It was a great privilege for me to attend the first virtual pilgrimage to Coventry Cathedral last month on behalf of my congregation in Houston, Texas. That event was held online, of course, because of the global pandemic that continues to affect the lives of all of the participants, who came from five different countries.
At the beginning of one session, while something was being sorted out, we had a moment to talk about whatever was on our minds. So I noted, for whomever might be curious, that early voting had recently started and that Harris County, where most of Houston is located, shattered its previous record for the total number of ballots cast on the first day of early voting. More than 100,000 people voted not only on that first day but for each of the first seven days of early voting. The total number of voters in the previous presidential election in Harris County was surpassed before Election Day, at the end of which 1.65 million ballots had been cast.
Not surprisingly, my fellow pilgrims from other parts of the world were very interested in this American presidential election. The choices we make here affect them too.
There were, of course, plenty of worries on the minds of Americans that motivated them to show up at the polls and exercise their right to vote. Many were concerned about the mishandling of the pandemic and a rising tide of anti-scientific attitudes. Others were afraid of a further erosion of their economic situation if stricter public health measures were to be adopted. Still others were focused on racial injustices that keep reappearing in the news. Latino voters demonstrated their diversity by voting differently in different parts of the country. There were sharp divisions between rural and urban settings and also by level of education and gender.
While I’m writing this, votes are still being counted. So there hasn’t yet been an official winner declared who will be the occupant of the Oval Office for the next four years. Regardless of that outcome, the divisions that have been uncovered and revealed in this election will remain.
One of the things I love about America is the fact that our ideals about universal human rights can be the source of a reformation from time to time when we’re able to recognize that we haven’t lived up to those ideals. My hope is that my own parish, committed to the ministry of reconciliation through the Community of the Cross of Nails, can be part of that process through the power of the Holy Spirit. It’s the hope that we can look at ourselves in the mirror, first seeing things as they really are, and then remembering we are God’s children and, therefore, citizens of another kingdom, a kingdom marked by grace and mercy and by the love we’ve known in Christ Jesus.
The Rev. Neil Alan Willard is the Rector of Palmer Memorial Episcopal Church in Houston, Texas.