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Eastern Washington Legislative Conference:

Bishop says people can live beyond their fear
into hope that inspires action and healing

Knowing her son might downplay a concern, the 87-year-old mother of Bishop Jim Waggoner, Jr., of the Episcopal Diocese of Spokane, said in an early morning phone call, “Don’t try to tell me there was no bomb in Spokane!”

“There was a bomb, but it didn’t go off,” he reassured.

Jim Waggoner
Bishop Jim Waggoner, Jr.

A friend standing near where the bomb was found has yet to be reassured, Jim said.  He was traumatized by how close he was to death, so he was “too shaky” to join those gathered for the Eastern Washington Legislative Conference the Saturday after the bomb was found at Main and Washington, targeting the Martin Luther King, Jr., Day Unity March.  While all ended well, the community has been shaken, too.

“There is reason to be fearful.  There are daily threats of terrorism.  A Congresswoman was shot at a supermarket.  There was a bomb in Spokane,” Jim said in remarks at the Jan. 22 conference held at the Cathedral of St. John.

The theme was “Beyond the Climate of Fear:  Empowering the Faith Community to Act.”

“The climate of fear is real and powerful.  We know what fear can do.  It can shut us down, shut us up or shut us out.  It can make us stop and withdraw.  It can cause us not to be the people we are called to be and know we are called to be,” Jim said.

“We’re here at this event to make another response.  We know we can go and see beyond the climate of fear.  We believe we can move beyond the climate of fear.  We want to live beyond the limits of fear and help others do the same.  It’s who we are and who we are called to be.”

Isaiah calls for the people of Israel to loose the fetters of injustice and set free those who are crushed, he said, referring to the text that was part of worship resources for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, used as the basis for a time of worship setting the stage for the conference.

“We have work to do, changes to make and we are called to do it,” he said.  “A difference, to be a difference, must make a real difference.  We can wish things will get better, but a wish does not make a difference.”

There are people in the community, such as the Rev. Percy Happy Watkins, whom the Washington Association of Churches honored with an award for his leadership in justice, who “have shown us the way,” Jim said.

“Not one of us is fearless, nor does any one have all the answers, but we have each other,” he said, calling those who met and shared during the day to “do what we have to do.”

Jim reminded that Jesus told his followers not to be afraid.

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, recognizing the unity of Christian churches, also requires interfaith ties and respect “as sisters and brothers of the same creator.”

That means that people can live beyond fear and be people of hope, part of the “new heaven and earth God created.”

“When things look bleak, hope sees more,” Jim said.  “Hope is a concrete call to act in an adventurous, persuasive way.”

He told about a recent Leadership Spokane gathering reminding leaders being trained that the word, “Spokane,” means “children of the sun.”

“Every day we identify ourselves as those who walk in the light and are called to be bearers of light,” he said.  “We as a community are called to be children of the sun, living beyond the climate of fear.  As Isaiah said, ‘Then light will break forth like the sun.’  With God’s help, may that be so.”

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