This time of year, Bedford High School senior Fahad Alden sometimes finds it hard to focus in the afternoon if he has an exam or “mentally I need to be all there.”
There’s a good reason.
Alden is observing the obligation of Ramadan, a month-long observance during which Muslims refrain from eating or drinking during daylight hours. “You have to fast for 30 days, from when the sun comes up to when the sun goes down,” Alden said. “It’s basically meant to instill gratitude for what we have. That’s the essence behind the 30 days.”
Thursday was Holocaust Remembrance Day, and Temple Shalom Emeth held its annual Interfaith Holocaust Memorial Service on Friday, April 9. According to Rabbi Susan Abramson, the service features children of the congregation along with local leaders, and interfaith clergy from congregations in Bedford, Burlington, and Billerica.
Rabbi Susan Abramson has uploaded Temple Shalom Emeth’s 2021 complete Passover seder on YouTube, led by many members of our temple community, including Bedford residents along with a PDF of the congregation’s original Haggadah.
“I would never wish a pandemic on anyone, but…” I often hear this from colleagues, parishioners and people in the community. I cannot imagine a crueler disease than COVID – its effects are devastating. Can we even say good things emerge out of this crisis? As a statement of faith, I say “yes.” To tell you why, let me offer a few reflections on “the two sides of the COVID coin.”
After more than three years of protecting an undocumented immigrant who has become part of their family, volunteers at the First Parish Church can finally breathe a sigh of relief knowing their work wasn’t in vain.
“Glorious news!” wrote First Parish minister John Gibbons in an email sent to parishioners and volunteers. “This morning, Maria received official confirmation that she has a one-year stay of deportation.”
This means the church’s sanctuary guest, Maria Elena Macario, can get a work permit, pursue further legal options, and move out of the church.
Although Gibbons said Maria would “not be leaving the church imminently,” he did say that she was looking to find new living quarters with her sons.
“Maria is relieved, overjoyed, and thankful to God and to all who have helped and accompanied her for the last three years,” Gibbons said, as he thanked members of the Sanctuary Coalition.
Maria’s stay of deportation culminates years of dedication, patience, and hard work from the many volunteers who have done so much to protect their sanctuary guest.
Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, a group of more than 400 dedicated volunteers from 10 local congregations banded together and scheduled around-the-clock shifts at First Parish to watch over Maria.
ByThe Rev. Chris Wendell, Rector of St. Paul's Episcopal Church |
This week marks the beginning of the Lenten season for many Christians, a time of preparation, repentance, and renewal. But unlike every other year for at least the last millennium, this year for many Lent will not begin by marking a sign of the cross in ashes on our foreheads. Today may be the first Wednesday of Lent, but it is likely to be an “Ash-less Wednesday” for most. The need to care for one another by limiting in-person contact to reduce the chance of spreading COVID has claimed congregational singing, preaching in person, the sharing of bread and wine, and now even the marking of our foreheads with ashes.
Ashes have been part of this day’s liturgical observances going back to the 6th century in at least some places. Their formalization in the Western church’s customary was made universal in the 11th century. Even in my part of the wider Christian family, which broke away from Roman Catholicism during the Reformation five centuries ago, the use of ashes on this day took a mere 250-year hiatus before working its way back into our traditions and customs. It is one that many faithful Christians of all stripes may find themselves missing this year.
The Rev. Clifford Maung of Bedford is pastor of the Overseas Burmese Christian Fellowship in Allston, a branch of the Baptist Church. There about 120 people affiliated, and they are distressed and anxious about current events in their homeland.
“We are very concerned about our country because we grew up under the military regime and we don’t want to go back to that,” Maung declared.
Burma, also known as Myanmar (military rulers changed its name in 1989), was thrown into turmoil on Feb. 1 when the military seized control following a general election that President Aung San Suu Kyi’s party won by a landslide. The forces, which backed the opposition, declared a year-long state of emergency after claims of widespread fraud.
The military has detained the president and all key leaders of her party, Maung reported, even arresting a popular singer whose theme is peace and reconciliation. Troops are operating at night when “they can do whatever they want. The police don’t protect; the police are going around and arresting people.”
Maung and others from the Burmese community are demonstrating and pleading their case in the hope that the U.S. government can exert pressure. President Joe Biden has issued an executive order to impose sanctions on the leaders of the coup, and steps are being taken to block access to government funds held in the United States. “We are hoping that he will do more,” Maung said.
“Bring a candle in a jar and stand with us on the Common this Friday, Jan. 22, at 5 pm,” noted organizer Mark Bailey. “As a town and as a country, we are experiencing a generations-long collective trauma that began with the conquering of indigenous people and continued through slavery and Jim Crow and into the tensions that characterize our time. Our town’s cherished battle flag has been there for all of it.
The Blinn bell at First Parish in Bedford will sound come noon Friday, Jan. 22 to celebrate the entry into force of the United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. The treaty makes nuclear weapons – and everything to do with them—illegal in the 50 countries that have ratified it so far. The Peace and Justice Committee of First Parish joined groups all around the globe recognizing this milestone.
A timely address by an award-winning University of Massachusetts Lowell historian will keynote Bedford Embraces Diversity’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day community observance, planned for the morning of Jan. 18 on Zoom.
