Dear President Trump,

A couple of weeks ago I told you about how our pastor invited someone who is currently experiencing homelessness to join her at the front of the church a few minutes into her sermon and how he proceeded to sing “Ode to Joy.” What I forgot to tell you is that the next week she incorporated the song formally into the service as our opening hymn. It was a beautiful way to honor his contribution and to convey to him and everyone in the congregation that all our voices matter and will be taken seriously.

Then last week at the beginning of choir practice I overheard our pastor checking in with some people about how they were doing after having been verbally threatened and attacked by someone who was escorted out of the building. (Just in case you are wondering, this was not the same person as who sang “Ode to Joy.”) It may seem odd to write to you about someone being given the space to add an unexpected element to the service and someone who’s behavior was found to be scary and unsafe such that they had to leave. It likely seems the second person’s voice was not being honored, maybe taken seriously, but not honored.

Having something like this happen in that context really pushes us on the issue of honoring and making space for all voices. I don’t know whether he was engaging in hate speech or actually threatened any bodily harm, and if not, whether his first amendment rights were abridged. I’d like to think they weren’t, but I don’t know. What I do know is that he was afforded the opportunity to leave before the situation escalated further and he, or perhaps someone else, became physical or said something so extreme that the authorities needed to be involved. I also wouldn’t be at all surprised if he were to want to return to church at some point that our pastor would be willing to work with him to find a way to do this that would be safe for everyone.

Now I’m realizing the real thread connecting these two situations is trust since trust both helped people be open to the first man and his way of sharing his gifts and it helped people know they didn’t have to allow someone to abuse them and they could effectively and safely manage a fraught interaction.

May we be able to entrust our safety to one another.
May we be happy to give one another the benefit of the doubt.
May we be healthy enough to trust our instincts.
May we learn to trust and be trustworthy as we work to build a just union.

Tracy Simpson

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