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Congregations in Loudoun vow respect, quest for equality as inauguration nears

File Photo/Rick Wasser
Over the past year, Loudoun faith leaders have been firsthand witnesses to the impact the presidential election had on members of their congregations.

Some expressed joy, while other showed fear over the course of the election and after Donald Trump became the president-elect.

Now, as Trump prepares to take office, representatives from 27 local congregations of all faiths are calling on the Loudoun County community to do something simple: Treat people with respect.

In a joint letter distributed over the past week, Loudoun congregational leaders expressed their commitment to “bringing people together across religious, racial, economic, and political party affiliations to build a strong Loudoun County.”

“Intense emotions showing seemingly intractable divides have recently brought about hurtful and demeaning talk, at times, characterizing other people in our community in uncivil and inappropriate ways,” the letter reads. “We are reaching out to you, Loudoun County, pledging our commitment to reaffirm bridges of trust and respect.”

Together, they also vowed to not “disparage” people’s emotional responses, whether positive or negative; not “smooth over the tensions” without having difficult conversations about issues that matter to the community; and refuse to “allow anger or fear” prevent them from relating to different people.

Many Americans have called the 2016 presidential election the most divisive in U.S. history. Hence the perceived need for the letter.

Amid the backdrop of some of the most pressing issues relating U.S. policy -- the Syrian refugee crisis, mass shootings, terrorist attacks both at home and abroad, abortion and more-- the election gave rise to candidates taking a hard line on a number of policy positions.

But perhaps no other presidential candidate came under as much scrutiny over their policy proposals as Donald Trump, whose policies and comments critics said singled out the county’s minority communities.

“I personally haven’t experienced a time in my life that has felt as divisive as this one does,” Rev. Anya Sammler-Michael of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Sterling, a co-signer of the letter, said.

Sammler-Michael said following the election, she met people who were satisfied with the results of the elections, as well as others who expressed “deep fear” for children and as well as for marginalized communities in Loudoun.

“The letter was our hope to express both our commitment to the county as a whole and specifically that those individuals that are feeling particularly vulnerable, to give them a sense that there are groups that are paying attention to their pain and trying to integrate it into how we serve the community,” Sammler-Michael said.

The congregations also vow to work together to “ build a community that respects our equality, and we will work until this same pledge and purpose is affirmed by all our neighbors in Loudoun County,”

If the community is to walk away having learned one thing from the joint congregation letter, co-signer Rabbi David Greenspoon of the Sha're Shalom Congregation in Leesburg, hopes it is that they make it a point to reach out and listen to people completely opposite of themselves.

“Whether its across racial divides, or alignments or whether it's across religious understandings...it’s my wish that we in Loudoun and we in America make it a point to connect to a part of that tapestry that doesn't look or feel anything like us and remember that we’re all equally in this,” Greenspoon said.

Here's the letter in full:

We, signers of this letter, have been and always will be committed to bringing people together across religious, racial, economic, and political party affiliations to build a strong Loudoun County. Intense emotions showing seemingly intractable divides have recently brought about hurtful and demeaning talk, at times, characterizing other people in our community in uncivil and inappropriate ways.   We are reaching out to you, Loudoun county, pledging our commitment to reaffirm bridges of trust and respect.

Let us begin by saying what we will not do -

We will not disparage anyone’s emotional responses, whether they are positive or negative, joyful or fearful.   Our ears remain open.
Neither will we smooth over the tensions, without having the difficult conversations about the issues that matter to the whole of our population. Our minds remain open.
And finally, we refuse to allow anger or fear to prevent us from relating to people who are different from us.   Our hearts remain open.

Faith, community, and civic leaders gathered in early December to open our ears, minds, and hearts to one another. We listened to the fears, experiences, and hopes of our neighbors in community.   Then we asked one another how we might move forward together.   We asked for humility and faith, for patience and understanding, for compassion and respect.  

Together, we pledge to uphold these very values in all our engagements in Loudoun County and beyond.   Our conviction demands that we stand together as a community: people of the Atheist, Bahá'i, Buddist, Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh, Unitarian Universalist and all faith and belief systems; Native American and any Immigrant group, rich, poor, speakers of all languages, from every race, ability and people, Gay, Straight, Bisexual, Transgender, Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, Green and Independent – Everyone! We do so firmly believing that we are stronger and wiser when we work together for the common good.

Together, we also pledge to pay close attention to the needs of the most vulnerable among us. We are all our brothers' and sisters' keepers.   We see and affirm the inherent worth and dignity in all our neighbors. Together we will work to build a community that respects our equality, and we will work until this same pledge and purpose is affirmed by all our neighbors in Loudoun County.

