After the murder of 50 people in two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand on March 16, 2018, Common Table leaders issued a joint statement that was distributed throughout their various networks:
Today all people of faith across Oregon join the wider world in grieving the loss of 49 people murdered in two different mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. It breaks our hearts that such hate and deliberate violence would strike out at a worship gathering, where so many had gathered in the most intimate and vulnerable acts of prayer. We join our brothers and sisters around the globe in prayer today, even as we recognize that prayer alone is not enough. The Islamophobia and white supremacy that gave rise to this violence must be named, and even though this shooting happened on the other side of our planet, we must now see how this is a symptom of a much deeper spiritual sickness that threatens us all.
So in the midst of our grief let us not be blinded to the work that now confronts us. The work of hatred and violence must be met with compassion and understanding, and the deep desire to heal and rebuild our broken communities. Acts of murder must be matched by acts of friend-making, not just with those who look like we do or worship like we do, but with all our brothers and sisters regardless of race, religion, gender or sexual orientation. Here in Oregon we have the highest number of hate crimes in the country per capita, and so the need for this work here is especially great.
But as people of faith, we might still become the authors of a new kind of story. Instead of letting our various faiths divide us, our various faiths could bring us all together, for the very reason that faith is that fundamental heart-trust in the deeper threads of reality that bind us all as one. Here in Oregon, some of that work has already started: Muslims, Christians, Jews, Sikhs, Buddhists, Indigenous Leaders, and many others have already started building a Common Table where the revolutionary work of peacemaking and friendship building can start to grow in earnest. But this important work is just beginning and this important work belongs to all of us. Today in the spirit of our wisdom leaders and peacemakers all over the globe, we ask you to reach out to your local Mosque or Muslim Community to demonstrate your support, your solidarity, and your willingness to help. But let’s not let it end there. Let us continue the path of friend-making, let us learn how to practice it more and more deeply, more and more broadly, until it continues to spread out throughout our state, our country, and our planet until there are no strangers left. Only friends.
Diocesan Digest - News from the Diocese of Oregon
Last month, Bishop Michael Hanley and 29 faith leaders from around Oregon gathered to put aside their political and ideological differences to rediscover what they have in common. In this video, Bishop Michael shares a short reflection on that time of good and holy work.
Now That’s Something!
Writtten by Rev. Brian Heron - the Presbyterfor Vision and Mission for the Presbytery of the Cascades, 11.14.18
I just returned from a 3-day retreat at Pacific City for a new initiative called Common Table. Sponsored by our partner Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon and the Portland Leadership Foundation, 32 of us met to explore whether we, in the faith community, could present a unified face in the state of Oregon during this time of troubling divisiveness. We thought, “If a diverse bunch of people in the faith community could find ways to come together, treat each other with respect, and unite around some common goals then the rest of the community should be able to do the same.” It is no secret that in this divided nation some of that division has its origin in religious fervor and narrow agendas.
Attracting as much diversity to the proposed meeting was central to our goal. We were a diverse bunch of folks. Here is a snapshot of the diversity represented around the table:
Mainline Protestant (including yours truly)
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Welcoming Congregations (LGTBQ)
African Methodist Episcopal (AME)
Religious Society of Friends
As you can see it was ecumenical (meaning many Christian voices), it was interfaith, and it crossed numerous spiritual traditions.
The goal was to see if we could come together around a common purpose, a shared agenda, a mutual mission. Wisely the organizers facilitated this around a “common table.” We shared many meals together, prayed, meditated, sang and walked on the magical beach just outside our conference room.
The sunset that united us all
One evening we simply stopped. If our traditions had a way of reminding us of our differences and uniqueness the sunset reminded us that we all belong to the same earth and enjoy the same mystical connection. At 4: 52 p.m. we all stood together facing west and stared in awe as the sunset massaged our souls in unison.
I want to tell you that I went away feeling very hopeful. But don’t get me wrong. It’s not that we resolved everything or that we came up with a mission statement to which everyone could agree. No, I walked away hopeful because even in the places where we still had division and suspicion, we were able to say those things aloud to each other.
I was sharing this with a colleague shortly after my return and she said, “Wow. That sounds like you had created a safe space for people to be honest with each other. Now that’s something.” She was right. We didn’t resolve everything and go away singing “Kum Ba Ya,” but we did acknowledge that which still separated us and decided to stay at the table anyway.
I am hopeful.
