There have been so many vigils lately. Vigils where we mourn the hundreds and thousands whose lives are senselessly cut short by gun violence. Vigils to stand in support of brave persons who are speaking the truth about sexual assault. Vigils to welcome the sojourner and stand alongside migrants, asylum seekers, and refugees. Vigils to ensure that LGBTQIA communities are protected and celebrated. We march and pray and hold candles close against the wind.
Recently I was at a vigil for victims of another mass shooting. As the names of those killed by hate and senseless gun violence were read, the chime of children’s laughter rang like a beacon of hope on the periphery. In our midst, local community members shared water and snacks. Even as we mourned our deep sadness was tempered by the sounds and signs of hope around us. Because one thing I’ve learned after actions of great injustice is: faith shows up. Hope shows up.
Each of us in our turn finds and loses hope, again and again, ebbing and flowing like the tide. But only in community and only in solidarity can we sustain perpetual hope. When one person’s hope is at low tide, they can be bolstered by the hope of others. We are at our strongest, most creative, and most effective when we choose to work in concert, building coalitions and taking collective action. So often these days as it feels like the threads of our society and ecosystem are –pulling apart, we need to be prepared as it is happening to re-weave our society to truly uphold the dignity and value of each and every person, knowing all of us bear the Imago Dei.
Showing up and participating in vigils is where the work starts, but not where it ends. Coming together as a physical witness to atrocity is a launching point to action and community organizing. We must be galvanized to hold our leaders accountable and elect new ones, making space for marginalized communities and standing in solidarity. Grief cannot be the only garment we wear as a community. As Colossians 3:12-14 says, “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”
On many days I feel bereft of hope. I certainly did as I walked out of my door to go to yet another vigil for lives shattered and ended because of gun violence. But we find hope in our communities and in coming together. We find it in the ways we care for one another. And snacks—where there is a community there are snacks. And that gives me hope too.
Katie Adams is Advocate for Policy & Domestic Issues of the United Church of Christ.
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