On June 17, 2016, Interfaith Alliance of Iowa’s Crossroads luncheon featured a thoughtful community conversation about the Orlando massacre, hate, violence, and gun control. Below are the remarks made by LeAnn Stubbs, a minister from Plymouth United Church of Christ.
Good Afternoon. My name is LeAnn Stubbs and I am the Minister of Care and Welcome at Plymouth Church.
I have spent much of this past week engaged in conversations about Orlando. And I have done a lot of listening to my GLBT sisters and brothers process feelings and reactions to this event. Knowing this, Connie asked me (yesterday at 2 in the afternoon, I might add) if I would speak today from the voice of the GLBTQIA community. She said, “a mash-up, if you will, of the conversations you have been having.”
I am not sure I have any new words to add to all the words you all have heard so many time. But maybe there is value to keep speaking with and listening to one another.
With that said, I am actually going to start with words that none of us ever need to hear again. Words spoken by a California Pastor, who, on Sunday night said, “the tragedy is that more of them didn’t die.”
What in the world does a person do with that? Someone who doesn’t even know me, hates me. Someone who knows absolutely nothing about my life, despises me. Someone, and someone who claims to speak on God’s behalf, wishes I were dead. What in the world does a person do with that?
Well, among so many other things, you might just feel alone. “Lonely” is the constant word that I have heard spoken all week long.
Just yesterday, a parishioner was in my office and said, “I thought I would be feeling angry. Instead, I just feel lonely.”
One woman texted me with these words, ”I am struggling with silent un-ease, too vague to color as sorrow, just empty and alone.”
Earlier in the week, a gentleman said, “I find myself feeling much like I did when I first came out. There are busy people all around me, yet I feel separate from everyone, really isolated.”
Of course the conversations also included a lot of memories of the bars being the only safe place most people knew. The bars as sanctuary. Then they would smile and say, “that was before Plymouth.” (and I trust that you all have heard similar things said to you about your house of worship.) Yet still the conversations would circle back around to loneliness.
Person after person mentions feeling alone, lonely, isolated.
Maybe it is too soon to be angry. Maybe we are weary of being afraid.
In a Raymond Carver short story, there is a brief conversation that goes like this: “so, did you get what you wanted out of life?” “Yes.” “And what was that?” “To know myself beloved on this earth.”
It is perhaps the most basic of human longings…to know ourselves beloved on this earth.
Sisters and Brothers, it is not right that a basic human longing be an item of privilege.
Brothers and sisters, as people of faith we must continue to speak and to act. We cannot allow hatred to go unchallenged. It is not OK that our family members, friends, colleagues and neighbors feel alone, lonely, isolated.
What is good for one part of the body is good for the whole. Every single person deserves to know himself or herself to be beloved on this earth…a child of God…made in God’s image…and embraced and celebrated by people and communities of faith.
I am filled with hope. I am filled with hope because I know that God’s desire for the human family is that each of us is welcomed and cherished for who we are in all of our uniqueness. I am filled with hope because you all are here. And my hope has a vision, a vision borrowed from West Side Story and the Prophet Isaiah—
Someday, somewhere, there is a place for all of us, a time and a place where you shall go out in joy, and you shall be led back in peace! As I make my way through life, the mountains and the hills shall burst into song! As we all live together in communities based on justice and respect, the trees of the field shall clap their hands! Instead of the thorn, shall come up the cypress. Instead of the brier, shall come up the myrtle.
Let us make it so!