I am hopeful because I have seen numerous protests across our country where division is the source of hurled insults and thrown rocks…
I am hopeful because a day does not go by where Republicans and Democrats don’t demonize each other and tear each other down…
I am hopeful because much of what I see in this time is rooted in hatred and fear…
I am hopeful because despite all the negativity that we have experienced, at this retreat faith leaders acknowledged that we still have work to do, we still have great differences, we still harbor lingering suspicions of each other…
…AND we sat at a common table anyway.
Now that’s something.
Oasis Songs: Musings from Rav D
Written by Rabbi David Kosak’s
At the end of one of our healing services last week, I mentioned from the bimah (pulpit) that we knew that Pittsburgh would not be the last mass shooting. The next one might not be a synagogue, but it would certainly come. Little did any of us know how little time would elapse before this latest travesty in Thousand Oaks.
But before a dozen people were murdered for doing nothing more than listening to country music at the Borderline Bar and Grill, a congregant approached me after the service. They shared that a rabbi shouldn’t think that there would be another mass shooting—rather, a clergy person should remain optimistic and hopeful.
I sat with that thought, pondering its implications. Then over the past few days at an interfaith gathering, my new and very upbeat friend Juan Carlos stated to our group, “we are not afraid of reality, because we are people of faith.” He succinctly gave language to my own intuition. Put another way, Rabbi Jonathan Sacks once commented that while he is not optimistic about the future, he remains hopeful. Rabbi Sacks wanted to draw a distinction between two types of thinking. The implication is that optimism is based on a realistic assessment of the current situation. Hope, meanwhile, has a larger frame, grounded as it is in faith.
The reality is that whatever conditions lead to gun violence, mass-shootings and hate crimes have not changed since Pittsburgh, or Columbine or now Thousand Oaks. The vast reservoir of guns in circulation, the isolation and anger people carry around with them, insufficient reporting and mental health—none of the many root causes have been addressed. It is therefore sadly rational to assume that our headlines will be darkened again and again. One can’t be optimistic that mass shootings will disappear anytime soon.
Yet we can be hopeful that a better future is ahead. We can be hopeful that love will overtake hate, that unity of purpose can overcome senseless divisiveness, and that people of good will can reclaim our public space. Real hope endures where optimistic reasons are lacking.
With all of that said, I am also optimistic that the necessary conditions for our own society’s redemption have been sown. Across the country, small groups of unlikely individuals are banding together. Experiments in new social institutions that can restore public trust are occurring. Because so many of these efforts are incipient—just beginning—it is understandable that many people are given to despair or are overwhelmed with compassion fatigue. Yet all great changes begin as small seeds. What changes their potential from being signs of hope to indicators of optimism comes down to persistence. What this means is that when there are enough facts on the ground—enough continuing efforts by sufficient people in numerous locations—then societal change begins to crystallize.
For the past few days, a remarkable group of faith leaders gathered on the shores of the Pacific at our Common Table. Who were we? Muslim, Jewish, Evangelical, LGBT Christians, Buddhist. Catholic, Sikh, Indigenous, Lutheran, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Baptist, Presbyterian, Episcopalian, Methodist, Church of God, Quaker, Christian Missionary Alliance, Hindu, Baptist, Mennonite, Young Life, United Church of Christ). We were people of color. Native Americans. The marginalized and society’s privileged. People on the Left, the Right and the apolitical. We met in good faith. We struggled with the diversity of our experience. This was not the typical people who attend interfaith gatherings, and still we intend to cast our net further and wider.
At the end of these intense discussions, we each signed a letter of agreement to continue this work. We want to present a unified face of the religious to our state and to our political leaders. We intend to map out the deep support our faith traditions collectively provide to society’s forgotten. We will work together in the spaces we agree, even as we honor where our personal commitments diverge from one another. We pledge to affirm the dignity of all God’s children. And we (for a change) have the material resources to begin this work.
The enemy of this type of work is human impatience, the murky vision we each are granted and the seductive call of violence and hatred. If there really is a pendulum that swings, then the exact place where one might suffer from the least hope and where one can see least clearly, is at the farthest part of the pendulum’s travel. Yet in that darkness is the very promise that a correction is coming.
Whether you want to call that hope or optimism is up to you. But we are setting a place at this Common Table. And I am grateful to have a seat there.
Shabbat Table Talk
1.What common tables are you part of?
2.What are you most optimistic about? What worries you the most