Today I offered the invocation at the Orlando City Council. I decided to stay for the session. I figured that it would be good to learn how things work before I have to go on business sometime. There were no great controversies in the meeting but I got to learn a little about the styles of the Mayor and the Commissioners, pick up some of the local language short hand, and, again, hear about things going on in the City. For my efforts, I got to meet a number of people, including my Commissioner, Patty Sheehan, who welcomed me with an Orlando City pin. I am very grateful to congregation member, Ridge, who works in City Hall, for giving me a tutorial on local government before today’s appearance. Very helpful!
I like local government. It is one of the things I missed while serving as an interim minister. In that capacity, time spent in the wider community is not well spent since when we leave we take our connections with us. Before my interim work, I was often involved in the community. It goes back to high school when I campaigned to secure the funding needed for an addition to my overcrowded high school. My only elected position came when the town I lived in transitioned from open town meeting to representative town meeting, and I was elected as a representative. I look forward to again getting to know the workings of a local community.
One of the challenges for me is that I am a great defender of the separation of church and state. In my role as a minister, I try to be very intentional about my involvement. While I have mixed feelings about beginning public events with invocations, as long as it is the practice to do so, I want our inclusive voice to be part of the chorus.
I also believe that the separation of church and state is about institutions. It protects the freedom of “churches” as much as it protects the state. I do not think that institutional separation prohibits religious groups from being part of our public dialog. In fact, I think it is critical that as our communities and our culture wrestle with important issues of our day, we all bring our values to the discussion. I look forward to doing my part.