Dr. Elizabeth Herbin-Triant, associate professor of history, plans to explore “the historical roots of white supremacy in the US, focusing on the period after the Civil War, during which policies such as segregation and disfranchisement were put into effect.”
A link to the commemoration will be provided to those who register at firstname.lastname@example.org. The formal program will begin at 9:30 am; the meeting will open at 9.
Herbin-Trian’s talk “will draw connections to what took place in the Capitol last week, paying particular attention to the politics of white grievance.”
A new Christmas Eve tradition may have begun in Bedford when La Posada was observed at First Church of Christ, Congregational.
Posada celebrations are traditional in Mexico where they commemorate the Biblical search for Jesus’ birthplace. First Church’s posada saw Jose and Maria turned away at each door facing the church’s parking lot until the pair were welcomed into a circle of parishioners. The group—gathered around the warmth of a fire pit—represented the stable at Bethlehem.
Pastor John Castricum recounted the Christmas Story (Luke 2:1-20) for the masked and socially distanced group clustered in family groups.
After humming Silent Night, everyone went off into the darkness, carrying votive candles to light in their homes.
The holiest days on the calendar begin Friday, September 18, at sundown. Because of the danger of Covid-19, the observance of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur will be unlike anything experienced by Jewish communities over more than three millennia. Whether at limited outdoor services or on computer screens, participants will not be singing together, shaking hands, embracing, or hearing the actual sounds of the shofar – the ram’s horn – an essential part of the holiday repertoire. Jewish residents of Bedford, across the broad ideological spectrum, agree that this year the holidays will be missing one important cornerstone: the literal experience of community. The Chabad Center in Lexington is making the effort with an open-walled tent in the parking lot, where outdoor services are safer, said Joe Siegel.
Some two dozen demonstrators arrayed themselves at the north boundary of the town Common at 6 pm on Friday, facing The Great Road. And as they began their weekly rally in support of Black lives, a man and a woman dashed down the line, bumping elbows in lieu of high-fives and offering encouragement: “We support you guys, too.”
The boosters were Geoff Chase and Lee Lavi, organizers of a 3 o’clock rally that took place in the same spot, in support of the Bedford Police Department.
And although those two positions have resulted in acrimony and tension when crossing paths in many area towns, the confluence of rallies here, while not exactly a love-in, proved that each could deliver their messages positively.
I haven’t been to a political demonstration in a few years. Having been distressed by the news in recent months, I decided to show up and make a statement with other Bedford citizens in support of the idea that Black lives matter.
BySue Swanson, a member of the St. Paul’s Episcopal Church Green Team |
Early autumn is surely one of New England’s favorite seasons—the weather is mild and often sunny and the trees are beginning to turn into a panoply of color. For those of us with a spiritual perspective, it is one of the best times to celebrate God’s Creation!
Over the past few years, Christian communities throughout the world have begun to do this in an intentional way with an emerging tradition called the Season of Creation. The Season is now embraced by a wide variety of Christian traditions and communities, including The Episcopal Church.
At the behest of First Parishioner Dorothy Africa, a small group gathered on Bedford Common to observe Juneteenth, on Friday morning, June 19 marking the 155th anniversary of the announcement of the end of slavery to the citizens of Galveston, TX.
The Emancipation Proclamation was signed in 1863 but the word took that long to reach Texas, to the benefit of local slaveholders. First Parish’s bell tolled 13 times at 10 am, to honor the 13th Amendment, along with the enslaved and freed Black Bedfordians interred at Bedford’s Old Burying Ground on Springs Road.
The group walked in silence from Bedford’s historic meeting house to Springs Road where they left a ribbon on the Black Slaves’ monument to commemorate Juneteenth.
As protests continue in every major city around the country, local communities have begun to hold protests of their own. Bedford has been no exception, holding protests on the Common every day since June 2. Tuesday’s initial protest began small, with five Bedford High School alumni gathering in protest of racially inspired killings by police. The following days saw upwards of 100 Bedford residents gathering in unity for the same cause.
Many organizations, agencies, faith communities, and other groups have issued statements decrying racism and acts of violence against black people and people of color, including the killing of George Floyd. We share in the outrage and affirm the calls for our nation to seriously and unrelentingly address systemic racism, which is ingrained in our society and embedded in our way of life. Another statement to this effect is likely not what is needed in this time, and yet we stand in support and solidarity with those seeking an end to racism, and the rebuilding of a world where justice and true peace are for all people.
With thanks to three of Bedford’s environmentally active organizations, including links to a pair of Sunday morning church services to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Earth Day
The first Earth Day 50 years ago was a revolutionary event in which 20 million people participated. This year it will be celebrated with the country doing shelter in place. It can still be revolutionary. This is a moment when we can reflect on the kind of world we want to build. We now see first-hand how interconnected we are. Just as a strong, united effort has been needed to address the coronavirus, so a united effort is needed to address climate change and create a healthier planet for everyone. That is what Earth Day is about.
Over the past several weeks, Bedford has been plagued by several incidents of hate speech involving swastikas, unfortunately, scrawled around Town by one of our own students. Fortunately, the diligence of the Bedford Police Department, and the cooperation of school personnel, have led to the successful identification of the student(s), which will allow for appropriate sanctions AND education to take place with regard to the behavior. The Bedford Police, in cooperation with the District Attorney’s office, will be forthcoming with information about the incidents.