I just returned from a deeply moving and inspirational interfaith service for unity at a church in downtown Gainesville, organized by 25 members of the local clergy as a counterpoint to this Saturday's planned burning of the Qu'ran by a fringe church leader. Below the jump, I am posting the contents of the program without comment, as the speakers and substance tell the story on their own.
Unfortunately I can't post any photos, as my PDA camera is broken. However, several news agencies were there, so I hope visuals eventually start hitting the airwaves. By my rough count at least 200-250 people attended, despite this happening in the middle of a workday on one of the first weeks back to school, and with very little advance notice. While the church was not quite "Easter Sunday crowded", several people had to stand in the rear. Most were local residents rather than UF students, though some students were there. In particular there seemed to be a predominance of retirees, probably reflecting who could make it at noon on a Wednesday. All manner of folks attended with all types of dress. I saw at least one camouflaged hunter's cap, and southern drawls abounded.
THIS is the inclusive, forward-looking Gainesville that I have come to know since moving here a couple of years ago -- the one with one of the broadest municipal anti-discrimination ordinances in the country (recently re-affirmed by popular vote), a cutting-edge renewable energy initiative, and a town that generally embraces all people in the same way it embraces its Gators. This is also a representation of the America I believe we are, when we are at our best.
Terry Jones has made his choice. It now seems that nothing will dissuade him from the action he and his small group of followers intend to take this Saturday. We now therefore have a choice as well: how to respond. I had first hoped that this "protest" would be seen as the crass showmanship that it is, and that we could ignore it. That choice, however, is no longer available to us. What we can do now, in addition to rejecting the message of this event in no uncertain terms, is use it as a catalyst to reach out to our neighbors and redouble our efforts to build the Beloved Community. Take an act of hate that was meant to divide us, and let it unify us instead. That process began today.
Not everyone can come to Florida and speak out in person, but everyone can do something in their own community. Bad consequences will flow from Jones' actions. We must drown them out with good ones.
(In the meantime, here is one easy thing you can do. And if you ARE near Gainesville, come downtown this Saturday at 5 PM for a larger rally of community service and unity)
An Interfaith Prayer Service for Unity and Remembrance
Holy Trinity Episcopal Church
Sept 8, 2010
The Reverend Luanne Loch, Holy Trinity Episcopal Church
James Chamberlain, Burt Wetherington
Catholic Action Resource Exchange
The Reverend Luanne Loch
Hymn: My country, 'tis of thee
Readings from the Holy Writings of World Faiths
From Hebrew Scripture
Keith Dvorchik, The University of Florida Hillel
Hear O Isreal: the Lord is our God, the Lord alone. you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all our might. Deuteronomy 6: 4-5
You shall love your neighbor as yourself. Leviticus 19:18
Rabbi David Kaiman, Congregation B'nai Israel
May we see the day when war and bloodshed cease, when a great peace will embrace the whole world. Then, nation shall not threaten nation, and humankind will not again know war. For all who live on earth shall realize we have not come into being to hate or destroy. We have come into being to praise, to labour, and to love. Compassionate God, bless all the leaders of all nations with the power of compassion. Fulfill the promise conveyed in Scripture: "I will bring peace to the land, and you shall lie down and no one shall terrify you. I will rid the land of vicious beasts and it shall not be ravaged by war." Let love and justice flow like a mighty stream. Let peace fill the earth as the waters fill the sea. Amen.
From Christian Scripture
The Reverend Dr. Harold Henderson, First United Methodist Church
Jesus answered, "The first commandment is, 'Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this. 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other greater commandment than these. Matthew 22
Father Roland Julien, St. Patrick Catholic Church
O Lord our God, you are the creator and maker of all people the world over. Your mighty power guides and directs every moment of our lives. You are so good in blessing us day after day. Your greatness and goodness calls us to acknowledge you as the giver of all our gifts.
No matter who we are or what part of the world we are from, you give us life and provide for our every need. You made us all as brothers and sisters and from your hand, you have placed us in different countries all over this great world. You are the loving God who made each and every one, and so we acknowledge you in different ways, because we all have different customs and cultures.
Because we are all yours, you call us to love you and love and respect one another from one side of the vast ocean to the other. May you guide us in doing so, and may we ever and always acknowledge you as our loving God and ever generous creator, and may this be so for our children's children forever and ever. And all God's children say: Amen!
From the Quran
Bassem Chaaban, Islamic Society of Central Florida
Say: O People of the Scripture! Come to a common word between us and you: that we shall worship none but God, and that we shall ascribe no partner unto Him, and that none of us shall take others for lords beside God. And if they turn away, then say: Bear witness that we are they who have surrendered unto Him. Aal'Imran 3:64
Bassem Chaaban, Islamic Society of Central Florida
O God! You are the Peace. The everlasting peace is from You and it returns to You. O our Sustainer! Grant us the life of true peace and enter us into the abode of Peace. O Glorious and Bounteous One! You are blessed and majestic. Muslim Prayer for Peace
Lighting of the Unity Candle
Nikitas Theodosion, St. Elizabeth Greek Orthodox Church
The Honorable Craig Lowe, Mayor of Gainesville
(Congregants will be given a ribbon. Please process to one of the various trees about the church as a sign of unity. During the ceremony, the hymn Let There Be Peace on Earth is sung.)
Prayer for Those Who Serve the Community
The Reverend Milford Griner, Pleasant Plain United Methodist Church
May God who blessed our ancestors bless us, together with all those who unite in prayer, those who pray, those who give, and all who devotedly involve themselves with the needs of our community and land. May the Holy One reward them, remove sickness from them, heal them, and forgive their sins. May God bless them by making all their worthy endeavors prosper, as well as those of the entire people. Amen.
A Prayer for the Nation said by all
The Reverend Eve MacMaster, Emmanuel Mennonite Church
Almighty God, who has entrusted us with the care of this great land: We humbly ask that we may always prove ourselves a people worthy of this truth and pleased to do your will. Bless our nation with honorable industry, sound learning and mutual respect. Save us from violence, discord, and confusion, from arrogance and greed, and from every evil way. Defend our liberties, and fashion into one united people the multitudes brought from all the corners of the earth. Through obedience to your law, may we show forth your glory among the nations of the world. In the time of prosperity, fill our hearts with thankfulness, and in the day of trouble, strengthen our trust in you; all this we ask in your holy name. Amen.
The Reverend Dan Johnson, Trinity United Methodist Church
Compassionate God, we gather today to remember, to pray, to look beyond ourselves to You, the One in whose image all are created. We have experienced hard and difficult times, due to our propensity to turn to hate and misunderstanding rather than love and empathy. We are not sure why fear is so ubiquitous and such a powerful motivator, but it is. And despite our knowledge that "perfect love casts out fear," we sometimes persist in our fearfulness.
And yet, at our best moments, we know, we really know that you are God and your love and grace are over all your creation, and that you call us to live each day, drawing on your never ending source of love. And so, today, we choose so to live. Grant us strength so to do. Amen.
A Moment of Silence for Those Who Lost Their Lives on September 11, 2001
The Reverend Larry Reimer, United Church of Gainesville
May the time be not too distant, oh Lord, when all Your children will understand that they are brothers and sisters, so that, one in spirit and one in fellowship, they may be forever united before You. Then shall your kingdom be established on earth, and the word of Your prophet shall be fulfilled: the Lord will reign forever and ever. Amen