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Pastoral Letter to congregations and pastors of Iowa Conference

Dear Friends,

As many of us were waking yesterday and getting ready to gather for worship together in our congregations, we learned the devastating news of the early morning massacre at The Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, FL. Our friends and neighbors were gunned down as they danced and laughed together. Lamentably, this is not the first time that the LGBTQ community has been targeted by violence. Would, oh Lord, that it could be the last.

Now, just one day following the attack, some has been learned regarding the victims and the gunman, and there will be much more learned in the days and weeks to come. What we do know is that for many of our LGBTQ friends and family, gay nightclubs and bars have been sanctuaries when churches, families, and cultures have not been safe. We know that guns of alarming power and heinous efficiency are readily available for legal purchase and have been in the wrong, albeit legal, hands time and time again. And we know that our Muslim neighbors and friends are faithful and loving people, repeatedly wrongly identified with the actions of domestic terrorists.

Now is the time for us to be the church. It is a time to pray. It is a time to fast. It is a time to grieve. It is also a time to turn tables and call out injustice. It is a time to be bold witnesses on the side of love. It is a time to claim the prophetic prayer of Jesus for all of us, the motto of our beloved United Church of Christ, and be as one, united in the face of evil, protecting the vulnerable, and valuing all of humanity as God’s and our beloved family.

As you are able, please join us in a one-day fast next Saturday, June 18th and prayer during the hours of 2am-6am on Sunday, June 19th (or 2pm-6pm if you need) to reflect on the horrific events of the previous weekend and to seek God’s care and wisdom for the days ahead.

God, may we hear your prayer, that we may all claim one another as beautiful and beloved siblings in your great family. May we hear your desperate cries for love and celebration of all of our bodies as sacred creations of yours, modeled in your image, in the beautiful diversity of colors, shapes, genders, sexual identities, personalities, and expressions of your love manifested.

Let us declare publicly, boldly, and persistently, God’s love for ALL of humanity, in all of its diversity! And when one part of the Body of Christ is targeted, let us make proclamation in word and in deed, of God’s unending and uncompromising love for that particular part of our body. The world needs to hear us say today, out loud with great conviction, “Our LGBTQ friends and neighbors are beloved members of our family, created in the image of God, and violence directed at them is an affront to us and to God!”

Beloved Church, let us boldly follow Jesus, by sharing love loudly and dauntlessly to overwhelm the darkness and hatred of our world.

In the Greatest of Hope,

Rich Pleva, Conference Minister

Jonna Jensen, Associate Conference Minister

Brigit Stevens, Associate Conference Minister