To Hell in a Handbasket?


Some say the world has gone to hell in a handbasket. Perhaps society perpetuates that sentiment with news of mass shootings, attacks on ethnic groups, wars all over the world, and plain meanness, hypocrisy, hatred, and exclusivity.

Recent puzzling incidents of unprovoked violence have added doubt, fear, and trepidation to an already fragile social climate. How can we explain the shooting of a teenaged boy who mistakenly went to the wrong door to pick up his younger siblings? The eighty-five-year-old homeowner said he was afraid of the unknown teenager on his porch. 

Within a few days of that incident, a twenty-year-old woman died when a property owner shot her for mistakenly turning into his driveway. Following that, a man shot at some neighbor children whose ball rolled into his yard, and within days a man shot a Texas cheerleader who tried to enter his car, after mistaking it for her own. She is recovering in a hospital.

Although I have the reputation of seeing a glass half empty rather than half full, I desperately look for positive attributes in today’s world. I admit I experience days when I have trouble finding anything at all in the glass, but I happily report that I had many incidents that filled me with gratitude and pride during April’s Holy Week in our city.

Each year, the downtown churches carry on a tradition of Holy Week luncheons that has included First Baptist, First Central Presbyterian, St. Paul United Methodist, and Highland Church of Christ. Until First Christian Church moved to its new location on Abilene’s far south side, that congregation joined the others.

Many groups and traditions went through painful changes during Covid’s height. All organizations had to cancel public meetings for at least the first year, and some have found difficulty in resuming their former activities. Happily, this Holy Week luncheon tradition resumed last year with a few modifications.

Whereas in the past, each hosting church provided a meal and listened to an Easter-related devotional by one of the visiting pastors, last year the meals changed to a brown-bag -bring-your-own-lunch entrée. The hosting church then provided drinks and desserts.

I missed out on last year’s programs as I recovered from surgery, but I attended all the meetings this year. I enjoyed meeting and fellowshipping with church members from other congregations. All the participants benefitted greatly from the competition among the churches to see which one could provide the best desserts. 

Each guest pastor spoke on his assigned sermon topic as the attendees were blessed by hearing pastors other than their own and experiencing a warm and sincere camaraderie. I think we all learned that we share more than we sometimes think. 

I participate in another multi-church organization in town called the Abilene Association of Congregations (AAC). This group welcomes any Christian denomination in Abilene. The group has dwindled in size since Covid, but it provides a great opportunity to experience on a larger level what I experienced during Holy Week.

I credit Cliff Stewart, pastor of First Central Presbyterian, for much of the fellowship among churches in Abilene. He has a real passion for a broader fellowship than we have in our individual churches. Anyone interested in participating in the AAC can contact Cliff Stewart at First Central Presbyterian Church or David Romanik at the Episcopal Church of Heavenly Rest.

This group has members from Methodist, Baptist, Presbyterian, Episcopal, Churches of Christ, and Catholic churches in Abilene. We have interesting programs each month and enjoy getting to know people from other congregations. 

This article is actually an invitation to all the churches in town. The organization could do much more than it does if we had a larger membership and participation.

I want to mention another group to which I belong that probes even further the idea of ecumenical fellowship. This group, the Abilene Interfaith Council (AIC), invites all faith groups to learn and fellowship with one another. It has also had a difficult rebound from Covid, but its purpose deserves the time and effort it takes to participate.

I noted the Holy Week of 2023 experienced an unusual calendar occurrence. The most important event of each of three major faiths—Islam, Judaism, and Christianity—shared the same dates this year. I watched with horror some of the attacks in the Holy Lands as Palestinians shot rockets into Israel and Jews invaded and attacked Muslims within their own mosques.

I surmise that if a few downtown Protestant churches can enjoy one another’s company to broaden our understanding and appreciation of one another’s traditions, many other churches throughout the city of Abilene can do the same (AAC). And if that is true, we expand the concept to broaden our understanding and appreciation of even more diverse faith traditions (AIC). You can find information about this group on Facebook.

The AIC sponsors a National Day of Prayer each May. This May 4 at noon everyone of any faith is invited to participate in this much-needed day of prayer. We will meet at the Center for Contemporary Arts at 220 Cypress St. in downtown Abilene. I hope many will join us as we share prayer traditions from many faiths and learn appreciation for other cultures. 

Amidst all the hate, violence, insanity, political turmoil, and meanness in this world, it makes a lot more sense to work on the side that promotes the opposite of those values. Goodness far outweighs hatefulness and promotes peace—no need of a handbasket.

Nancy Patrick is a retired teacher who lives in Abilene and enjoys writing

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