What a privilege to be among so many UC – CHS members and friends Monday evening for the Charleston vigil for victims of the Orlando Pulse nightclub shooting. I came with my family, and we were so moved – and empowered to action. Two rows of dignitaries and LGBTQQ leaders addressed a huge crowd, so truly Charleston could say, “We are Orlando.” This kind of solidarity and alliance fortifies the human spirit, and I felt a balm after so much shattering, and truly numbing media coverage. This kind of vigil also defines us not only as a church but also as a liberal religious movement, so we all can be proud we are showing leadership once again. Importantly, I know from a handful of conversations this week, the Charleston LGBTQQ community felt our support. Thank you to all who came so passionately, and on short notice.
Meanwhile, this tragic event comes at an unusual time for your Intern Minister. I have joined a group of UU seminarians reading the Quran for Ramadan – daily readings with online discussion. I am not Muslim, so I do not fast, but I do reflect deeply on what I read, as all observant Muslims are instructed to do. Truly, I am awakened and enriched by this non-Christian, Abrahamic scripture, even as I am reading it in English. (Only in Arabic is it considered sacred.) Much of the Quran is deeply difficult, as it is also culturally Arabic, and of course ancient, pre-modern law and theology is reflected. But I can fully reaffirm how important translation is to the reading of all scripture. My translation included metaphors that had not been modernized, and stood as racist, while my fellow study group were reading texts that were not. How helpful our well-practiced value of a responsible (personal and direct!) search for truth and meaning, to understand such a text. And as UUs know, there is nothing like reading for yourself, instead of relying upon common impressions and attitudes towards a religion – especially Islam. So I can affirm from my own reading the clear message from leadership in the Muslim community: Islam does not condone murder, and those who claim it does are not observant Muslims.
I look forward to seeing all of you “Heroes” Sunday at our James Island County Park picnic and service. Original music, heartfelt tribute, and great food!
– William Epes, email@example.com