Friday, July 7, 2017

I invite you ...

There has been a lot of discussion, and some confusion, about what is happening tomorrow to respond to the presence of the Klan in our city.  There are lists of choices for you to consider.  Some have seen this as a sign of disunity, a disturbing demonstration of our inability to "come together as one."  Others, and I am one of these, see this panoply of possibilities as a reflection of the reality that there simply is no one way to respond.  I believe that it is a good thing that we have a diversity of responses, recognizing that there is a diversity of needs among those of us responding.  After all, a recognition of and respect for diversity is one of the things we are showing up to defend. So ... as I said last Sunday, and has been said in various ways since, please feel encouraged to engage in the events of tomorrow in ways that feel appropriate (and safe) to you.

That said, I would like to encourage all of you who can to join me at the First United Methodist Church at about 1:00.  Traffic downtown -- and parking! -- will be challenging tomorrow, so I'm suggesting trying to get to FUMC by 1:00 so that you will be there for the bystander and de-escalation training that will be going on at 1:30.  At 2:30 a contingent will leave the church and march to Justice Park.  We will be singing, and praying, and playing kazoos and vuvuzelas. We will be a presence.

When we arrive at the park there will most likely be a lot of other people there.  It is expected that only a few of these will be members of the "Loyal Order."  The vast majority will be people there to protest the klan's presence, with many coming from out of town.  Some will be there to bear silent witness; some will have come for confrontation.  Then there will be "the morbidly curious."  Those of us marching from the church, those of us representing the faith communities of our city, are being asked to engage the scene we enter in the way that feels right for you.  There will be details and suggestions at the training, but some may want to carry backpacks with water, Gatorade, granola bars, peanut butter crackers, and wet wipes.  Others will want to continue singing. Still others will be blowing bubbles. Others will be looking out for places of particular tension, and possible danger, and will move into those spaces to provide comfort and support (and, if need be, protection) to those who are feeling vulnerable. I intend to be one of these.

Yet however you choose to respond -- by attending the morning programming at the Jefferson School, going to the People's Picnic at IX Park, joining the crowd at the Justice Park, remaining at First UMC, enjoying the concerts at the Pavilion, attending the program at Jack Jouett Middle School sponsored by the NAACP, or staying home and living your life giving the presence of the klan no attention at all -- I encourage you, as I said on Sunday, to make that choice mindfully. It is not hyperbole to say that the world will be watching Charlottesville tomorrow. (We know that there will be national media coverage, and in a planning meeting this morning someone said that they'd been contacted by Al Jazeera.)  My prayer is that in the choices each of us make we both demonstrate the truth that "out of many, one" (e pluribus unum), and that we show the world how Unitarian Unversalists respond to hate.