant. We pray that a donor will come forward giving the gift of life and a portion of their liver to Juliane;
  • Chacy Eveland, husband of the Rev. Marcia Eveland, pastor of the First Congregational Church UCC of Ansonia, who has been moved to a full-time facility for care of dementia;
  • the Rev. Mary Nelson, South Central Regional Minister of the Connecticut Conference, whose brother is recovering from surgery;
  • Alisia Selders, daughter of Bishop John Selders, pastor of Amistad UCC in Hartford, in a new round of treatment for cancer;
  • the thousands of migrants worldwide who flee from violence and persecution in search of safety;
  • our ecumenical partners in the Kyung-Ki Presbytery in South Korea;
  • the Conference's partners working for peace in Colombia amidst violence;
  • the leaders of this nation, that they may meet the challenges of the day with insight, wisdom, and compassion;
  • this nation, that it may continue its difficult work to end the practices of racism;
  • those suffering due to the ongoing financial woes of the nation, be they struggling to meet an unaffordable mortgage, seeking employment, or working to find just resolutions; and
  • those serving or living in war or conflict zones around the world, or where terrorists have struck.
To be added to the prayer list, please send an email to Drew Page at:
Please Remember These Connecticut Conference Churches
In Your Prayers:

First Congregational Church of Vernon, Inc

Robin Bird - SP
Leanne Connolly - MM
Evangelical & Reformed UCC

Attila Tobias - P
First Congregational Church, Wallingford

Margaret B. Jay - AP
Glenn Root - Y
Jeanette a. Gross - MM
Warren Congregational Church, UCC

Gary Kitchin - P
Heather Meeker – MM
The First Congregational Church of Washington, UCC

Cheryl P Anderson - P 

tiffany vail cropped.jpg
Tiffany Vail

Tiffany Vail is the Director of Media & Communications for the Southern New England Conference.

November 21, 2016
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