Friends and members of Bethlehem Lutheran Church, sisters and brothers of all faiths or no faith, partners in ministry, neighbors, community leaders, public servants, peacemakers...welcome. This is a good place to be.
Welcome on behalf of the congregation here at Bethlehem. Thank you for being here tonight. I’m Pastor Dan Roschke, and I just arrived here from San Diego, to serve in this good place, a place that welcomes everyone regardless of religious history, sexual orientation, skin color, country of origin, ability, and on and on... YOU ARE ALL WELCOME HERE. But you know what’s not welcome here: the actions and words of hatred, discrimination, bigotry and violence.
On June 26, members of our congregation discovered early in the morning, upon arrival for some work projects — broken glass from our prayer station and stained glass window; cut wires for our sound system; every single pew/seat where you are sitting sliced open; and most racist, anti-semitic words and symbols scratched across these walls — the N-word, the F-word, swastikas, “You’re all going to hell”.
It was my first day here with my family. My children had never set foot in this space, only to discover such terror and evil. This community even more has been shaken to the core as this seventh and worst break-in was clearly directed this time at certain groups and took place in here, in the sanctuary, our holy space where we gather and worship in peace.
We’ve been picking up the pieces ever since. And your presence has aided in those efforts tremendously. Some of our families have stayed away — out of fear, out of sadness, out of confusion about what they would tell their children. And so quilts from outside our congregation started pouring in to cover these pews. Thank you for your prayers, your words, your strength and your covering us with beauty, diversity and love. Your presence here with us is so important.
This evening, you’ll be hearing specifically from Jewish, Muslim and Christian faith leaders. We’ll share a few brief videos, and then we’ll open up for a few minutes to hear from you, from some elected officials who are with us, and finally we’ll conclude by lighting a candle and singing together as we’re able, “We Shall Overcome”.
In a culture that, I’m afraid, has lost the gift of communal singing, let’s just counter that and begin by joining our voices too…for “we are called”...