A Pastoral Letter to the Laurel Heights Congregation

Beloved in Christ, yesterday was a bewildering experience for all of us. The events occurring in our nation’s capital were disgraceful and deeply disturbing. Last night some of us, gathering online to observe the Epiphany, prayed for courage and calm, for the safety of the innocent and the security of our vested national leaders, for accountability for those inciting and inflicting harm and destruction, and for healing and reconciliation in our torn and troubled nation.

Gunther Goldsmith was a Jewish musician in Berlin who lived through Kristallnacht, during which Nazis rampaged through Berlin and other cities, specifically raiding and destroying Jewish homes, businesses, and synagogues. A month later Goldsmith’s orchestra, the Berlin Kulterbund Symphony, performed Mahler’s First Symphony. Asked how he could continue to make music in the context of such despicable acts, he said, “In a time of ugliness, the best protest is beauty.” His wisdom, forged in the anguish of that horrific era in Germany, endures beyond his life, and in this moment becomes our own.  

Our faithful work in this time is to protest ugliness with beauty, goodness, kindness, love, understanding, honesty, accountability, and courage. Benedictine sister Joan Chittister would call this “seeding the beautiful.” 

Laurel Heights is a community of prayer, seeking God in both rejoicing and lament, thanksgiving and heartache. The church building will be open today from 12 noon to 5 p.m., and again from 7:00 to 8:30 p.m. for prayer in Scott Chapel. Bibles, hymnals, and prayer cards are available in that candle-lit space. Physical distance and mask protocols are in place for those who wish to come by for a time of prayer.

Remember also the ribbons at the Prayer Wall at the corner of Belknap and Woodlawn as well as the Prayer Walk along those two streets, whose guiding words speak to our moment in a poignant way. You can pray these words on site or wherever you are.*

My own prayer draws on the hymn we sang in sanctuary worship on Sunday. Sometimes we pray even before we know altogether the meaning of our prayers:

“O God, our help in ages past, our hope for years to come, our shelter from the stormy blast, and our eternal home . . .” Good and gracious God, you are our refuge and strength—refuge that assures us of your presence; strength that leads us into the world as disciples of Jesus Christ. Grant us wisdom and courage for the faithful living of these days. In a time of ugliness, guide us to seed the beautiful in every gesture, every word, every prayer. Through Christ our Lord we pray. Amen.

I hold you in my heart in a special way just now, even as all of us hold in our hearts our beloved country. May the days before us bring signs of hope and healing to a weary land.

In Christ,


*Prayer Walk guiding words:Breathe . . . listen . . . know . . . trust . . . hope . . . grace . . . joy . . . love . . . peace . . . justice . . . kindness . . . patience . . . forgiveness . . . mercy . . . listen . . . neighbor . . . welcome.