Pledged and Signed,

-Beth Chaverim Reform Congregation, Ashburn, VA
-Congregation Sha'are Shalom, Leesburg, VA
-Crossroads United Methodist Church, Ashburn, VA
-Eva Maria Torres Herrera, Coordinator DREAMers'MOMS VA
-Jared Melvin, President/CEO Loudoun Youth, Inc.
-Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington
-Kurt Aschermann, founder Community Table of Loudoun
-Loudoun Interfaith BRIDGES Board of Trustees
-Rev. Dan King, Minister, The Unitarian Universalist Church of Loudoun, Leesburg
-Rev. David A. Douthett, Pastor, Catoctin Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Waterford, VA
-Rev. Debbie Dodson Parsons, Pastor, Leesburg Presbyterian Church
-Rev. Dr. David Milam, Pastor, St. Andrew Presbyterian Church, Purcellville
-Rev. Jacquelyn Hollingsworth, Pastor Christ Chapel AME Church, Sterling
-Rev. Jessica McClure Archer, Assoc. Pastor, St. Andrew Presbyterian Church, Purcellville, VA
-Rev. Mark Feather and Rev. Kate Bryant, St. James’ Episcopal Church, Leesburg
-Rev. Molly W. Douthett, Furnace Mountain Presbyterian Church, Lucketts, VA
-Rev. Samantha J. Tuttle - Pastor of On Earth United Church of Christ
-Rev. Sunday Cote, Senior Minister, Center for Spiritual Living Leesburg
-Rizwan Jaka, Chair, Board, All Dulles Area Muslim Society(ADAMS)
-Robert J. Marro, Executive Director, Alliance for an Indivisible America 2020
-Sher JB Singh, Executive Director, Guru Angad Institute of Sikh Studies, Sterling, VA
-Sikh Mission of Virginia, Warrenton,VA
-St. Gabriel's Episcopal Church ~ Iglesia Episcopal San Gabriel, Leesburg, VA
-St. James United Church of Christ, Lovettsville
-The Congregation of Goose Creek Friends Meeting (Quaker,) Lincoln, Virginia
-The Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of Loudoun County
-Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Sterling, Sterling, VA

Comments


May end up being a double post.
drttp24 - you are reading the comments wrong. I made the comment BELOW my name. I know, the Internet is hard. :-(


drttp24 - Ummmm, what? I don’t understand why you reference me in your post?

That post was made by “TheShamblingVulgarityOfTrump”

Apology accepted


drttp24 - are your Jesus’ press agent? Please don’t suppose what Jesus or any other religious figure would “say”. Just come out and say that you disagree, and skip the silly hyperbole.


Maybe2Day Really??? Sexual Predator?
Where is your inclusion and tolerance.
Jesus would be disappointed with you.


The way that people are treating one another over their thoughts and opinions on Trump is incredibly sickening.  Nobody is coming out ahead here - we’re all losers.  This would have been the case, albeit more muted, had Hillary won.  Do you know how many people that I’ve blocked on Facebook because they feel compelled to be so foul about all of this?  Have some dignity, people!  And treat your neighbors and fellow humans with a modicum of respect.  Collectively we can make this Nation and World a better place, divided…well you know how that goes.


I’d like to add on to my overly cynical post below. I do think that this is a positive and helpful development and applaud the congregations that participated in this effort.


Regardless of what Trump will do, we certainly know what has already been done in his name. Minorities of all stripes have been in DT’s cross hairs since the very beginning of his campaign. Moreover, we’ve seen this ugliness - often directed at these very groups - materialize throughout the election cycle.

How many acts of defamation and violence have to occur before it’s “real” to some? How many swastikas or references to the KKK need to be scrawled on public property to raise the collective eyebrows of the community?

I wish that more congregations had signed the letter myself, but Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither will a coalition of the righteous. It’s a great start though, and with any luck, the letter will crystalize the need for action, and influence others in the community to throw in their support.


Loco - your description of these groups as ” left-leaning religious organizations” shows how out of touch you are with the real world.  This is a significant mix of religious organizations that have come together to promote cooperation and respect, yet you try to steer the conversation toward hate.  I am not sure why you are against conversations like this but I tend to believe it is your hang-ups, not anyone else’s.


THese are all left-leaning religious organizations.  I did not see a single Evangelical, Catholic or Southern Baptist church on the list.  It seems leftists are just fearful of what Trump will do instead of waiting to see what he will do.  Why cannot these liberals abide by what that great Democrat Franklin Roosevelt said?  “We have nothing to fear, but fear itelf.”


Came here expecting the standard intolerant trolling from the regular crown of predictable curmudgeons. Thanks, annoying activist left, for proving me wrong. This was a message of peace and inclusion. We need more efforts like this and I’m proud and impressed this even happened. I’d like to see participation from some of the area mega churches, LLC, but baby steps I guess.

As for the two misguided commenters so far: tighten up. The left needs good work from good people. You aren’t helping.


When you consider how many Christians have embraced a sexual predator like Donald Trump, you realize a great many so-called Christians care far more about politics than they do the teachings of Jesus.


Exactly ONE congregation of any kind in Loudoun County has reached out to or responded to Equality Virginia for transgender speaker. One.

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