June 2016 Times Ink Article
For the next few weeks, we will be hanging a rainbow flag outside of Richmond Congregational Church, United Church of Christ as a reminder of the beautiful diversity of God’s children, and as a statement that our Sanctuary is a safe and welcoming place. In faith communities we call our worship spaces sanctuaries because they represent a place of safety where we can bring our full selves before God in all of our messiness, grief, joy and celebration. The park in front of Burlington City Hall became a sanctuary for the more than one thousand people gathered outside on June 13 to mourn the people who were killed and injured at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida. I was one of many local clergy gathered for the vigil and I found myself standing next Christian, Unitarian, Jewish and Muslim faith leaders as well as Sen. Bernie Sanders. Imam Islam Hassan of the Islamic Society of Vermont spoke on behalf of the faith leaders and affirmed that Islam is a religion on peace, and the act committed was one of hate. He said, “What happened was evil, and evil has no place here.”
In the wake of such an atrocity we sometimes ask, “Where was God?” I believe that the violence committed at Pulse was not of God. God’s name is sullied when it is invoked to justify violence. God was there at Pulse though, in the hands of the first responders and the ER nurses and doctors who tended to the victims. God continues to be there as people around the world gather to pray, mourn, and denounce this hateful act and work for peaceful solutions to such violence.
My faith teaches that we are made in the image of God, and this image is beautiful and diverse. I am proud to serve an Open and Affirming Faith community, and preach in a Sanctuary that is open to all. We often quote the UCC tagline – “no matter who you are or where you are on life’s journey, you are welcome here.” As each speaker took their turn at the microphone during the prayer vigil, I was reminded about how much progress has been made in recent years for the GLBTQI community, and yet how much work still needs to be done. Additionally, I was reminded that Islamophobia, like homophobia, has no place in our culture.
When violence occurs, we sometimes look to point the finger at a particular group to explain what has been done. But instead of looking for someone to blame, we should focus our energy on creating communities of peace, dialogue, and reconciliation. The world needs more sanctuaries – both sacred and secular – where we can bring our full selves before God. As we stand in the face of violence and say, “not in God’s name” we proclaim that another way of living is possible. May we rise to the challenge set before us, and continue the hard work of creating safe places for all of God’s children to be together – no matter their sexual orientation or gender identity, religious affiliation, race, ethnicity, or economic status.
Rev. Katelyn Macrae, Church Office (802) 434-2053