After a week of preparation and celebration of our children being home from school, feasts of abundance and fellowship, as well as sharing times with good friends and family, Rev. Missy and I were ready to rise today with nothing on our agenda except relaxing in our pajamas and practicing some self and couple-care together.
We have a practice of slowly waking and reading our individual Facebook updates together, sharing in the hard news, as well as reveling in the happy posts, sending our friends love and kindness as we start the day. Some days are harder than others, and this was one of those days.
Over 300 precious souls were murdered during Friday services at the Sufi, al Rawdah Mosque in Bir al Abed, Egypt.
We at this church not only send our prayers to all affected by these horrors (which is par-for-the-course for churches and religious folx), but commit to the work necessary to raise support and awareness for the victims of this atrocity, as well as see a stop to acts of murder at houses of worship. We cannot possibly understand what you are all going through, yet we stand with you, ready to be of help however we can. May the lives of those lost find peace and happiness in the afterlife, and may those left behind, over time, find safety and healing.
This was no ordinary (as if there is such a thing) "church bombing". This was a coordinated attack, involving the centrally focused explosive, as well as people with firearms waiting outside the only two exits of the mosque to greet the fearfully fleeing with gunfire. Reports say that even ambulances took fire as they rushed to the scene to help the injured and dying.
In places where things are uncertain, we seek out our churches as places of clarity. In places of scarcity, we gather at our churches as places of abundance. In times of war, we hurry to our churches to find peace.
Our churches are sanctuaries when the rest of the world is harsh, and in a world where the crossing of lines/boundaries/consent is pathologically practiced, it's easy to see why houses of worship quickly change from 'neutral & holy ground' to 'soft target'.
As someone who works diligently every day, along with an amazing team of dedicated board members, to make sure our church (and greater organization) is a welcoming, Hospitable, and safe place for all who come to pray, news like this strikes closer to home. As someone with a remarkable amount of privilege in this country, the weight of what-to-do responsibility is heavy. As someone who practices, very openly, in a religion that does not share in the inherent bias-privilege of America, I fear for my family, my congregants, and sacred guests at our Fire.
Can't we all just get along?
No, we cannot; however, we CAN have rules of engagement... not only the letter of the rules, but the spirit of them, too.
No one in church is "expecting" to get shot at, or blown up, or ANYTHING other than an expectation to share in community and open themselves up in the hope that they will connect with what they came to church to connect with.
Churches certainly have agendas. Heck, if you don't think Mountain Ancestors Grove has an agenda that involves the liberation and working toward an equally powerful place 'at the table' for our First-Nations siblings, our LQBTQIA+ community members, and our neighbors and loved ones of Color/Culture, then you've not been paying attention. The stances we take and the things said from the pulpit DEFINITELY have an agenda, and because of that we catch the eye and incur the ire of the groups we stand opposed to (Misogynists, Nazis, Dualists, White-Nationalists, the Religious Right, etc.)... and that's OK. Obviously, we're not going to 'get along', but we can engage one another without compromising our humanity to do so, and just like Voldemort's Horcruxes, committing acts of violence against soft targets kills a soul, piece by piece.
Our histories teach us that, even in times of fiercest war, opposing sides would co-recognize sacred times and places (the Roman Legions with Saturnalia, the Allies and Germans on battlefields of WWII, etc, etc, etc,), and it would seem we've not learned those lessons from our past.
Let us pray...
Gods of our family, folk, and forebears, hear us, we pray!
Cast your blessings unto us in this time of need.
Share with us your perspective and wisdom that we may engage one another with respect,
Even in times of fierce conflict.
Grant us your gifts of divine strength when we want to lash out across appropriate boundaries.
Shine your light upon us all that we may see the way clear, and never take an eye for an eye
Leaving all blind and in the dark.
Benevolent and Merciful Ones, protect us while we pray,
For we all need time to recharge and renew our spirits before reengaging conflict again.
Gods of our family, folk, and forebears, hear our prayer!
Be with us on this day, and all days.
- Rev. Wm. E. Ashton, ADF