Editorial Note: As an experiement in collaborative leadership, I crowd-sourced what people wanted to tell our Muslim neighbors. You can find the original post here: https://www.facebook.com/lauraeeverett
Islamic Council of New England Annual Banquet
Saturday December 19, 2015
Islamic Center of Boston, Wayland, MA
Rev. Laura Everett, Executive Director, Massachusetts Council of Churches
I bring you the greetings of the Massachusetts Council of Churches, 17 different Christian traditions with congregations in every one of the 351 cities and towns across Massachusetts. The Massachusetts Council of Churches and the Islamic Council of New England have partnered for decades to understand our different traditions and dispel misunderstandings. Together we believe in diverse, informed vibrant religious witness in the Commonwealth. Massachusetts is richer for your presence here.
I bring you the prayers of many Christians who honor your deep faithfulness. I bring you the hope of many Christians who reject the fear mongering. We share your outrage. We lament the demonizing of refugees and immigrants. You do not stand alone, your Christian neighbors in Massachusetts stand with you. Call upon us, and we will answer.
We see how you are being slandered. We know the violent acts of some in the name of Islam are not an authentic expression of your faith. We are mortified by what is being said by some people in this country, especially the venom coming from people who claim to speak from a Christian faith. We reject a caricature of Islam at odds with the faithful, peaceful, compassionate Muslims we know here in Massachusetts. Violence done in the name of religion is an act of violence against religion. A small group of extremists in either of our communities does not speak for the whole.
As Executive Director of the Massachusetts Council of Churches, I visit congregations across our Commonwealth every Sunday. I hear this in their prayers: your Christian neighbors are praying for your safety. You do not stand alone.
Tomorrow, in our season of Advent as we approach the birth of Jesus Christ, we Christians will hear the story of Elizabeth and Mary. Elizabeth is an elderly woman, disparaged in her culture because she never bore a child. Mary is an unwed, pregnant teenager. Two women, the most devalued of society, become the bearers of God Almighty. These women, rejected and reviled, proclaim the greatness of our God. Tomorrow, we Christians will hear the story again of how God uses that which is reviled to bring about a deeper faithfulness.
Your faith is being disparaged in our culture right now. But I tell you this, God has before and will still, lift up that which is mocked, reviled, derided. God has used the lowly, the vulnerable, the rejected. God has before and will still, use the faithfulness of the lowly to magnify God’s glory.
In the Gospel of Luke, Mary, Mariam the mother of Jesus, says this:
“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”
So I say to you, our Muslim cousins, you fellow decedents of Abraham, your Christian cousins here in Massachusetts will not leave you. We believe in a God who Mariam says will “scatter the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.” Our God will bring down the powerful from their thrones and lift up the lowly. We stand with you. We promise to lift you up in this season when so many are trying to push you down. We will pray for your safety and your flourishing to the God of our ancestors. You are not alone.
I’d like to teach you this song written by Natalie Sleeth, a Christian woman who studied nearby at Wellesley College and sing a blessing upon you: