Christchurch Mosque, New Zealand
O God, We Grieve the Hatred
O God, we grieve the hatred, the ugly, racist fear
that hurts our common living and harms those you hold dear.
For Muslims who were gathered to worship and to pray
soon found their lives were shattered as violence filled their day.
We pray for those now grieving for loved ones who are lost;
we pray for people suffering because of hatred’s cost.
For all of us, now frightened by what extremists do,
we pray: O God of mercy! May we find strength in you!
We grieve our lack of courage; we tolerate the wrong
of people who are racist; we simply go along.
We let the fear continue; we’re slow to challenge hate.
We say, “It’s not our issue,” until it is too late.
O God of love and mercy, you teach us how to be
a loving, caring people, a kind community.
May we reach out to neighbors and welcome others here
for love is what is needed to cast out pride and fear.
Copyright 2019 Carolyn Winfrey Gillette
The above hymn is sung to Aurelia (Samuel Sebastian Wesley, 1864). Aurelia is the tune to which we sing, “The Church’s One Foundation”. “O God, We Grieve the Hatred” was completed on Saturday after the New Zealand Mosque attacks on Friday. Singing this hymn as the opening hymn on this past Sunday at St. Anne’s Episcopal Church in Winston Salem, NC gave a clear context to our worship. Because it is Lent the service began with the Decalogue, a recitation of the 10 Commandments. As we came to “You shall not commit murder.” our rector, Ginny Wilder walked over to the bell which calls us to worship and rang it once for each of the 50 victims of the attacks in Christchurch, New Zealand. As she rang the bell she said their names and for many how old they were. In those stark moments as the bell rang over and over, the victims of one person’s hatred became my neighbors. The 8,000 miles between us dissolved.
“We grieve our lack of courage, we tolerate the wrong…” There was nowhere to hide as I felt the full weight of my own complicity in not challenging hate when I hear or see it. My cheeks turn red when I think of the instances when I have listened to someone “rant” about Muslims, or gays, or immigrants and not spoken up. We all know how hard it is to confront hatred. Yet that is what Jesus did over and over again in the gospels. With love and truth; by example and using stories, Jesus showed us how the “other” is our brother and our sister.
It’s hard for me “in the moment,” to come up with the examples and stories that might counter such hate. I want to have my own “parables” ready to speak. I think about the young Hispanic woman I met recently when I had surgery to have my knee replaced. As a nursing assistant she was helping me one day when she mentioned that her grandmother lived in Guatemala. There wasn’t time to talk more that day, but on another day when she was working in the kitchen and brought me my tray we had a longer conversation. In the late 80’s, the church where I was the rector, took several short term mission trips to Guatemala City to work at an orphanage called Agua Viva. Mentioning that, I saw her face light up.” Oh,” she said, “my grandmother lives in Guatemala City and she used to work for Agua Viva, doing laundry!” This connection led to her own story. She had come to the US with her mother to live in California. Her life was full of ups and downs – graduating from high school, a husband, three children, and then a divorce and as a single mom moving across the country to live in the northeast near family. There she met a woman who invited her to church; they became good friends. Her children became involved in serving at the church. “I never had to ‘make’ them go to church. They laid out their clothes the night before and were always ready when their ride came.” She trained as a nursing assistant and worked as many jobs as necessary to provide for her children. In 2015 she applied for legal status and got it just before the 2016 election. Her two oldest children did well in school and qualified for academic scholarships to colleges from which they graduated. Her youngest, who is in high school, moved south with her to escape the long winters. She is now working two jobs and as many hours as she can to make sure she can send her third child to college. Of the many things that impressed me about this woman, it was her joy. She was the bright spot of that part of my recovery.
I want her “parable”, her amazing story to be a part of the way that I “challenge hate” and so I pray: “O God of mercy, may I find strength in you!”