Bottoms Up!

We don’t need much proof. Margaret Meade didn’t tell us anything we didn’t already know. She just had a gift for putting it in eloquent language: Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.

Just look at Pope Francis! My brother retired from a thirty-year career in the Army. After Francis’ trip to the Middle East, Fred commented on June 10 to a post I had made here. He described the Pope’s visit as “a major event which will contribute far more to world peace than all the armies and diplomats have in recent years.”

But there seems to be an essential corollary to Meade’s incisive summation and to the potential expressed in the papal visit. True leaders appreciate this fact: real change has to bubble up from the grassroots. Decrees from on-high are typically ignored, as well they should be. Meade captured this in crediting “thoughtful, committed citizens” for the change the world needs.

With that as my prompt, and inspired by my brother, I decided to engage in some “bottoms up” action. Yesterday I chose to participate in Sunday liturgy at St. Mary’s Greek Orthodox Church. My motivation was to give grass-roots expression to that which Pope Francis and Patriarch Bartholomew expressed in their joint statement from Jerusalem:

Our fraternal encounter today is a new and necessary step on the journey towards the unity to which only the Holy Spirit can lead us, that of communion in legitimate diversity…

Thus we affirm once again that the theological dialogue does not seek a theological lowest common denominator on which to reach a compromise, but is rather about deepening one’s grasp of the whole truth that Christ has given to his Church, a truth that we never cease to understand better… Hence, we affirm together that our faithfulness to the Lord demands fraternal encounter and true dialogue.

United in our intentions, … we call upon all Christians, together with believers of every religious tradition and all people of good will, to recognize the urgency of the hour that compels us to seek the reconciliation and unity of the human family…”

The pope and patriarch are not telling us anything we don’t already know! We need wise leadership to give us proof by their actions that what we know we need is in fact possible. We, the grassroots, have a reciprocal obligation to change our ways and adjust our attitudes. We need to shake things up like the pilgrimage to Jerusalem and the Pentecost Prayer service at the Vatican changed dynamics.

I absolutely do not want to sound preachy, pedantic or like a know-it-all. However, I do feel a passionate urgency. For your convenience and encouragement, here are some ways we can give our prophetic leaders a grassroots foundation on which to build:

  • Prayerfully reflect upon the relatively short Joint Declaration by Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew (25 May, 2014). It is only ten paragraphs long and is available [link].
  • Read Patriarch Bartholomew’s Encountering the Mystery: Understanding Orthodox Christianity Today (2008). I ordered my copy from the used book section on Amazon for $2.58 plus $3.99 postage.   Better yet, host a book club discussion with friends who share your interest.
  • Go to Sunday liturgy at your local Greek Orthodox Church. Be prepared for a rich cultural experience and a service that is likely to last 90 minutes. I went asking that God remove all that divides us, for the grace of curiosity and gift “of communion in legitimate diversity”. True confession: I left with sensory overload (not a bad thing) and did not have the energy to plunge into “coffee hour” – next time!

Let’s never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed folks can change the world from the bottom up. Indeed, it’s the only thing that really will. Let’s give our leadership legs to stand on!  We can be the change the world needs!

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