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Love Showed Up Today in Charlottesville

Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) President the Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray shared this reflection after the tragic events in Charlottesville, VA on August 12:

Today was a tragic day. We came to Charlottesville to bear peaceful witness but were met with hate and racist violence. My heart has been broken and I am deeply troubled by what is happening in this community and across this country.

Torches held above banners of hate are a familiar image from American history, but I had never witnessed it in person until last night on the University of Virginia campus. The racist parade marched right by St. Paul's Memorial Church, Charlottesville where an incredibly powerful standing-room-only worship service with people of all faiths and all colors came together in song, spirit, and blessing. Rev. Traci Blackmon told the story of David and Goliath, which is what it felt like on the streets of Charlottesville.

This morning, the faith leaders that were called here by Congregate C'ville went to Emancipation Park to block the entrance and prevent the Unite the Right rally from taking place. The message was clear – to stand with the community to say that hate has no place here. The white nationalist protesters we faced chanted Nazi slogans like “you will not replace us” and “blood and soil” in between anti-Semitic, sexist, and homophobic slurs. They wore Nazi emblems and carried pictures of Hitler. They wore Make America Great Again hats and held pictures of the President of the United States. And they had automatic weapons, paramilitary uniforms, shields, and clubs.

We expected to be arrested for blocking the park because the protesters had an event permit that had been affirmed by a judge’s order. But as the day began, it was clear the police were not going to intervene – that they were not prepared to keep the peace as clergy and the community bore witness to the power of love that leaves no one out. The message seemed clear – as it has been for some time. White supremacist groups are being given permission to act violently without repercussions, and this was on display in Charlottesville. They had their guns and shields. We had our songs, our faith, our love. And we had each other.

White supremacy is not new in this country, but its renewed boldness is. Today, Charlottesville was the front line of a battle against oppression that includes American militarization at home and abroad, the criminalization of entire communities, and the belief that violent power makes righteousness. It is time for people of faith and conscience, for anyone who is committed to a vision of the Beloved Community, and especially those of us who are white, to show up – and to continue to show up – forcefully and nonviolently for love and justice. We must unite against white supremacy, neo-Nazism, and fascism.

I am so proud of Unitarian Universalist clergy and lay people for witnessing courageously on the side of love. Our faith calls us to resist violent extremism. We must liberate ourselves from the paradigms of dominance and hierarchy that are destroying lives, communities, and the planet. Fear and hatred corrupt our humanity and cut us off from the spirit, from the holy, from goodness and beauty, and possibilities of creation. Only love can truly confront this corruption that puts our democracy, our liberty, and personal safety at risk. Love is more powerful than any weapon, even when it doesn’t feel that way. The faith and the courage of our ancestors in movements of resistance and liberation show us this truth.

Today was a tragic day, a day that ended in the loss of life and in a city left reeling. We lift in our prayers the family of the person who lost their life, their community, all the people injured and traumatized by the events – especially my siblings of color, people of Jewish faith and ancestry, and those who identify as transgender, queer, lesbian, gay and bisexual – and the city and community of Charlottesville. And too – we lift in our hearts a prayer thatuua

for all those whose spirits have been distorted by fear and violence – that they may come to know the capacity for love in their own hearts and spirits. As a people of faith, it is this overflowing, deep abiding love that must guide us to show up again and again for justice, for inclusion, for dignity and humanity.