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Reflections from Rev. Alan Taylor

To Be a Community of Risk
Rev. Rev. Alan Taylor, Senior Minister

Were you ever young and foolish? Did you take risks that you would never take today? I  was known for riding my bicycle through stop signs while holding myself straight up such that my arms were crossed across my chest and my hands were not anywhere close to the handle bars! No, I don’t take such risks any more.

It is tempting to equate risk with foolishness. But what we’re talking about this month are risks we take on behalf of our values, our convictions, our integrity. As adults, we all must take risks to grow in spirit, to grow in depth, to grow in solidarity with others. We are faced with choices that challenge us, especially when we must choose between opposing values, whether at work, when parenting, in our social or volunteer life. Perhaps some of our actions may appear foolish to others, but when acting in accordance with our most cherished ideals, our actions are not foolish. No, they are full of integrity.

It is also tempting to equate risk with the remote possibility of danger. For example, I choose to attend meetings on the westside of Chicago to cultivate relationships with fellow clergy and people of faith who share our commitments. There is a miniscule possibility that a shooting could occur in my midst, but the statistical likelihood is so low, I wouldn’t call it a risk. Just as I wouldn’t call it a risk to drive somewhere in my car, despite an even higher statistical risk of getting into a car accident. But that isn’t the kind of risk we’re talking about this month either.

Risks are actions of integrity that could result in suffering, in losing something valuable, in facing pain. Mahatma Gandhi understood that we human beings will risk our health and livelihood if our dignity is at stake. And he knew that we are so much more likely to do so when we are in solidarity with others. His movement was called satyagraha, or “truth-force.” Millions of people practiced nonviolence and risked their lives to overcome the harsh injustices of the British colonization of India.

People all over the world must discern what risks they will take for the sake of the world they want to live. And so must we. And as a community, we support one another to discern not only our values and convictions but also what we are willing to sacrifice with one another.

A faith community, at its best, is a community of risk. When the most vulnerable among us are being blamed and victimized, how do we respond? In the face of blatant injustice, what are we willing to risk and perhaps sacrifice for the sake of the world we want to live in?

These are questions to reflect and live into during this month. See you in worship!