Letter: The Loudoun Interfaith Clergy

Editor: In every tradition, there is a tenet to love our neighbor. As clergy in Loudoun County, we are called by our faith traditions to be a moral and ethical voice both for our parishioners and for the larger community. We acknowledge the hurt and harm caused to residents in Loudoun County by leaflets promoting fascist and racist propaganda distributed in the dark of night. Whatever the intentions—recruitment or prank—the act served to create mistrust and unrest, instill fear and terror.

We have observed the mental and emotional harm that comes to neighbors and friends, at the distribution of such hate. Our faith traditions call us to value friends and strangers alike as beloved by God. But instead we hear testimonies of students in our Loudoun County schools tell the stories of being demeaned by insulting taunts. Despite the generosity of the God of love, we know that many are demeaned and even openly threatened because of their style of dress and because of stubborn racism. A fellow clergy told of feeling compelled to stay awake through the night in order to protect his family following having a leaflet left at his house. These and other broader and deeper injuries do not measure up to the vision of love and justice that we are called to demonstrate in Loudoun County. We urge acts of neighborliness as our norm and rule.

As Loudoun clergy, we are beginning what we call the “Loudoun Love Your Neighbor Initiative.” Through various events and projects we seek to encourage Loudoun County residents to reach out and build relationships with each other toward a strong, diverse, and vibrant community where all may flourish. We join with those who are tying orange ribbons on our doors and mailboxes as a way of expressing our commitment and practice of love and unity with all of our neighbors. Doing so, we remember how Martin Luther King, Jr. affirming the value of our diversity didn’t call for us to be colorblind, but for us to be “lovestruck with each other.”

Recently, we sponsored a concert at Leesburg’s First Mt. Olive Baptist church seeking to make visible a way to affirm God’s love for all and our common humanity. This is a part of a #LoudounLoveYourNeighborInitiative that is meant to encourage acts of kindness and good to the breadth of the diverse makeup of our county, whether through public gatherings or as neighbors loving neighbors. On Monday, March 5, we are cosponsoring a presentation called “Life after Hate,” in which a former member of a hate group will speak to the community about his turn from antagonism to good.

The Life after Hate event will be held at Congregation Sha’are Shalom at 19357 Evergreen Mill Road across from Heritage High School in Leesburg’s at 7 p.m. We are delighted to know that U.S. Rep. Barbara Comstock, Attorney General Mark Herring and County  Chair Phyllis Randall will be joining us. As a way to expose and thereby heal the wounds of racism and fascism in Loudoun County, we invite all community members to join us, including those who distributed materials recruiting others to join in neo-nazi and white supremacist groups. This event is meant also to help any to leave such hate groups. It seeks to provide an opportunity for them to come forward for confession and reconciliation to apologize to the neighbors who live on our shared streets. There truly is a better life after hate.

There are certainly many ways to affirm our neighborliness. Rabbi Dr. Abraham Joshua Heschel wrote that while “in a free society, some might be guilty but all are responsible.” We encourage residents to invite each other to dinner, especially towards befriending people of a different race or ethnicity or to learn about different religious holidays. We ask friends and neighbors to speak up for one another when taunts and insults are spoken, or acts of prejudice or exclusion are practiced. Don’t just be more tolerant, be truly inclusive. Do not isolate yourself from difference; embrace it. You may feel uncomfortable at first but soon you will come to know the stranger as friend, as a person with similar concerns about their teenagers or their job, with the rising cost of groceries and a problem with the car. As we do justly, love with kindness and walk humbly with the God we worship, we imprint that divine way onto our communities and our county.

Loudoun Interfaith Clergy

Rev. Alice King, Minister, Unitarian Universalist Church of Loudoun, Leesburg

Rev. Dr. David Milam, St. Andrew Presbyterian Church of Purcellville

Pastor Jim Wishmyer, Leesburg United Methodist Church

Rev. David R. Drinkard, Harmony United Methodist Church, Hamilton

Pastor Chip Giessler, Evergreen United Methodist Church, Leesburg

Rev. David Norman, Crossroads United Methodist Church, Ashburn

Rizwan Jaka, Board Member & Interfaith Chair, All Dulles Area Muslim Society

Syed Akhtar Alam, Board Member, All Dulles Area Muslim Society, Ashburn

Hurunnessa Fariad, Outreach/Interfaith Coordinator, All Dulles Area Muslim Society

Rev. Wayne Arnason, Unitarian Universalist Congregation, Sterling

Pastor Gerry Johnson, Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, Leesburg

Rev. Jacquelyn Hollingsworth, Pastor, Christ Chapel AME Church, Sterling

Rabbi David Greenspoon, Congregation Sha’are Shalom, Leesburg

Rev. Deborah Dodson Parsons, Pastor Leesburg Presbyterian Church

Rev. Daniel Vélez Rivera, St. Gabriel’s Episcopal/Iglesia San Gabriel, Leesburg

Rev. Holly Hanback, St. Gabriel’s Episcopal Church, Leesburg

Pastor Michelle Thomas, Holy and Whole Life Changing Ministries, Leesburg

Rev. Sunday Coté, Center for Spiritual Living, Leesburg

Rev. Molly W. Douthett, Furnace Mountain Presbyterian Church, Lucketts

Rev. David A. Douthett, Catoctin Presbyterian Church, Waterford

Rabbi Amy J. Sapowith, Beth Chaverim Reform Congregation, Ashburn

Rev. Mark Feather and Kate Bryant, St. James Episcopal Church, Leesburg

Rev. Samantha Tuttle, St. James United Church of Christ, Lovettsville

Rev. Dr. Mary Mason, St. James United Church of Christ, Lovettsville

Pastor Steve Weedling, Middleburg United Methodist Church

Rev. Dr. Joseph M. Vought, Community Lutheran Church, Sterling

Rev. Annabelle P. Markley, Community Lutheran Church, Sterling

Rev. Tracey B. Lyons, Mt. Zion Cooperative Parish, Hamilton

Gary Mears, “The Porch at Faith Chapel,” Lucketts

Rev. Roland England, Christian Community Church, Neersville

Debbie Sudduth, Clerk, Goose Creek Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends, Lincoln

President Guy Hicks, Ashburn Stake, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Rev. Corey Z. Gault, Providence Baptist Church, Leesburg

Guru Sangat Singh Khalsa, Raj Khalsa Gudwara (Sikh Temple), Sterling

Pastor Tony Forstall, Mt. Olivet and Mt. Pleasant United Methodist Churches, Lovettsville

Pastor Tyrone E. Allen, Christ Star Church of God, Dulles

Rev. Elizabeth Brookens-Sturman, Brambleton Presbyterian Church, Brambleton

One thought on “Letter: The Loudoun Interfaith Clergy

  • 2018-03-01 at 3:32 pm

    “heal the wounds of racism and fascism in Loudoun County”

    The wounds of fascism? What fascism?

    So, a bunch of clergy is all in a tizzy over leaflets. Where were all you good Christians when atheists were pummeling and mocking the nativity on the courthouse for years and years. You didn’t stand up against that hate, but now you unite against some unknown malcontent distributing paper.

    I hope you have as much fortitude in defending Christ Himself.

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