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How Faith Leaders Are Finding Hope In Dark Times

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

And finally today, we wanted to acknowledge that it's been difficult for many of us to think about the events of this past week without a fair amount of anxiety or anger or confusion about what comes next. Perhaps you're looking for some words of wisdom or comfort that can be heard above all the shouting. For that, we asked some of the faith leaders who we've talked to in the past on this program to share some of their thoughts for the current moment. We'll start with Bishop Michael Curry presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church.

MICHAEL CURRY: Three questions I'm finding helpful in these days of difficulty and hardship for us all. Sometimes it helps to just ask, what hurts? What's wrong? And in this time of pandemic, it's helpful to name where the pain is coming from. It's important for those who are sick or who have died to remember them, to let their memory be a blessing. But then don't stop there. After you ask what hurts, ask what helps to be better and to be more and to endure, to survive and even to thrive. And then lastly, but not least, what can I do to help? What can I do to be a blessing to somebody else? What hurts, what helps, how can I help - may well make all the difference when we live those questions.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SHMUEL HERZFELD: Shalom. This is Shmuel Herzfeld. This past week was one of the most difficult weeks in our country's history. As I called people this week to wish them a Shabbat shalom, many people were crying as they talked about how they never could have imagined this and how they were devastated, just simply devastated about what they were seeing in our country. But our job is not to let this hatred overtake our lives.

Our faith teaches us that the first thing we're supposed to do when we wake up every morning is to spend time expressing our gratitude, to find something that we're grateful for. I know for me personally, every day I express our gratitude to those health care workers who are on the front lines serving our country, express our gratitude for all those who are involved in the making of a vaccine, of distributing this vaccine. We all need to be waking up every single morning and saying, how can we make a difference in other people's lives? How can we be a source of positive energy? How can we be a source for good in this world and not let the hatred that's being spewed from people in positions of power - not let that overtake our lives or overtake our country?

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

JACQUI LEWIS: I'm the Reverend Dr. Jacqui Lewis, and I am the senior minister of Middle Collegiate Church in Manhattan. The insurrection that was incited by a sitting president this past Wednesday has shocked most of us to the core. And many of us are saying this is not who we are. But as an African American woman whose ancestors survived chattel slavery, survived Jim Crow, survived migrating to Chicago, to Omaha, Neb., to places all over the north and raised children and made a way out of no way, though this is who we are and who we've been, I know the good people everywhere can make a change, can transform their circumstances, and that when we bind our hearts together, we can do great things to heal our land and to heal ourselves.

It is this piece of music written by a Black man and set to music by his brother that inspires me today. It's the so-called Negro national anthem, sung for the first time by 500 students in a segregated school to celebrate President Lincoln and the way that he and his administration emancipated enslaved Africans. Listen to this poem as a prayer.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LIFT EVERY VOICE AND SING")

BOYS CHOIR OF HARLEM: (Singing) God of our weary years...

LEWIS: God of our weary years, God of our silent tears...

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LIFT EVERY VOICE AND SING")

BOYS CHOIR OF HARLEM: (Singing) God of our silent tears...

LEWIS: ...Thou who has brought us thus far on the way, thou who has, by thy might, led us into the light. Keep us forever in the path, we pray. Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met thee. Lest our hearts, drunk with the wine of the world, we forget thee. Shadowed beneath thy hand, may we forever stand true to our God, true to our native land.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LIFT EVERY VOICE AND SING")

BOYS CHOIR OF HARLEM: (Singing) Lift every voice and sing till Earth and heaven ring. Ring with the harmonies of liberty. Lift every voice and sing. Let our rejoicing rise high as listening skies. Let it resound loud as the rolling sea. Lift every voice and sing a song. Lift every voice and sing a song. Lift every voice and sing a song. Facing the rising sun of a new day begun, let us march on. Let us march on till victory is won.

MARTIN: We've been listening to "Lift Every Voice And Sing," performed by the Boys Choir of Harlem. We heard from Bishop Michael Curry, Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld and Reverend Jacqui Lewis. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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