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Going to the Vigil

Pure Luck and I went down to Back Cove for the Candlelight Vigil tonight in support of Cindy Sheehan. We went out the door with a couple of candles and a teeny little lighter, aware of the breeze and not sure how to protect the lights we carried. As I was standing in front of the house waiting for him, a couple from down the street walked by with their dog; she saw my candles and asked, “Are we going to the same place?” I can’t tell you how good it felt to say yes.

Because I grew up in a political family, any actions of mine had the potential to reflect on my father, and so I learned to be very quiet, very discreet, almost politically invisible. I didn’t put bumper stickers on my car, or work on campaigns, or any of the simple things I always wanted to do. And as a pastor I find myself in a similar situation; I don’t want my political acts to reflect badly on God. So I hold back. But I’m coming to a point in my life where I can’t anymore. The earthly father I tended to conflate with God might not have liked it, but I believe God wants something different from me.

It started last fall, when I put a couple of bumper stickers on my car. One promotes the UCC’s God is Still Speaking campaign. The other was designed by Pure Luck’s former wife. In white letters on a green background, it says “Peace on Earth: It’s Not Just for Christmas Anymore.” I bought four dozen and gave them away to people at church and to friends and to colleagues, to #1 Son’s friends who have cars. The leftovers will be at our Mission Table at the Church Fair this fall.

I think that bumper sticker struck me in much the same way Cindy Sheehan’s actions have. It was just so *true.* How could I not share it? It says peace is more than a Christmas card slogan. Cindy reminds us that every death–and I mean every death, American or Iraqi or Italian or British or any other–in this conflict is a bereavement. I think this is important to remember, because as soon as we forget it we lose both our humanity and our Divinity. I believe this is just as true of a supportable war as of an insupportable war.

At Small Church we pass the peace at the end of the service, just before the Benediction. We do it then as a claim of and on our faith. It’s a reminder that Christ left his peace in our care, for us to transmit and live and enact. Peace is in our hands; there are no others.

So we went to the Vigil. About 40 people were there, at a gathering that appeared on the MoveOn website just this morning. The neighbors were there, and an old friend from Big Church. We stood on the side of the road with our candles, which felt to me more like a demonstration than a vigil, but I wasn’t in charge. A friendly woman loaned me a paper cup to shield my flame. Some people had signs to share, saying things like, “Bring Our Children Home.” Pure Luck went back to the car for a soda bottle, which he trimmed into a sort of hurricane lamp; it worked for about 30 minutes, then began to melt in on itself. By then it was time to go anyway. The time went by so quickly! The sun set, the moon rose, people honked as they drove by. One man shouted, “Kill Arabs!!!” The response of those around me was a gentle sadness.

Can sad and gentle voices make a difference in this angry and violent world? O God, I pray that they might!!!

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