PIQUA — Approximately 100 community members gathered in the public square outside of the Piqua Public Library on Sunday evening, joining together to promote unity and kindness in the face of tragic events like the mass shootings at Tree of Life Congregation in Pittsburgh, Pa. last year and at the Oregon District in Dayton this summer.
City of Piqua Mayor Kazy Hinds explained how Sunday’s Piqua United event came about following those mass shootings as she joined with other members of the community to find a way to bring people together.
“May this time be a time of reflection,” Hinds said.
Hinds read a litany on community and belonging from Rich Dixon, saying, “We gather as family and as friends. We make this space safe, caring, and welcoming. We listen to each other with unconditional acceptance.”
Following Hinds, Steve Shuchat, president of Temple Anshe Emeth, read a prayer against against racism and oppression written by Alden Solovy, a liturgist, poet, and teacher. Shuchat read, “Oh people of conscience, cry out. Cry out against arrogance. Cry out against hatred and anger. Cry out against violence and oppression. For God requires us to stand in the name of justice and freedom. For God requires us to oppose terror, to muster our power and energy against racist aggression, and to protect all houses of prayer.”
The praise and worship team from Grace Family Worship Center followed Shuchat with music, and Pastor Eugene Collier of Grace Family Worship Center gave a prayer, praying for unity between the church and the government and giving thanks for government agencies.
“There’s just so much evil in the world,” Collier said before praying for everyone to “work together as one body” and praying for the kingdom of God to come so “there will be not a separation anymore.”
“We’re here tonight to promote unity,” Pastor John Scott of True Vine Church said following Collier’s prayer.
Scott spoke about how people who commit the violence at mass shootings have to dehumanize other people in order to hurt them. He said the key to unity “is that we see one another and we see the commonality to our humanity.” Scott went on to say that people can disagree with one another, but “peace is what holds us together,” and he went on to call for people not to dehumanize one another.
“We can be one in Piqua if we simply see each other as human beings,” Scott said.
Rebecca Sousek, the executive director of the Piqua Compassion Network, then read the Beatitudes from the Gospel of Matthew in the New Testament of the Bible, which were eight blessings Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount.
Pastor Todd Allen of Westminster Presbyterian Church then spoke about the Beatitudes, explaining the Beatitudes encourage people to respond with compassion in the face of life’s difficulties.
“You and I rarely choose the events that impact our lives,” Allen said. ” Which of us chooses grief, frustration, disappointment?” He went on, saying, “It always falls to us to respond to the events in our lives … Jesus lays before us the promise of a blessing.” Allen said Jesus was showing there is “more to be gained from cooperation than competition.” He added that the Beatitudes are not meant for people to become doormats, but they show that no one is “no better or no worse than the next person.”
“What Jesus offers to us is another way forward,” Allen said.
Mike Yannucci, a member of the Catholic community, spoke about the unity felt across the nation following the terrorist attacks on Sept. 1, 2001.
“We suddenly had time for others,” Yannucci said. He recalled the “feeling of love and brotherhood” felt during the days following the attacks, saying the community came together and people were tolerant and humble.
“We proved we could work well together,” Yannucci said.
Other members of the community who came forward, spoke, or gave readings at Piqua United included Father Rob Hill of St. James Episcopal Church, Amari Abdullah, Director Jim Oda of the Piqua Public Library, Pastor Andy Monnin of the Valley Church, Alyssa Keeler, Danielle Widney, Pastor Brian Hamilton of Transformed Life Church, and Pastor Stacey Scott of True Vine Church. Other musical performances included Joss Dennis and Stephanie Davey.
The evening ended with a pledge attendees took, pledging to treat others with kindness and “to love and not hate.”
Reach Sam Wildow at firstname.lastname@example.org. ©2019 Miami Valley Today, all rights reserved.