The weekly news bulletin from St John’s Episcopal Church in Jackson Wyoming reveals the church at work in the community promoting Civility, Compassion and Love. The Rev. Mary Erickson writes:
Last week I mentioned the group that we have spearheaded to develop a unified, positive and healthy response to the planned invasion of an extremist anti-abortion organization coming to Jackson later this month. This organization, which visited Jackson last year, is intentionally targeting the children of Jackson Hole with violent imagery and hateful rhetoric, planning demonstrations outside schools, and planning to descend in full-force on the Annual Elk Fest, a community event built around the annual Boy Scout Elk Antler Auction on May 19.
A lot has happened this week:
We formalized our name:
Jackson Hole United
We agreed on our tag line for posters, etc.:
Civility – Compassion – Love.
We wrote a mission statement:
We are pro-life and pro-choice citizens of Jackson Hole standing for civility, compassion and love, united to protect our community and our children.
I was asked to present briefly at the Rotary
We have an email account.
We developed a Facebook page: Jackson Hole United – that launched Wednesday morning and by Thursday afternoon had more than 1,600 members.
We have clearly touched a nerve in this community. This began because there was a rapidly growing current of anger and agitation bubbling up in the community. My fear was that this would inevitably result in confrontation. This is not the right approach for a number of reasons.
First of all, what message are we sending our children? I would prefer that my children learn that the best response when confronted with hatred is love. That as a civil society, there are appropriate and inappropriate ways of conducting ourselves. That it is possible to disagree with one another and still treat one another with civility, compassion, and love.
Second, responding in a confrontational way simply feeds the beast. This organization – and others like it – thrive on attention, the more negative he better. If we respond negatively, we play right into their hands.
Third, who do we want to be as a community? This has the potential to be a defining moment for Jackson. It also is an opportunity for Jackson to set a standard for other communities to respond with this kind of positive approach.
The goal of Jackson Hole United is primarily to educate and provide a healthy and positive outlet for people’s anger. We now have a platform from which we can educate about the importance of non-engagement through a series of letters and emails, press releases, advertising, and social networking. We are also planning a public forum in the days before the anti-abortion extremists descend on Jackson to discuss our approach, unite the community, and provide tools that empower people to ignore with intentionality.
Finally, Jackson Hole United will provide posters and buttons with our positive message: Civility – Compassion – Love – to all citizens, and is encouraging all business owners in Jackson to put a poster in their window. The group will also be selling T-shirts with the same message in order to help fund the group’s efforts.
I am so proud to be a part of a movement that has brought together people on both sides of an issue that has divided this country for generations now. I am so proud to be able to represent St. John’s and the Episcopal Church in this endeavor. I am so proud of the number of parishioners who have jumped on board with us. We are creating something positive rather than responding to something negative. What a wonderful lesson for us all.
I tell you all of this because I have really jumped into the deep end on this. During my time in Jackson I have managed to keep myself cloistered away in the safe confines of St. John’s. Now I have put myself front and center in a very public way, and as your priest, I want you to understand my intentions and my passions. And I hope that I have your support.
If you are interested in joining Jackson Hole United, or would like more information, find us on Facebook or email us. And of course donations are more than welcome.
(The Reverend) Mary Erickson
St. John’s Facebook page is here.