Remarks at the Providence Jewish Community Vigil following the Tree of Life Shootings in Pittsburgh

Current Affairs / Religion / Rhode Island

It is written in the Book of Proverbs (Chapter 16) that:

    The mind of the wise makes their speech judicious,

and adds persuasiveness to their lips.

    Pleasant words are like a honeycomb,

sweetness to the soul and health to the body.

And a little further it is written that:

    Scoundrels concoct evil,

and their speech is like a scorching fire.

    A perverse person spreads strife,

and a whisperer separates close friends.

    The violent entice their neighbors,

and lead them in a way that is not good.

I speak tonight as one among the many in this nation who are witnessing the scorching fires set by words spoken out of the fear of our neighbor, out of the fear, and not of love, of the poor who long sojourn in this nation.

The Prophets recall to us that God, who makes the blessing of rain fall on the just and the unjust, that same God expects us to welcome and care for all those who seek sanctuary and safety.

The Prophets, and the Holy Angels themselves, tell us again and again, to not be afraid.

And yet we are afraid. We are afraid of each other. And out of that fear we arm ourselves with weapons that can kill our neighbors in the blink of an eye. We don’t just arm ourselves, we build up arsenals and then we build walls between each other. And then words spoken out of fear, words spoken in the darkness, words that turn away from the light, are given power, power to kill. And the people are perishing.

I pray for the strength to not be afraid. I pray for the courage to embrace my neighbor. I pray that I might walk in the light of God’s love and mercy. And I pray that I will not walk alone.

I believe tonight’s gathering of people from across our state witnesses that the people of Rhode Island reject the whispered words of the perverse who would separate friends from one another, that would entice us to violence and not to good. I reject the ancient evil lie of antisemitism. And I reject those who whisper such things in the darkness.

As a Christian and as a Rhode Islander, I pray that our Jewish neighbors, our Muslim neighbors, our African American neighbors, our Latino and Hispanic neighbors, our LGBT neighbors, ALL of our neighbors will know that we reject evil words and actions that seek to divide us and make scapegoats of our neighbors.

Will you join me in a prayer?

Holy One, Light of Light and Source of Hope beyond comprehension; See your children standing together bearing our little lights and pushing back against the darkness of this night. Of your mercy and your faithfulness prosper our work and our witness. Be present with those who grieve and mourn the death of their blameless and beloved. Stir up in us the courage to stand beside the one who mourns and the one who is afraid, so that together, we would be one family united and illumined in love for one another and for you.

And let the people say “Amen”.

The Author

Episcopal bishop, dad, astronomer, erstwhile dancer...