On October 27, 2018, I was horrified to hear about a mass shooting that occurred at the Tree of Life Congregation in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, while Shabbat morning services were being held. “Shabbat” is a Hebrew word, which means to rest or cease; and it is Judaism’s day of rest, and the seventh day of the week. The English version of the word Shabbat is Sabbath, and many religious faiths honor and observe taking a Sabbath. As one takes time for Sabbath, a space of quiet and rest, one takes time to be quiet and rest and in doing so one learns how to live again. Taking a Sabbath is truly all about healing, and as we know, healing involves making things whole once again.
After this horrific tragedy happened at the Tree of Life Congregation, I was moved to attend the Shabbat services at Temple Anshe Emeth here in our community. Temple Anshe Emeth is the second oldest Jewish congregation in the Miami Valley; and Anshe Emeth means “People of Truth” in Hebrew. After the service, I gathered with the Rabbi and others in the congregation for a meal and as we broke bread together we began to speak about the tragedy and the divisions in our country. Many deep feelings were shared that evening, and as we sat together, the idea began to form of some kind of community event that would be centered around peace and bringing our community together in unity. Reverend Todd Allen from Westminster Presbyterian Church was also in attendance that evening for the Shabbat services, and he, the Rabbi, and myself began to talk about what such an event might look like for our community and when we might want to do it.
Then August 4th, 2019 happened, and we had another mass shooting, this time in our own backyard, the Oregon District of Dayton and many from our local community were impacted by this horrific event. Now the time had come for such an event centered around unity for our community. It was then that I gathered Reverend Todd Allen from Westminster Presbyterian Church, Steve Shuchat who serves as the President of Temple Anshe Emeth, Pastors John and Stacy Scott from True Vine Church, and myself together to pray and talk about what an event for unity might look like for our community. This is when “Piqua United!” came into being.
It was time to bring our community together and bring to fruition what had been on my heart for months and months and had been stirring in the depths of my soul to address the deep need of bringing our community together and somehow wrap loving arms around us as a city and give ourselves one big hug! All my life, I have been one who works hard to include everyone at the table. This is my leadership style, and when there is division and pain, I am one to jump into that pain and find ways to bring those who are hurting together for a time of healing. The truth is that this is what we, as humans, have been created for and called to do! We have been created to love one another and to hold each other in the light; especially in times of great darkness!
Friends, our children, now more than ever, need us to model for them how to harmoniously live together, how to be kind to one another, and what it means to be a good neighbor one to the other. It saddens me because I am seeing our world become more and more divided, and it is painful to watch. It seems that we are more about pointing out how we are different then how we are the same, and our community of Piqua, Ohio is no different from the next…it is happening everywhere!
Piqua, just as every community in our country, is a wonderfully diverse community. The beauty of the fabric of our community is that we are not all the same. Yet, we are all part of the City of Piqua, and this is what we hold in common; and it is up to each one of us to make our community the very best that it can be. To encourage others in our city to join us as we move forward together.
So as I said previously, in order to help bring into being what we want to see for our community Piqua United! was organized and has been planned. It will be an evening gathering together in hope for our community. And, the truth is that hope itself empowers our intention and will give character to our actions. So, it is the hope of those of who are planning this event that our city will come together and stand in unity not only on October 20th, 2019, but each and every day that we rise from our beds.
The City of Piqua is a strong community that we have all chosen to call home. So, may we come together in hope for an even more unified community on October 20th, 2019 at 7 p.m. on the public square in front of the Piqua Public Library. It will be an evening focused on bringing our community together as we gather in peace, love, unity, and kindness. I hope to see YOU there!
Kathryn “Kazy” Hinds is Minister of the Word & Sacrament in the Presbyterian Church (PCUSA) and the mayor of Piqua. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.