This call to action comes from the Conference Minister of the Penn Northeast Conference UCC, with the affirmation of the denomination’s National Officers and the Rev. David Ackerman, Conference Minister of the Penn West Conference UCC.
The news over the past weeks has revealed an undercurrent of hate within our culture and our country. Between the assumption that immigrants walking nearly 2,000 miles seeking asylum are seen as a threat to our security; the pipe bombs mailed to those who oppose our current political administration; the massacre of 11 Jewish citizens during services at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh; and the shooting of an African American man and woman in a grocery store after a failed attempt to enter a church of Black worshippers, it is hard to find cause for hope in our nation.
The rhetoric of hate and divisiveness calls for a response from the faith community. While we should not advocate for candidates or political parties, we must advocate for justice, humanitarian treatment of our neighbors, and for safety in our places of worship. We are a diverse nation and until recently that diversity has been seen as a strength. We, in the Church, must stand as moral authorities proclaiming peace and hope, compassion and justice.
Wherever and whenever you have the opportunity to provide wisdom and comfort, inspiration and compassion, I urge you to do so. To be silent is to let evil prevail and we, as people of faith, cannot do that, any more than Jesus could do it in his time and culture. Find a way to bring peace and hope to your faith communities, your communities, our state and our nations.
Today we are asking our members to write prayer notes or notes of compassion to our siblings at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. Mail them from your local church to them at 5898 Wilkins Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15217.
Participate in a vigil or a peaceful worship process in any one of your communities and if there isn’t one, please plan one.
If you are able, this would be a wonderful way to demonstrate solidarity with our Jewish siblings.
By all means pray but above all do not fail to speak out or to act. As Martin Niemöller wrote:
“First they came for the Jews and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for the Communists and I did not speak out because I was not a Communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me.”1
We are called to be people of prayer, but we are also called to remember that “The Spirit of the LORD is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free (Luke 4:18). May we each and all do our part to make our communities, state and nation places of hope and peace.
The Rev. Bonnie Bates
Penn. Northeast Conference United Church of Christ