By Melissa Lauber
Amid a storm of uncertainty on the day following national elections, Methodists in D.C. gathered for a vigil of justice and unity and to begin addressing pain caused by deep ideological division.
“This great experiment called the United States of America is still becoming. There has not been another collective on earth that has tried such a bold undertaking,” Bishop LaTrelle Easterling told the online gathering hosted, in part, by Asbury, Mt. Vernon, and Foundry UMCs.
“What will it take for us to be unified and to seek justice? It will take humility. It will take sacrifice. It will take selflessness. It will take love -- not a hallmark kind of love -- let us be clear; but an agape love,” the bishop said. “Calling for unity, as we seek justice, requires an understanding of the needs of others, and not placing our own needs above the collective good.” She called on United Methodists to embrace in the depth of their souls the words they so often pray: “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”
The bishop asked United Methodists to recommit themselves to repentance, reconciliation, to building the Beloved Community and being repairers of the breach.
“We have committed ourselves to be the Gospel in motion,” Bishop Easterling said. “We need to be willing and able to look hatred in the face and still see the face of God; not because we are naïve, not because we are weak, not because we fear retribution, but because we know what is required. It is to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with our God. That is a strength stronger than steel. That is who we are.”
The Rev. Ginger Gaines Cirelli, senior pastor of Foundry UMC, cautioned those at the vigil that the work of justice often requires spiritual stubbornness and that the healing of the nation will not be over soon. It will be a long journey, it has already been a long journey, she said. “But God will give us grace and has given us a savior to lead us, and guide us, and strengthen us for the way.”
The Revs. Ianther Mills, senior pastor of Asbury UMC and Donna Claycomb Sokol, senior pastor of Mt. Vernon Place UMC, echoed these remarks.
“I encourage us to wait on God with patient endurance,” Mills said. “I encourage us to find and center ourselves in the eye of the storm, and wait in that place where we meet the almighty God, who is our rock, and fortress, and our stronghold.”
“God does indeed go before us to show us the way, Claycomb Sokol said. “And God also goes within us, not with a spirit that is timid or full of fear, but rather one that is powerful and loving.” She encouraged United Methodists to “go then and share and shine this power and this love with all you encounter in the days ahead because we have so much work to do.”
The vigil also included remarks from the Revs. Alvin T. Durant, Presiding Elder of the Washington District, Mid-Atlantic Episcopal District of the AME Zion Church, and Christopher Zacharias, pastor of John Wesley Methodist Episcopal Zion Church in Washington, who encouraged all people of faith to continue to keep hope alive.
Then, the people prayed.
Bishop Easterling called on God to deliver all people from fear, hatred, abuse, division, and hopelessness. “We claim God’s peace that surpasses all understanding,” she said. “We know that we are called to be salt and light. In giving thanks, we remember that we are God’s sons and daughters.”
Patrick Rowley, of Mt. Vernon Place UMC, offered this communal prayer:
O God, where hearts are fearful and constricted, grant courage and hope;
Where anxiety is infectious and widening, grant peace and reassurance;
Where impossibilities close every door and window, grant imagination and resistance;
Where distrust twists our thinking, grant healing and illumination;
Where spirits are daunted and weakened, grant soaring wings and strengthened dreams.
All these things we ask in the name of Jesus Christ, our savior.