The following is a first-person reflection from a member of a Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) congregation in the Synod of the Trinity region. During this time when the pandemics of both the coronavirus and our culture of racism cannot be ignored, this series titled “Through My Eyes” allows for those in the Synod’s bounds to share openly what they are experiencing on a regular basis. This is not meant to be a political forum, but instead a chance for people to express their personal feelings about what they are seeing and feeling during this unique time. If you have something to share, email Synod Communications Coordinator Mike Givler (firstname.lastname@example.org) and your reflection will be considered for use in this series.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Rev. Pam McShane is the pastor at Tree of Life Church in Delaware County, PA, in the Presbytery of Philadelphia. She has led the congregation through many changes, including the name change from Princeton Presbyterian to Tree of Life. Pam is passionate about helping the church carry out its vision for ministry with people with disabilities and their families. She is active in the Presbytery of Philadelphia and the Springfield Ministerium.
This morning (Election Day, Nov. 3, 2020) I voted in person because I wanted to make sure my vote registered and was counted. I went to my local polling place. The local Republican leadership group was clustered near the doorway, with only one young Democrat on her cell phone in sight. All the voters going in with me were older people, many with walkers – exactly the ones who should have voted by mail. I came out very anxious about what the day might bring.
I went to church and after checking in, went outside to set up the T-shirts from the Memorial to the Lost again. (Memorial to the Lost is a T-shirt display our church is hosting right now that has 207 shirts, each one for a person who has died by gun violence in our county in the last five years.) The rain and the wind of the last few days did a number on them – shirts turned around and sagging off the supports, supports leaning this way and that and a few of them on the ground. I thought maybe refocusing would calm me and fixing the shirts felt like a way of doing something concrete to make a statement.
I started one end of the row working toward the center. After a few minutes I looked up. At the other end of the row, a car had pulled into the lot. I assumed it was a voter heading for the wrong door. (Our church is a polling place.) A black man wearing a mask got out of the car and went over and started setting up supports and straightening T-shirts. For a few minutes we worked, each from our own end. Then I went over and introduced myself.
He said, “I drove by earlier and thought, ‘Somebody ought to do something about those shirts.’ Then I was driving back and saw you out there and thought I’d stop to help.” Turns out he’s a Methodist pastor with a church in SW Philly. He was a student pastor at a nearby Methodist church that heads up the T-shirt project in our area. He said, ‘The names on these shirts that are from Chester – I probably went to half their funerals.”
Born and bred in Chester, gun violence hits close to home. We worked side by side for a while – socially distanced, of course. We talked as we worked. Two Christians, one black, one white, working side by side to bear witness to the toll gun violence takes. We finished the row. I thanked him. He got back in his car and we both got back to what we had planned for the day.
That simple act of solidarity redeemed the day for me. Two people, just trying to do what’s right, working side by side. As I write this, I don’t know what the election results will be. But it seems to me that if all of us or even enough of us can commit to standing together in solidarity as we try to do what’s right maybe we’ll be OK. Grateful for that man and for that moment.