Fear and hatred will not have the last word

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Many of us in the Flathead Valley have just completed a weekend of worship. We prayed, sang hymns, listened to sermons and read sacred stories. Tragically, this weekend we witnessed the horror of senseless violence and death, the murders that took place at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. We responded with painful grief, sorrow and love for the victims, their families and the Jewish community.

Weekly we enter our own individual sanctuaries for an experience that is healthy and healing. The sanctuary is a place of worship of God. It is a place of safety. We are horrified to witness sanctuaries and houses of worship being desecrated by bloodshed.

As spiritual leaders representing many different denominations and traditions, we have gathered monthly in the Flathead to learn from our differences, share our spiritual journeys, and support each other in the challenges of leading our individual congregations. We gather as an intentionally diverse group of leaders who come from Christian, Jewish, and Indigenous spiritual traditions.

Our gathering began after neo-Nazis and white supremacists threatened the Glacier Jewish Community with anti-Semitic, hate-filled rhetoric and public threats at the end of 2016. Because there was no voice speaking from the Christian community against this barbaric rhetoric, this group of spiritual leaders decided to meet monthly to learn from one another so that we could build strong relationships and strengthen the faith community of the Flathead Valley.

We grieve the murders of 11 members of the Tree of Life Synagogue and pray for the speedy recovery of the injured congregants and first-responders. We pray for the grieving families, the community, the city of Pittsburgh, and our beloved country where this sort of violence is anathema to our values as spiritual people and Americans.

We condemn, in the strongest sentiment, anti-Semitism, hatred and violence as expressed in this latest incident. Anti-Semitism, and any form of attack on any group of human beings, has no place in our spiritual communities. We believe fear and hatred will not have the last word. Our communities are built to practice the hospitality of love and promote the vast diversity God provides our world.

We pray for healing and pledge to take action by speaking out against violence in our community, hatred of the other, and intimidation of our neighbors. We pledge to join together to build upon our valley’s diversity with grace and the integrity of our faith. We grieve this horrible loss in the Jewish community. May we all be strengthened as we pray for forgiveness and work for peace in our community and in our nation.

Rev. Morie Adams-Griffin, Whitefish United Methodist Church

Rev. Jeny Running Brook Covill, Co-Pastor, All Nations Fellowship, Columbia Falls

Rev. Peter Erickson, Our Savior’s Lutheran Church (ELCA), Columbia Falls

Rev. Dan Heskett, Northridge Lutheran Church (ELCA), Kalispell

Rev. Jeryl Hollinger, Mountain View Mennonite Church, Kalispell

Rev. Jason Johnston, The Nazarene Community Church of Whitefish

Sr.Judy Lund, St. Matthew’s Catholic Church, Kalispell

Rev. Miriam Mauritzen, Community Pastor First Presbyterian Church of Kalispell

Rev. David H. Rommereim, Retired Lutheran Clergy (ELCA), Whitefish

Rabbi Francine Roston, Glacier Jewish Community/B’nai Shalom serving the Flathead Valley

Rabbi Allen Secher, Retired Reform Rabbi, Whitefish

Rev. Dawn Skerritt, Columbia Falls United Methodist Church

Rev. Scott Thompson, Bethlehlem Lutheran Church (ELCA), Kalispell

Rev. Mary Wellemeyer, Unitarian Universalist Consulting Minister, Columbia Falls

Rev. Andy Wendle, Eidsvold Lutheran Church (ELCA), Somers

Rev. Steven Yurosko, Rector St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, Polson

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