A Sanctuary of Love

Sometimes we are given an opportunity to put our values into actions and become very clear about who we are and what we stand for. As I write, it is just hours after our campus was visited by a group with a value system very different from ours. The group is in town for a week long “conference.” While I thought that our support for reproductive choice, gay rights, and interfaith harmony might put us on the wrong side of these people, I did not anticipate several dozen of them on the sidewalk around our campus holding awful signs and yelling at worshipers as they arrived for our Sunday service.

I was concerned about the safety of the people, especially our children, and the emotional impact that the words being yelled would have on some of our people. Anti-gay, anti-choice slogans and words of religious intolerance are not what people expect to hear when they arrive on our campus. My concerns dissipated as I witnessed the reaction of the people as they arrived. Each person wanted to help – and they did. Some made our children safe and comfortable as we made the decision to have them go directly to the religious education center where they celebrated the birthday of one of the children. Other members stood just inside our driveway, so that, as worshipers made their way through the line of intolerance, they immediately encountered friendly faces. Others provided our interface with members of the Orlando police department who were present to provide a calm and reassuring presence.

Knowing we had the right to restrict access to our campus, we had to decide who we would allow and who we would not allow onto our property. The decision was clear. Anyone was welcome as long as their actions did not make our campus unwelcoming. This meant that they could not enter with signs, pamphlets, or t-shirts that carried their hateful messages. Some of them chose to leave the signs of hate at the sidewalk and join us for adult religious education and for worship. In doing so, rather than understanding us by what their leaders had told them about us, they got to see and hear who we are directly. That can only be a good thing. I was proud of our people’s ability to welcome them. People wanted to help – and they did. What should we do they asked? Over and over again, the answer came. Remember that we stand on the side of love. This was our chance to put that into practice.

Our campus and our sanctuary, though surrounded by hate, remained a place of love. Sometimes we are given an opportunity to put our values into actions and become very clear about who we are and what we stand for. As we go forward, may we watch for and create those opportunities each and every day!

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19 Responses to A Sanctuary of Love

  1. revkathys says:

    The audio for the service can be heard at:
    http://orlandouu.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=category&layout=blog&id=196&Itemid=292
    I hope to have the text up later today or tomorrow.

  2. Chip Dockery says:

    I am very proud of our Church! Thank you to our leadership and our membership that showed by example who we are.

  3. I have to say that even as a satellite, sometimes-participant of 1U, my heart swelled in reading this.
    What stuck out, the most, was not the bravery of those who joined your congregation (though, I commend and applaud those who did choose to learn, rather than remain on the side of hate without digging a little bit deeper) but those who welcomed potential love inside.

    It takes a lot to stand on the side of love when it is outside or at a public forum. To invite potential discord into a sacred, loving place shows a universal trust and peace that even those that do stand with love may not always feel safe enough to exhibit.

    Though I felt myself becoming teary-eyed in reading about the negative energy around the congregation, I think my more emotional response was to the POSITIVE energy put forth by 1U. Good job, y’all!

    • revkathys says:

      I don’t delude myself that we changed any hearts or minds yesterday. I’m not really sure what was going on for the folks who came in, but they did, and I feel blessed to be part of a congregation who rose to the occasion with such grace.

  4. Bev Alig says:

    You lead by example Rev Kathy – beautifully!

  5. Mary Ellen says:

    It was very hard for me, but I went up and shook hands with the ones sitting in our section. You were beautiful and brave. Meaning that you were shaking and nervous, but you carried on despite the situation and through it. Courage and bravery don’t mean the absence of fear, they mean feeling the fear, and doing what you’re there to do anyway. You were outstanding yesterday, and your Beloved Community is very proud of you.

  6. blackcatter says:

    Here is a short video of part of the service. Quality isn’t the best, as that wasn’t the main objective.

    https://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=10150244272546936&saved

  7. awesomedad1104 says:

    I’m really sorry I missed it. But I’m not surprised by the actions of our congregation. That is exactly how I would have expected us to react.

    I listened to the service today. An excellent sermon with just the right message for the situation. Rev. Kathy, I’m so proud to have you as the public face of 1U.

  8. I am so thankful for our sanctuary. The way everyone handled it yesterday showed how strong we are – strength from love.

  9. awesomedad1104 says:

    Did anyone think to offer our “guests” some water? I’m sure it was very hot out there and many of them would not be used to the Florida heat. It would have been a very hospitable thing to do.

    • revkathys says:

      A good question and one that was discussed. I chose to go with the law enforcement recommendation of complete non-engagement with those on the sidewalk. The thought being that this was where there was the greatest potential for a regrettable incident. I also knew enough about the group to believe that their organizers were well prepared to care for their people. However, the officers on the street were offer refreshment and the people who came on campus were invited to refreshment and conversation after the service, which some of them accepted.

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  12. Taigitsune says:

    I don’t lend much credence to the “truthiness” of the article posted by OSA, but nonetheless I’m concerned by something mentioned in their article:

    “It began with the instructor recognizing Rick Simpson as a Christian because he had a Bible in his hand. He told Rick, I hate people like you,” but allowed him to remain in the class.”

    If there is any substance to this allegation, we owe it to ourselves and moreso to our opponents to make amends and extend the hand of friendship.

    That notwithstanding, it’s encouraging to see our principles in action. We may not have swayed many hearts in their group, but as those from the outside begin to explore their feelings may they be encouraged by our example.

    • revkathys says:

      I certainly understand your concern. As I mention in my follow up post, the OSA author made up an entire conversation with me. I have followed up on this particular situation and believe that, while it seems to be based on an actual encounter, it is significantly misreported and out of context. Most of us have room for growth in how we handle difficult situations and I believe this entire experience can be used to to expand our ability to respond with grace more often.

      • Taigitsune says:

        Glad to know know this particular instance was followed up on. I am proud of my faith tradition, and I had hoped that I would not have reason to question that position.

        It seems clear enough to me that we stood on the side of love in spite of adversity. May we continue to do so! ❤

  13. uuu member says:

    Thank you, 1st UUs, for answering this challenge with tolerance, dignity and good will.
    I think it is important for those of us who support reproductive choice to acknowledge that there are legitimate differences on the questions of abortion and the beginning of life. Just as we honor others’ views on this matter, we would wish for them to honor ours.

  14. Victor says:

    It’s so sad to see people profess hate in the name of Jesus Christ…but, of course, they don’t see it that way. I, honestly, wish I was there to speak to them. As a Libertarian UU with a number of evangelical friends, my perspective sometimes differs from other UU’s.

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