Fall 2020 | Seeking the Light: Notes on Hope

This year will go down as a historic test of our health, our economy, our complacency about racial progress, our electoral politics, ecological practices, the depths of sorrow and resilience. Year 2020 has also been a test of hope, which seemed caught off guard, as if the word had been muddied over the decades – confused with false uplift or blurred into optimism. In this Reflections issue, however, writers confront the times and examine their own hearts and find hope in manifold places – in political defiance, in prayer, in anger, in song, in small daily moments of grace, in honest bouts of despair, and in the endeavor to discern the presence of God who upholds the world.

Cover image by Stijn te Strake/Unsplash


From the Dean's Desk

One place that I often take visitors is the Hill-Stead Museum in Farmington, CT, located in the greater Hartford area. The museum is the former home of Theodate Pope Riddle, a pioneering architect. Theodate grew up in Cleveland but attended Miss Porter’s School (a finishing school) in Farmington in the 1880s. She fell in love with the area and persuaded her parents to build the home that later became the museum. In 1915, Theodate made arrangements to travel to England on the R.M.S. Lusitania which was torpedoed and sunk by a U-Boat.

Articles in this Issue

By Miroslav Volf

Our salvation lies in hope - not in hope that insists on the future good it has imagined, but in hope ready to rejoice in the kind of good that actually comes our way.

By Willie Jennings

These are times for calling on the power of God and dismantling habits of cultivated ignorance.

By Ellen B. Koneck ’16 M.A.R.

Instead of hiding behind platitudes, real hope confronts the despair of grievous loss. 

By Donyelle McCray

Harriet Tubman, famed liberator of slaves, found the spirit of God in her own treacherous escape from bondage.

By Sarah B. Drummond

The idea of covenant releases us from the looming insecurity or fear that our community will fall apart when times are tough and we need it most.

God and God’s concern for us are bigger than any pandemic. But we still have a creative role to play – and to find better solutions every day.

By Lyn Brakeman ’82 M.Div.

If faith and love are in short supply, notice the small daily bursts of that other theological virtue.

By Jeffrey Haggray ’88 M.Div.

The late John Lewis embodied vocational courage in a time of upheaval. 

By Frederick J. Streets

In “Again,” a prominent minister envisions the shared future.

By Essence Ellis ’21 M.Div.

These days require honest self-reflection and divine patience too.

By Ian Oliver

“Until I give up my illusions of control, I will never truly hear God’s voice.”

By Abner Cotto-Bonilla ’18 M.Div., ’19 S.T.M.

Despite the historical travails of El Salvador and Puerto Rico, the writer finds varieties of “hope being born again” there.

By Gregory Mobley

Blest be the tie that binds contemporary nonviolent protestors to the biblical prophets.

By Win Bassett ’15 M.A.R.

“I wonder daily what Father Jarvis would think of this moment.”

By Sister Jennifer E. Schaaf

This is the thing about hope – it isn’t always in focus, but it is always in the picture.

By Jathan Martin ’21 M.Div.

The memory of God’s deliverance allows us to sing when our throats are weary and give life when our lives are crying out to matter. 

By Mark Koyama ’15 M.Div.

The Sacred Ally Quilt Project, an effort of nine UCC congregations across New Hampshire, is creating a series of 10 quilts that together feature the last living words that George Floyd uttered while pinned to the pavement.

By John Hare

What should we hope for in this life?

By Michael Battle ’90 S.T.M.

A sacred sojourn into America’s tragic past summons a sense of God’s presence in the world. 

By Gregory E. Sterling

Our hope is not simply our future hope of life with God, but our present life in which we experience God’s love.

By Stephen H. Phelps ’73 B.A., ’86 M.Div.

Only after the last familiar hope has foundered can a person be helped onto a path to the light. This help is not of this world.

By Willard C. Ashley, Sr. ’84 M.Div. (ANTS), ’92 D.Min. (ANTS)

Sunday after Sunday, clergy are pushed to make some sense out of this senseless moment in history.

By Sharon M.K. Kugler

A summer vigil and a chaplain’s prayer defy an exhausting year.

By Ray Waddle

I asked the writers to provide their own take on hope, a word that was getting more complicated by the day.

Reflections is a publication of Yale Divinity School