After the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in 1968, economic, social, and racial divisions threatened to tear Memphis apart. A diverse group of community and faith leaders came together and MIFA was created to confront the issues of poverty, hunger, and social division through service.
2020 brought another crisis to Memphis. In a series of blogs, some of our current-day faith leaders have taken time to express their visions and hopes on healing and coming out of the pandemic better and stronger as a community.
In the Eastern Orthodox faith tradition, September 14th is the celebration of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross of Christ. While once the cross was a symbol of suffering, pain, and death, through the Resurrection it has become a symbol of victory and life.
This year’s feast appropriately coincides with the MIFA Our City Our Story virtual event. The past year has been trying for our city and community in so many ways - it has been our “cross to bear.” We have had to suffer through separation and isolation, endure the pain of divisiveness and dissension, and most agonizingly the untimely loss of loved ones.
While it is accurate to acknowledge that these things are happening nationally and globally, the temptation may be to say, “What can we do about it?” In truth, we can most acutely make an impact locally – we have done it before.
My late predecessor and mentor, Rev. Father Nicholas L. Vieron, of blessed memory, was one of the members of the Memphis Ministers Association that submitted “An Appeal to Conscience” to the Commercial-Appeal in 1968, a contributing factor to the creation of MIFA. He negotiated to bring an end to the Sanitation Workers’ Strike. Although small in stature, this giant of a man took up the cross for others and helped bring closure to a difficult and painful chapter in our city’s history.
We are now writing another difficult chapter, one that all of us will have a hand in crafting. I ask each of you a single question, “What will be your contribution?”
I have borne many crosses in my life. They have all weighed heavily upon me, and I have carried them with varying degrees of willingness. Although they have all produced fruit in the end, frankly, there is no joy in the midst of the struggle.
Where I have found joy, however, is in carrying the cross for others. When bearing one another’s burdens, we do so willingly, and thus we lighten the load for everybody.
I look forward to the opportunity to reconnect, reengage, and reset as we emerge from the pandemic and the events of 2020. Having borne our collective crosses, I have a sense that our city can have a new beginning – a resurrection if you will – as we work together to move our city forward.
Rev. Father Simon Thomas
Priest at the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church
Rev. Father Simon Thomas graduated with a M.Div. from Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in 2000 and was ordained to the Holy Priesthood in 2003. A native of California, he has served parishes in that state in Belmont, Irvine, Long Beach, and Santa Barbara. He and his family moved to Memphis in 2015 to serve as Parish Priest at the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church. Additionally, he serves as the Insurance Committee Chairman of the Archdiocese Benefits Committee of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America and is the Chairman of the Spiritual Court for the Southern Region of the Metropolis of Detroit.