Pastoral Perspective

    On October 27, 2018, an act of hatred made national (and international) headlines.  Seven persons were wounded and eleven killed while worshiping.  
    The act of hatred occurred in a residential section, “Squirrel Hill” of Pittsburgh, in a Jewish synagogue. In its aftermath the media descended, vigils were held and the focus of the world was again narrowed to violence and prejudice. Within days the world turned its focus elsewhere and people everywhere attempted to return to the routines of everyday life.  
    But in Squirrel Hill and the greater Pittsburgh area, the focus remains on stemming the hatred and violence. Grants are now provided to houses of worship to enhance security, some have hired guards to stand outside while worshipers gather inside. Houses of worship have “active shooter” drills that mimic the fire and tornado drills they already practiced.  And local officials are working to identify hate groups that practice in the Pittsburgh area and take down websites that promote or enable them.
    The most important work, however, to grow love and displace hate, is that which is happening outside of the headlines as community leaders, religious leaders and ordinary Pittsburghers gather in coffee shops and restaurants simply to get to know each other and talk.  Community is the best way to heal and encourage respect for all persons.
    One Pittsburgher wrote that she had recently paid for genetic testing and discovered that among other things she was part Jewish, something surprising in that she is otherwise Turkish in background with some French and Russian in the mix.  
    She said this news changed how she responded when she heard of the shooting in the nearby synagogue.  Suddenly, she was “related” to those in the tragedy, she shared “community” with them.
Rooted in my faith, and hopefully all faiths, is the notion that we are called by God to be in community together.  Even a cursory reading of the Bible will lead to the discovery that God calls us to love everyone and develop the love of God by loving others.   After all, we are also all “related”, we share the same great (times several) grandparents!
Here is Peter, one of the disciples; “above all, love each other deeply, because love covers a multitude of sins.  Offer hospitality to others without grumbling.  Each of you should use whatever gifts you have received to serve others.”  (1 Peter 4: 8-10).
We have a remarkable opportunity to share community with each other on Monday, January 21st.  We will share breakfast and think about the truth that we are all connected.  What happens in our community should matter to us personally.  Please join us as the churches of the Pontiac area sponsor a prayer breakfast at St. Mary’s Church (you can get tickets at many of the churches in town), and to pray together for unity and peace.
I pray we never have to gather in the aftermath of hatred in our town.  I believe that our work to prevent this begins powerfully when we come together ahead of time.  We share our common faith in God and our belief that we are called to be communion with Him and with each other.  Won’t you join us?