Response to the Charlottesville Events from the Conference Minister

My Dear Friends,

Many of you, like me, watched the news unfold today in Charlottesville, VA. I was filled with sadness, horror, and disgust. And yet, I was also filled with fear. Charlottesville is part of the Shenandoah Association of the Central Atlantic Conference. This is my former association. I know Charlottesville. There is one United Church of Christ congregation there: Sojourners UCC. I have worshipped with them many times. I have walked in that park.

More fearfully, I know that organizers of Congregate Charlottesville. Rev. Seth Wispelway was ordained into the Christian ministry weeks after I left to come here. Brittany Caine-Conley is still a MID with the Shenandoah Association. I remember meeting with both of them as they applied to be a MID. I can report that they are both safe this evening. I can also say that Rev. Traci Blackmon, Executive Minister of Racial and Social Justice of the UCC is also safe and back in Cleveland. Unfortunately, not everyone is safe. As I write this, one is dead and 35 are injured. I pray these numbers do not increase.

Through the day, I, like you, have been on FaceBook and Twitter. I have struggled to find words that make sense. There were three things that touched me. I share them with you in the hopes that they will touch you and inform your thoughts and your words this coming night and coming day.

The first is the quote from Rev. Fred (Mr.) Rogers:

Look for the helpers. The helpers are the ones running toward trouble when everyone else is running from it.

(There were nearly 1000 clergy present today forming a human chain separating the protesters.)

The second are words from John Pavlovitz, a pastor and author:

We are not with you, torch-bearers.
We do not consent to this.
In fact we stand against you, alongside the very beautiful diversity that you fear.
We stand with you people of every color and all faiths, people of every orientation,
nationality, and native tongue.

The third is a prayer from a UCC clergy friend of mine, Rev. Sam Chamelin:

For Charlottesville:
For those who suffer in mind, body, and spirit from hatred,
For those charged with protection of the innocent,
For those who stand in harm’s way to protect their brothers and sisters,
For those who proclaim a world free of violence, bigotry, and racism,
And for those who know not what they do.
We pray to our Gracious and Loving God.

In the coming hours and days, there will be much more written and spoken. I pray that we will all respond in thoughtful and loving ways. If you feel moved to do more, I recommend to continue visiting the SECUCC website and the UCC website for ideas in the coming days.

Blessings always, but most especially today,
Marie Bacchiocchi

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