The storm is passing over arrangement by Barbara Baker begins with the words, “Have courage my soul, and let us journey on. Though the night is dark, and I am far from home. Thanks be to God, the morning light appears. The storm is passing over. The storm is passing over, the storm is passing over, hallelu-.” The singers then continue with a chorus of “Hallelujahs”.
It’s a shout of celebration to coming out of darkness into light as the storm passes. The song speaks to storms in both a literal and a metaphorical sense. I feel this way every time a storm passes. I live on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. My family has been here for generations, and every year beginning in June, we prepare for hurricanes and the possibility of the damage and destruction that will come. We all understand that for the storm to form, and grow, there has to be the right combination of factors including thunderstorms, warm water, and wind.
It’s a long season, running from June 1- November 30th, and it’s not unheard of for hurricanes to occur both before and after those dates. Once you’re used to it, preparing for a hurricane is routine. You buy extra water and canned goods. You get a flashlight, and battery packs so you can charge devices if you need to. You pack an overnight bag with necessities in case you have to leave your home or are temporarily displaced. Native people rarely leave, choosing to ride out storms in the relative comfort of our homes, knowing that water can overtake us, but willing to take the risk. We know there will be no emergency services during the height of the storm. Emergency services during hurricanes stopped years ago after a vacationer should have evacuated but didn’t, and put the lives of numerous people in jeopardy during the storm.
Now, during the peak of storms, it’s understood by natives and locals, if you stay… You’re on your own. When you’re in the middle of the storm, it’s every person for themselves. You look after the family, and your immediate neighbors if they are close enough.
You might get help as the eye of the storm passes over. It’s what many of us call, “the calm before the storm. The eye of the storm brings a bit of respite. If the storm is passing during the day, you might go outside and survey the damage. If you have time, you might ride out to the beach to look at the water. This is when many check on neighbors and friends to see if they are okay, because the thing we all know, but that we rarely talk about is that the worst is coming.
A kin-dom theology of hope says we are never alone, especially in the midst of a storm and Jesus consistently challenges us to put away selfish desires and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. A selfish system is antithetical to the teachings of Christ.
If the COVID response, the maternal mortality rate, and trauma encoded on DNA are teaching/reaffirming anything it’s that the poor, and the undocumented are frequently drawing the short straw. Millions of black and brown people in less developed nations still haven’t had a single dose of the COVID vaccine while many in this country have had three or more doses. The studies have been completed, and the information is damning. A look at the data from the Centers for Disease Control shows that the rates of death during the pandemic were highest among 1. Indigenous people, 2. Pacific Islanders, 3. Black Americans.
Research conducted by Mary Beth Flanders-Stepans concludes that Black women are more likely to die in childbirth than any other group of women in the United States. When the danger of inhabiting a black body is never ending, the trauma becomes encoded in our DNA. It’s passed down through generations. Trauma encoded, and passed down through generations places our bodily systems in a heightened state of alert all the time, creating a never-ending internal storm. The storm never really has the chance to pass.
There’s hope. Erika Beras and her colleagues report that trauma encoded in DNA can be reversed in some small way by a positive experience. I posit this is good news, even though a legacy of medical malpractice, misinformation, and a lack of care is present in many black communities. The hope means we can begin to prepare, by seeking out those practitioners that are working to create more equitable systems. It means the church has the opportunity to join with the most marginalized to be. “salt and light.”
We have created a perfect storm that involves the right combination of lack of resources, inequity in healthcare, and lack of access to economic opportunity fueling the systems that are keeping millions of black and brown and poor people of all nationalities and ethnicities sick. It has But it’s not just enough to talk about it. Until we begin to change the systems that have been keeping black and brown people marginalized and disenfranchised we won’t begin to heal the illnesses that are so prevalent in our communities. It can begin with the church. When the church begins to work on dismantling these systems on a micro scale, we will be able to disable these systems on a macro level. Then we will be able to join in the singing of a new Hallelujah because we won’t be sitting in the eye of the storm waiting to be destroyed on what’s on the other side, but the storm will be over.
By Rev. Dr. Michelle Lewis