Responding to Violence in Our World

A few weeks ago I took my seat on a Jet Blue flight that would take me from San Diego to JFK in about 5 short hours. I had just left the wonderful Mosaic Makers Conference where we figured out ways to center the experience of the global majority in Unitarian Universalism—and beyond—in a world that is becoming increasingly multicultural. We made some meaningful strides in spite of the difficulties that abound.

Little did I know that my world—our world—was about to change again. While on-line in flight, I received the news of the most recent terrorist attack in New York City, the vibrant city that I live in. A truck speeding down an innocuous bike path deliberately killed eight persons, and injured numerous others—in the name of religion.

My heart, like yours, broke for the innocent persons killed and injured, for their families, on Halloween no less! A fun day. A day when typically, life is celebrated by all ages.

My heart, like yours, breaks as I ask myself, “what can we in Congregational Life do?”

We can pause. We can express our gratitude for the positive efforts being made. We can each do something. And we can celebrate the fact that none of us is alone—we’re a team. From there, we can work with our congregations by supporting their efforts to balance the disparities that abound. We don’t have to do it all but, if we want to be part of the change that we’d like to see, we do have to keep challenging each other, not by being hard on ourselves, but by being real. I shared some of these reflections last Sunday before we paused in silence to acknowledge the tragedy.

After service, I took the train and headed to represent the UUA and the Central East Region at Rev. Audette Fulbright’s Service of Installation. I sat across from a lovely couple. Happy. Carefree. Then, all of a sudden, there was a shift in mood. A shift in tone. Tears. The news: 26 persons were killed and about 24 were injured in another church shooting, this time in Sutherland, a tiny rural town in Texas. I made it to All Souls. Just as the service began I formally shared the horrific news, paused for another moment of silence, before extending warm greetings. My heart like all the hearts gathered, broke. My heart, like yours, breaks.

And yet, I know how important it is for us to allow our grief-filled hearts to invite faith, hope and love to seep in–drop by precious drop. Allow our hearts to guide us in coming together, once again, as often as we must, to claim that we will not let fear dictate the kind of people we are and will be, in spite of the anger, the tears and the fears. Allow us to be the people who know how to respond—yes, once again—by uniting our actions, our hearts and our minds in love. Allow us to remember as we work with the larger world, our congregations, and each other, that we are part of a team, doing the work that we have each been called to do.

Yours, HOPE

Rev. Hope Johnson, CER Congregational Life Staff

If you need assistance with talking about these issues with your congregation, please refer to the UUA’s pages on Trauma Response:

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Vigils for Orlando Victims Held Across the Region

By now, we all know the story of Orlando – it is the deadliest mass shooting by a single gunman in U.S. history, the deadliest incident of violence against LGBTQ people in the history of the U.S., and the deadliest terrorist attack in the U.S. since 9/11 in 2001.

It is overwhelming in so many ways.  And so many members of our Unitarian Universalist congregations were directly and indirectly impacted by this horrific event.  There is now and will be grieving and trauma counseling work needed for years to come.

Our Central East congregations responded immediately and meaningfully, providing sacred space for deep grief work along with tender vigils of solidarity and memorial rituals that help people come to an emotional and spiritual understanding of how this event has impacted all of us.

And the work of our congregations is also enabling people to stand up for the creation of Beloved Community and organize in new ways to prevent future gun violence.

There are stories of congregational action from throughout our Central East region.

Some of these stories been told in newspapers, television stories and websites. And we have links to some of these stories listed below. These are now our collective stories.

And some of these stories are only known among the members of the congregations who participated.  But they will be remembered for generations in those churches.

All of these stories are important.  All of these stories are now part of our lives as we work to shape the future of our world, creating the Beloved Community, here in the Central East and far beyond.

 

Rev. Joan Van Becelaere, Regional Lead

 

From Oneonta, NY:

From Buffalo, NY:

Plattsburgh, NY

Binghamton, NY

Canton, NY

Sterling, VA:

Northumberland, PA:

State College, PA:

Columbus, OH

Youngstown, OH

Cherry Hill, NJ

Newark, DE

West Hartford, CT

 

If your congregation needs assistance in helping those who are trying to work through their grief over this trauma, please see the UUA website for resources.

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