God Appears in Atlanta

“The whole earth trembles and dances when the God of freedom appears.” (Psalm 114)

Reading Stephen Mitchell‘s rendering of psalms always makes me cry. It’s been more than 20 years since I first discovered them, and they have not lost their power to heal, to uplift, to console. I’ve turned to them regularly throughout the summer when I needed to shed tears of sorrow and of joy.

The attack at The Pulse Nightclub in Orlando was so painful for me. As the parent of a gay teenager about to leave for college, I imagined the worst about the world my child was about to enter. Would my child be the target of hatred and violence? Would my child be degraded and humiliated for being different?

There was a vigil in Atlanta, just days after the shooting, on the night of SOJOURN’s previously scheduled meeting for parents and families of LGBTQ kids. I was relieved to have a reason not to attend the vigil. I needed a safe space to discuss my fears. I had joined the group in order to show support for my child, not realizing how much support I would find in this community of parents.

While I pray for all of my children–for their health and happiness, and their safety in an uncertain world–I found myself unable to pray for anything in the days following the Orlando attack. I found solace only in the recitation of psalms, in the original Hebrew and in Stephen Mitchell’s English adaptations. These rich expressions of human emotion help me feel less alone.

After many months, Sunday I arrived in midtown Atlanta at the Pride Parade, where I felt the whole earth tremble and dance as the God of freedom appeared– in the faces of the crowd, in the shouts of joy, in the outpouring of support, compassion and love that surely drowned out the residue of pain and sorrow from June.

* * * * * * *

In February, as we greet the month of Adar with joyous laughter, my friend and Rabbis Without Borders colleague Michael Bernstein and I will receive an award from SOJOURN at their annual fundraiser. The coming months will be occupied with convincing everyone I love to attend the celebration and to support the important work SOJOURN does, including teen suicide prevention, advocacy for LGBTQ students and training for faculty and staff in schools, and creating welcoming communities throughout the southeast.

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