Letter: Lifted up
Editor of the Reformer:
I want to thank all of you who responded to my recent question and especially to those who organized and attended Monday's LGBTQ time at The Root and the Brattleboro Post Office vigil, the gathering at St. Michael's Episcopal Church, and the vigil at Centre Congregational Church. As a person of a deep faith that asserts and requires of me a witness, above all, that no one is ever alone and that the shelter of the Most High is not an individual pup tent but a vast covering for all, being able to gather in that shelter was hugely comforting and strengthening for me, a stranger whom you took in. Thank you all.
I found the music at both times very powerful. I was so glad to hear from Bert a reading of Psalm 10 and to realize we have come this way before and asked the same hard questions and made the same difficult affirmations of the divine.
I was raised in part by North Carolina Quakers whose birthright was gifted me. I loved hearing the Query read by the Friend from Putney Meeting. I think witnessing the discipline of answering those hard Queries year after year as a child in Meeting taught me to try never to evade the hard truths of my life. Most of the time I hope I succeed. But the queries wouldn't be necessary if we did not stumble and fall.
I was gratified and lifted up by the presence and chant of the member, unknown to me, of the Brattleboro Jewish Community. As you can see, the notion of covering (from which is derived stole, the one I wear on Sundays, as is also the Burka) is never far from me. Alan Dann gave me his prayer shawl before he died. It saw me and the congregation of West Dover CC through a year of ministry together when I served as interim there last year, and I have spent a lot of time under it this week.
I have one further request. I missed, when we prayed for those killed in Orlando, the number 50. I am sure this was a logistical oversight, but what follows is important for me to say. A very troubled man killed 49 others early Sunday morning. Christians are commanded to pray for them "who do spitefully use you," for our enemies. It's hard for me to imagine Omar Mateen as an enemy whose name is obliterated in the household of the Holy One, so conflicted and fraught with guilt, anger, fear and self loathing was he. It is easier for me to feel my enemies are those who constructed the matrix of hate that made him so. In any case, I missed praying together for Omar Mateen, at least by numbering him as a victim. I will not be with you Sunday but back home in Philly, but I urge us all to do that hard thing and pray also for him (and harder, his family, including a father who wishes LBGTQ people dead) on Sunday and always.
Thank you all so much. Please share my thanks with those in the interfaith community I do not know. There is no greater solace than being together under the shadow of the Almighty, especially when we, like the psalmist, have such hard questions to ask and so much to do.
The Rev. James H. Littrell, Consultant to Congregations and Communities, June 21
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