To The Editor:

I love Washington! That sentiment is shared by many of us who call this town home. So it tears at my heart to see the pain that many individuals are experiencing and to know the level of conflict that is out there between our citizens. I have spent time with protesters and police, with people who have made mistakes and errors in judgment (and I am the first to admit I’ve made my fair share) and with those who judge them. I share a unique and blessed position to stand on behalf of God and the Church to offer forgiveness to those who confess their sins. We live, however, in a society that seems to permit everything, yet forgive nothing. This has to change.

The year 2020 has been a tough one so far, and we are not even halfway through it. We’ve been cooped up in our homes, unable to carry on life “as normal,” kept away from school or work, and felt a ton of stress and tension.

Recently we’ve also seen the issue of racism rise to the fore and challenge the conscience of our nation. Families have had difficult discussions. And in some cases these issues have caused further division in families, which is the last thing we need. As families go, so society goes. No doubt about that.

We’ve recently seen protests occur. Some of them have been peaceful, but some have gotten violent and destructive. Rhetoric seems to have sharpened and lines drawn “in the sand” that separate us have gotten more defined.

As individuals and as a community, we need to take a collective deep breath! We need to pray. We need to search our own hearts. Real, effective change and long-term solutions require changing many hearts but we can only do this one person at a time — and it starts with you and me.

As a member of the clergy, I invite us to look to Jesus as the source of our response to this situation. He never saw another as a stranger and welcomed contact with others, especially those who were most in need. Jesus loved all. He forgave all who asked. And He even gave His life so that we might know the depth of his love. The time is now to stop judging, claiming to know another’s motives or intentions, and it is time to try to forgive and to show patience. We’ve all made mistakes. We all need to be forgiven. Let’s not hold that back from others.

If we were to bring this to prayer and ask God about what’s in our hearts, what would He say? What would God say about any attitudes that separate me from someone else, that cause me to think I am better or more deserving than others, that cause me to look down on another, that cause me to cast a judgement or act according to preconceived notions, that cause me to judge another’s motives or intentions before even having listened to that person?

I am convinced that the only way out of this is to build relationships. Relationships build understanding, patience and acceptance, and out of these, we grow in true concern for the well-being of others. If I don’t listen to understand, then I cannot know you.

Jesus calls us to love one another as another self — as a person who, like me, also has joys and hopes, feelings and desires, concerns and difficulties, stresses and worries. We all have them. If we take the time to listen to each other, we discover that we are not all that different. We may look different, have different colored skin, have different levels of intelligence and ability — but we are part of the human family, each of us made in the image and likeness of God. Why doesn’t the current rhetoric reflect that?

The city of Washington is no longer immune to civil unrest, and we can’t act like these issues are miles away in a big city. But we have a unique opportunity to search our hearts, let God guide us in “calling out” of us certain attitudes and long-held beliefs that may not be true or just, so that we can grow together, see the good in each other, and respect and care for all people.

I tell my family and friends all the time that there’s no place I’d rather live and serve than Wash MO. We have work to do to get better and grow closer. Washington, you’ve got my pledge to do what I can to help. Will you take up the challenge that God gives us at this moment in our history?

In prayer for you and our beloved community.

Fr. Mike Boehm

Washington