Like other Long Islanders, members of the clergy can face challenges that defy easy fixes and counsel from fellow humans. This week’s clergy recall tough conversations they’ve had with God about instances of racial discrimination, unanswered prayers and the persistence of human suffering.

Marie McNair of East Patchogue

Secretary, Regional Baha'i Council of the Northeastern States

The times when I have had difficult conversations with God are when I wanted desperately to make something better but did not know how. Therefore, I turned to God to ask for help finding a way.

One such time occurred when I was much younger. My parents had begun caring for foster children in our home. One little boy won our hearts completely. Heartbreak also affected us deeply as we experienced firsthand evidence of racial prejudice by neighbors and others against this beautiful, adorable child who was Black.

In anguish over such injustice, I turned to God. The answers came through my own heart. I understood that first I had to make a strong commitment to helping to build a better world, and then I had to enhance my capacity to do that. I turned to many sources, particularly the teachings of the Baha’i faith, where the main principle is the establishment of the unity of humanity through an understanding that we are all one human family. I became deeply involved in efforts to build vibrant communities where diversity is appreciated, the kind of community where that little boy would have been loved for the noble soul that he was.

The Rev. Earl Y. Thorpe Jr.

Pastor, Church-in-the-Garden, Garden City

The most difficult conversation that I’ve had with God was when I had to confront my understanding of myself, the nature of God and how God worked in my life.

I had to come to terms with the reality that God is not transactional in dealing with humankind, and certainly with me and where I was in my life. I found myself shaking my fist at God because I thought my good deeds or actions would result in God granting me all my wants and desires. Indeed, my conversation with God was more like a selfish soliloquy, and the difficulty was not on God’s end but my end.

However, the God that I serve and that I invite everyone to get to know is a patient and caring God who allowed me to question and convey my theological ignorance while still loving me enough to show me a more excellent way. At every point of my conversation, there was always a humbling move of God in my life, coupled with a sense of peace that resolved my questioning. For this reason, my ministry rests on the blessed assuredness that our difficult conversations often result in God’s profoundly transformative works in our lives.

The Rev. Canon Winfred Vergara

Priest-in-Charge, Holy Trinity Episcopal Church, Hicksville, and National Asian Missioner of the Episcopal Church

I was in seminary in the Philippines discerning my call to the priesthood and I asked God: "If you are truly a God of love and mercy, why have you allowed human suffering?"

Now I was sitting under a santol tree, a huge tropical tree with small fruits. Nearby were watermelon vines with huge fruits. I opened my Bible and came upon this text: "For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men." (1 Corinthians 1:25) Then I thought: "If God is wise, he should have made this huge santol tree to bear huge fruits like watermelons, and this small watermelon vine to bear small fruits like the santols." With that thought I fell asleep — and thud! A fruit of the santol fell on my head! I awoke and exclaimed "God is wise!" Why? Because if the fruit of the santol is as huge as watermelons, I would have been dead!

That instant, divine answer has been my guide to weather many personal crises in my life.

DO YOU HAVE QUESTIONS you’d like Newsday to ask the clergy? Email them to LILife@newsday.com.

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