The God Squad: My search for a Tommy replacement
Thank you and bless you, my dear readers, for allowing me to flip the script on you. Normally, I am the one to give you advice. This time, I asked you to give me advice. I told you that after Father Tom’s death six years ago I am finally considering bringing on a new partner for The God Squad. Here are the results of your wisdom so far:
Although there were some who eagerly applied to be my wingman/wingwoman, most of you who wrote in believe strongly that I would be nuts to change the column in any way.
You seem to take perverse pleasure in hearing and reading my solitary voice. You are graciously open to my vision of what we can do together to increase the love of God and human flourishing in our wounded world. Here is a typical email:
Dearest Rabbi Marc Gellman, IMHO, you do not need a second chair for your God Squad column. NO ONE (yes, read that emphatically) can replace Father Tom. You and Fr. Tom exchanged enough valuable teachings that you can provide both Jewish and Christian perspectives. I've been reading the God Squad with you and Fr. Tom for many years and as a Catholic I can appreciate how you provide information from ALL religious perspectives that enriches me. Please reconsider replacing Fr. Tom ... he intended for you to continue his teachings ... just ask Him! With much love. -- (From J)
And then there was an email from M, who introduced Tom to me. He is my most trusted adviser and he does not mince words:
“Column is working. Podcasts would probably be better with a good co-podcaster. Blessings.”
So, I have heard you and you have taught me. The best parts of Father Tom are in me and will remain in me until God kisses me and takes my breath away. I guess this whole attempt to find a replacement for Tommy was just my grief trying to find some way to deny his death. The truth is that loss is real and love intensifies grief, but the legacy of kindness and love Tom Hartman left in me and in all of you he touched in his life will never end and cannot be replaced.
HOWEVER…The “God Squad Podcast with Rabbi Marc Gellman” (available on all platforms) is another matter. I am ready to experiment with a radical expansion of the God Squad on the podcast. You, dear readers, are the ones who suggested this:
As a faithful reader (sorry for the pun) of your column, I wanted to make a suggestion to broaden your pulpit (err, viewership). As you narrow the search to add another person or two to the God Squad, how about a female member of the clergy and an imam to represent the Islamic faith. This would not only be in lockstep with today's more diverse society but would also be reflective of covering followers (Christians, Jewish and Muslim) of the three great religions whose very roots can be traced within miles of each other in the Middle East. I think Tommy would approve. Thanks and keep up the great work you are doing. -- (From G in Smithtown, NY)
Yes, go for it! Imam, priest/of whatever religion, pastor, puja -- it'd be great! And, please don't stop sharing the favorite Christmas/Passover memories you and your best friend shared. Much Love and Many Blessings to You and Yours; dog, too, of course. -- (From L in Appleton, Wisconsin)
I would be happy to partake in an exploration of thoughts and religious-based ideas from a Quaker perspective. Perhaps, rather than one person you should consider a loosely knit council of advisers? -- (From S in Farmingdale, NY)
So, I will find a way to include many of your voices and other voices in the podcast so that, in that format, the God Squad can embrace all who are climbing the same mountain on different paths.
“It's OK to still miss Father Tom. He was a brother to you and you to him. There isn't a day that goes by that I don't think of my Mom. And I still miss her, although she lived to be 97 years old. Don't beat yourself up because you still miss your "brother." -- (D from Durham, NC, who summed up many other responses)
I send my love and peace to you, Rabbi Gellman.”
And I send love and peace to all of you. Thank you for settling my soul. Now I can return to trying to return the favor.
(Send ALL QUESTIONS AND COMMENTS to The God Squad via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Rabbi Gellman is the author of several books, including “Religion for Dummies,” co-written with Fr. Tom Hartman. Also, the new God Squad podcast is now available.)
©2023 The God Squad. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
(c) 2023 THE GOD SQUAD DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES, INC.