BY THE REV. CHAZ SNIDER |
As I watched the events unfold last week in Charlottesville, VA, I experienced a mix of emotions. There was anger, there was fear, there was sadness, and there was heartache. There was anger that people would promote hate and racism. There was fear that this violence would spread. There was sadness for the injuries and loss of life. And there was heartache that we are still fighting the battle against bigotry, hatred, and racism.
As Sunday morning came closer I began to wonder how we could address what happened as a community of faith. I did not believe it was something that could be ignored. Two Sundays ago at our church, Ardmore Moravian, we had communion in remembrance of the August 13th revival of the Moravian Church.
As these two things sat in my mind, the image of the communion table came into focus. When the Moravians experienced conflict and disagreement 290 years ago, they came together around the communion table.
At the communion table there is unity, there is togetherness, and there is peace. At the table, the well-being of all is the utmost priority.
We as Moravians hold dear the concept of unity in Christ. And that is why the table is so important: because there is only one communion table. There is not a black table and a white table. There is not a Republican table and a Democratic table. There is not a rich table and a poor table. There is one table, where Christ’s body was broken and blood poured out for all humanity.
But unity is not some fluffy concept that sounds really good on a bumper sticker or some unattainable utopian ideal. To truly say we come together in unity despite our differences, is to also say that certain things are not welcome.
When we gather at Christ’s table, hate is not welcome. When we break bread and pour wine in remembrance of what God has done, racism is not welcome. Violence and bigotry have no seat at this table. True unity means urgently resisting the ideas of hate, bigotry, and racism.
Last Sunday night my wife and I attended a vigil for unity in response to the Charlottesville events. At a park in downtown Winston-Salem, a variety of people gathered. It was organized by local Republican and Democratic groups to inspire unity. At the end of the vigil, we all held up candles to honor those who were harmed and to stand in solidarity together.
My wife and I stood there with our Moravian lovefeast candles. A familiar symbol to anyone who has been to a Moravian Christmas lovefeast. It is a candle I have held probably hundreds of times in my life. Although this setting was very different from where I usually have held this candle up before, the meaning behind why we hold that candle up is the same.
The flame of that candle proclaims that God is not distant, far away, or absent. It proclaims that God has come to dwell in the midst of our world despite it continued brokenness, violence, and hatred. My hope for us as Moravians, is that we can live into our traditions of unity and that those traditions will empower us to resist any forces that wish to promote hate and division. Holding that beeswax candle with its red trimming is a radical statement of love no matter where you are.
Rev. Chaz Snider is the pastor at Ardmore Moravian Church in Winston-Salem, NC