HIGH POINT — Given all the hardships and setbacks this year, you might forgive the Rev. Dayhige Wright for not wanting to give thanks during the holiday week.
But not only does he reject despair as Thanksgiving approaches, he embraces hope. It is, after all, what has sustained humanity during worrisome times for centuries.
“Even in this season of turmoil and trouble, the current state of our country, I think there is hope,” he told The High Point Enterprise. “It may be small, but it’s there.”
Wright and his congregation at Living Water Baptist Church know the hardship of this year first-hand. On Nov. 8 — a Sunday afternoon — an 18-year-old man from High Point was shot and killed by a plain-clothes Davidson County Sheriff’s Office deputy amid the chaos of a drive-by shooting after a memorial service on the church property.
Wright, the church’s senior pastor, said the church volunteered an outdoor segment of the Living Water Baptist grounds for the service. The fatal shooting upset members of the east High Point church but hasn’t shaken their commitment.
“We still will be a community church,” he said.
Wright’s unshaken faith has sustained itself in a year of seemingly unrelenting travails: The ravages of the coronavirus pandemic and the lives lost to COVID-19. The economic devastation wrought by the pandemic that has cost breadwinners their paychecks and caused longtime businesses to fail. The fissures in the electorate. The disturbing killing of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers and the revelations of other racial injustices. The hurricanes in the South and the wildfires in the West that engulfed entire communities in misery.
For Wright, his embrace of hope as Thanksgiving approaches doesn’t mean ignoring the suffering from the troubles of this year. But it does mean not giving up emotionally.
“One of the important things as it relates to Thanksgiving is taking the time out to be thankful for life,” Wright said. “I think we can take life for granted. To be able to have life is a blessing and something to be thankful for.”
The holidays offer an opportunity to reflect on what’s important in life, said the Rev. Preston Davis, minister to High Point University.
“It’s like a worship service in that it reminds us what we hold most dear,” Davis told The Enterprise.
The emotions and experiences of gratitude, joy, love and outreach for justice are brought home at moments such as Thanksgiving, despite the surroundings of the moment. Throughout human history, hope has remained central, Davis said.
“When we pull from our sacred texts, they are written in times of plagues, of famines, of great suffering,” he said. “We can learn from our ancestors. Suffering is real, but we have a God that has entered into it with us, and we are not lost to it.”
For the Rev. Clarinda Crawford, pastor with the Highland, Rankin and Ward Street United Methodist churches in High Point, coping means finding meaning in the holiday season.
Crawford said she’s the type of person who usually cringes when she sees far-too-early Christmas displays. But recently she was driving and passed three houses next to each other already decked out in Christmas decorations.
“And it made me smile,” she said. “I posted on my Facebook page that if celebrating Christmas early makes you happy this year, then we need all the joy in the world we can get.”
The hardships of this year shouldn’t make people jaded about the holiday seasons ushered in by Thanksgiving week, Crawford said.
“I think that people need to find what is going to give them some semblance of tradition, pastime and order so they won’t be so overcome by the chaos, turmoil and sickness that’s right now all around us,” she said.
As he prepared his sermon for the Sunday service before Thanksgiving, Wright honed in on the troubles confronting the Apostle Paul as reflected in 2 Corinthians.
The apostle finds himself under constant threats for spreading the message of Christ, yet doesn’t lose his faith or waiver in his actions.
“There’s a certain hope that Paul has, despite the circumstances,” Wright said.
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