Wednesday, June 15, 2016

A Pastoral Letter on the Killings in Orlando


Safe Spaces or Sacred Spaces?

Like many of you, I've been scanning social media and catching the latest news, trying to make sense of the terrorism attack in Orlando. The familiar mix of emotions that I've felt during previous massacres comes back to me: anger, sadness, fear, and discouragement. I want to fix the problems and run away from them all at the same time.

The Pulse nightclub in Orlando, like many gay bars, was supposed to be safe space. Owner Barbara Poma opened Pulse nightclub with a mission: to honor her brother who died of HIV/AIDS and to create a safe space for Orlando's gay community. That image of safety is now shattered.

This month, we also mark the one-year anniversary of the shootings of church members and their beloved minister during a Bible study at a venerable church in Charleston, SC. Emmanuel AME Church, like all of our houses of worship, was supposed to be safe space. That image of safety is now injured.

Our community havens no longer feel safe. Public schools, college campuses, neighborhood gathering spots -- they have all been desecrated by violence. Even in our church's Indian Spring neighborhood, I heard from a resident who is a lesbian. She has been approached recently by a homophobic neighbor who wants to "save" her and her wife. Our neighbor remarked that she doesn't feel safe on her own property.

However, she also noted how many others have shown love, sympathy and support. She may not experience safe space right now, but she has experienced sacred space. In the midst of her suffering, she has been embraced by empathy, and understanding. I think that's the embrace of God.

After an event like the violence in Orlando, that's what we have to offer at CCC. We create sacred space where everyone belongs, where all are welcome, where we honor and celebrate people of all races, cultures, ages, abilities, sexual orientations, and gender identities. We need it now more than ever! We offer sacred space where anyone can attend -- with our pains and joys, with our fears and hopes, with our experiences of rejection and our longings for wholeness -- and know that we are embraced by empathy and understanding. again, I think that's the embrace of God.

In response to our need for sacred space, Rev. Jennifer Glover of Pilgrim UCC in Wheaton and I will host a prayer vigil on Thursday, June 16, from 7 to 10 PM in the CCC sanctuary.
Our open and affirming sacred space will provide a place for prayer, solace, and listening. We will open our time together at 7 PM with a brief public prayer service honoring the lives of those slain in Orlando. Afterwards, our sanctuary will be open for ongoing community prayer. Pastor Jennifer, Pastor Gloria Grant, and I will be available to meet with any individuals who wish to pray and talk with a minister.

On Friday, June 17 at 6pm, the Young Adults and Families of Pilgrim UCC (2206 Briggs Rd at Layhill Rd, Wheaton, MD) invite any and all to join in a Potluck Dinner. It will be a time of fellowship, conversation, and community connection. A movie will be set up for the kids. Singles and families of every kind are welcome. Bring a dish or beverage to share, or just bring yourself.

On Sunday, June 19, CCC will continue to honor and re-affirm our Open & Affirming Covenant during our worship service at 10:00 AM (note the time change). This month marks the one-year anniversary of the Supreme Court decision that made marriage equality the law of the land. Brings your friends and join us for a time celebration in worship, giving thanks for the ways in which we see the Spirit restoring equality and dignity to all and recommitting ourselves to open and affirming ministry.

Yours on the Journey,
Pastor Matt

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