As graduates of the University of Virginia, Mimi and I were horrified by the events in Charlottesville on August 11-12. Particularly, the image on Saturday of battle-clad thugs chanting Nazi slogans and carrying assault rifles in front of Congregation Beth Israel while the faithful were gathered for Sabbath teaching and prayer was an unimaginable affront to human decency.
My first call was to Rabbi Peter Hyman of Temple B’Nai Israel in Easton. I hope most, if not all of you, know the mid-shore Rabbi and his congregation. They are an abiding witness in word and action. I asked what I could do. “We’re having a service in Oxford Friday night, come help out”, he said.
As Mimi and I drove down US 50 on Friday, we passed Chesapeake College. There on the corner at the traffic light we saw our Dean, Charlie Osberger of Old Wye Parish and Mary Garner of St. Paul’s Centreville witnessing for Peace and Reconciliation! Arriving at Oxford Park, there was Bill Ortt of Christ Church, Easton and a dozen other clergy from various denominations. We also saw Bill & Kathleen Chilton and Jack & Frances Mason. They have been witnessing for peace and reconciliation since Fr. Ortt and I were in Elementary School!
There were probably many more Episcopalians witnessing for peace and reconciliation at these two events and many similar ones across the Shore this last week. We all renew our baptismal vows regularly “to strive for justice and peace among all people and respect the dignity of every human being.” It is essential that we align our actions to our words.
During the Shabbat Service we heard a reading from a letter President George Washington wrote to the leaders of the Touro Synagogue in Newport, Rhode Island on August 21 1790. “The Government of the United States … gives to bigotry no sanction, <and> persecution no assistance.” Google the whole letter, it is truly inspiring.
We heard from the Islamic Center of Delmarva, “Islamic peace is not a graveyard full of people who gave their lives, but rather the peace in our hearts, and the peace of our neighborhoods and the peace in all of our surroundings, including our nation, and the world.”
In the commentary on the Shema (Deuteronomy 6), the great creedal statement of Judaism, we heard: “We do not teach our children by words alone: May I make my life and actions into good teachings, for, in my conduct I must exemplify God’s teaching.”
I am grateful for our Bishop Santosh who reminds us continually of God’s love for us. I am grateful to share one small moment of peace and reconciliation from last Friday. May God the source of all peace, all mercy, all justice, and all love; fill us with the necessary virtues and the energy to unite all creation under God’s bountiful and just care.
I wish to add my voice of support and endorsement to the clergy and laity of the diocese who joined in this act of witness against bigotry, hatred, anti-Semitism and Nazism. We recall how many of our brave men, women and children sacrificed their lives, and in many cases had their lives taken to defend this nation and the world against this barbaric ideology. There comes a time when the ‘Word’ we preach and proclaim should take “flesh and dwell among us”. Your witness was a testament to the truth is this message. Jesus, our Lord and Savior personally witnessed against this evil with his own life. This is what it means to “take up your cross and follow after me.” Christians and all people of goodwill who know the Truth about God’s love – that it is pure, impartial and reconciliatory should always witness against evil in its various forms and shapes.
The question going forward is, what should the Christians do? The answer is simple, we witness to the gospel of love in the spirit of reconciliation, even for those with whom we disagree, and we witness through the message of spiritual transformation. There is no other message more powerful and life-giving than the one Jesus in his very person exemplified on the cross, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” We are called to condemn the sin, yet at the same time pray for the forgiveness of the sinners. As believers, we live in what is termed ‘the paradox of grace,” where we pray for the eradication of evil and the conviction that they who promote acts of evil will experience God’s spirit of redemption. In the meantime, we continue to promote the intent and vision of the Baptismal Covenant, and point everyone to the healing and transformative love of Jesus, the antidote to evil and hatred.
I thank Fr. Mark for his witness and reflection, our clergy and laity for their witness and invite the diocesan family to pray for our nation, president and political leaders, and all those who experience the forces of evil every day of their lives. Fortunately, we are a nation and people known for strength and courage in the face of evil and hatred.
My beloved, I am convinced that God will see us through this period. Love conquers evil all the time. As I once said at another forum outside of this diocese, “evil has a shelf life, and an expiration date.”
May God bless us all!!
The Right Rev. Santosh K. Marray
XI Bishop of Easton
The Rev. Fr. Mark S. Delcuze
Rector, Christ Church Parish, Kent Island