There are so many of the world’s problems that can be solved in an Irish pub.
After last night’s vigil held at the home of Rabbi Maranta in the Glebe, myself, my partner and one of our colleagues went down to the nearest pub that just happened to be holding an open-mic night. Listening to people spontaneously make music seemed to bolster our ability to cope with witnessing what it looks like when people spontaneously make hate. It was a sobering moment (no pun intended – okay – small pun) that let the truth of what we had just shared sink in.
We raised a glass to the world’s problems. We had cried enough for the night that we could smile again without pretending that what happened in the Glebe was anything but ugly. We kept our clergy collars on as a witness to hope and our commitment to keep on hoping in the most powerful sense of that word.
For those of you who are wondering what it is that I am talking about, the home of Rabbi Anna Maranta was vandalized in the middle of the night this past Monday in the Ottawa neighborhood known as “The Glebe”. A bold red swastika was painted on her door with a racial slur added for good measure.
(You can check out the CBC article here
And so, myself and the Rev’s Trisha Elliot and Caroline Penhale joined about 50 others in front of Rabbi Maranta’s home for a hastily organized vigil. Jessica Heatherington of Glebe St-James had met with her earlier in the day. People in the neighborhood, on their way home, stopped to join. Others paused in their cars to acknowledge our witness. We were young and old, male and female, Jews, Christians and Muslims and people of unidentified faith. We sang, we shared, we stood in silence. We laughed, we cried. We shared the plate of Baklava someone brought. Communion never tasted so good I joked to myself. People kept remarking about how we didn’t know each other and yet it was good to be there together. I can only imagine what may have been going on in the heart of Rabbi Maranta, except that the longer the vigil continued the more you could sense her relax, as if the vortex of evil that had descended on her home was being swept up and thrown into the trash where it belonged (It’s one thing to get hate mail. It is an entirely different thing to have someone show up at your door).
She asked if there was someone who could close in prayer.
Pause ….. more pause…. and more again.
I stepped up and tried. I had not said much throughout the night (Those of you laughing at that, I can hear you! grin). I spent most of the night fighting tears. I stepped up because I don’t think I could bear the deafening thunder of the the silence in that moment – as if to know that silence will not solve “this”. A conversation needs to start with something and hate will not be expunged by silent prayer alone any more than it will be expunged by violent indignation. Thoughts need to be expressed openly, fueled by a spirit of Hope.
It was perhaps the messiest prayer I have offered in a long, long time – meandering in my mind, being very concerned with including people of other beliefs into my very Christian language. I felt more pressure to do that than to “be good”. Messy as it was, it did me good to speak, to struggle to remain true to myself and know that others would likely have used other words, their words, to say something similar. It did me good to touch the messiness of what we are witnessing around the globe – the rise of rapid-fire-isms of all kinds. And maybe that’s why my prayer was messy. Maybe our conversations will just need to be messy for a while – while our resolve remains steadfast.
And then we left, as quietly as we arrived. Changed by what happened in the middle of the night before, we shared in Rabbi Maranta’s shock and grief. We were humble when we arrived, recognizing that sacred ground had been desecrated. And when we left, we were even more humble, I think, recognizing the power of hope.
What was left then, except to re-congregate and witness Hope come alive in the pub? To me, it felt like an Irish wake. Something had died that night – and it was hate.
Hope came alive and took its place.
Besides witnessing to our faith and raising our glasses to the problems of the world, there was not much else to do. Not much, except to get ready to do the whole thing over again and again for as long as it takes.
We need to do this again.
People get ready
There’s a train a-coming
You don’t need no baggage
You just get on board
All you need is faith
To hear the diesels humming
Don’t need no ticket
You just thank the Lord