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Pastoral Letter on the Pulse Nightclub Shooting in Orlando, FL – 6/17/2016

There are no words, in any language I know, that can capture sufficiently the wrongness of death. It’s loss is infinite, for every human life is woven together into the vast and sacred tapestry of being. When even one of our lights goes out from the earth, the planet, the cosmos, the very Divine itself is made less. As both the Talmud and the Qur’an affirm: when one life is stolen from the world, it is the same as if the whole of the world had been destroyed.

For 49 sacred and beautiful lives taken this past weekend, there are no words. There are not enough tears in the ocean to cry, there is not enough breath in the sky to fill our lungs full enough to wail and to grieve. In this country and many other places, the gay club is a sanctuary. It has been so for generations: a place where people disowned and denigrated – by their family, by their religion, by their society, or all three – come together to celebrate the sacraments of being loudly and irrepressibly alive together. To experience the communion of each others’ company and the simcha of laughing and dancing and being exactly who they know themselves to be – sometimes for the first or the only time. That such a sanctuary should be shattered, and by a man who seems to have been trapped in a prison of his own self-hatred…there are no words.

There are not enough tears in the ocean, and yet we must cry. There is not enough breath in the sky, and yet we must wail. There are no words, and yet we must speak. Speak because this horror had its roots in hatred and injustice, and our grief, and our anger are energy for work. The hard work of confronting such hatred, of dismantling such injustice, of shouting and singing and laughing and dancing again and again the truth our faith affirms: that humankind’s diversity is not the cause of its failure, but the source of its beauty. That the luminous mystery of our wide variety as a species – from how we look and speak and dress, to what we believe and how we worship, to how we love, how we have sex, and how we express and transgress the great multitude of our genders – that this is Holy, that this is Truth, that this is the very manifestation of God themselves.

May the Source of Peace send peace to those who mourn, especially to those of us who are Transgender, Bisexual, Lesbian, Gay, and/or Queer, and most especially to those who are also people of color – to all those most deeply harmed and targeted by this attack. All of us have a duty to speak and to act against this terrible act and the long-standing evils that laid the groundwork for it; but let us also remember that those of us who are straight and/or white have a profound duty to listen. May peace come in its time, but may it be a peace which is struggled for, built by the hard work of human hands to make the world more whole.

There are no words, friends, and yet we must speak. And in that unfailing human determination to do the impossible – to name the unnameable, to bind up what has been broken, to heal what has been torn asunder – in that Divine imperative, lies our hope.

Amain. Amen. Amin.

Yours in Faith,

Rev. Kelly Weisman Asprooth-Jackson


First Parish Church

225 Cabot St

Beverly, MA 01915


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