Milford clergy hold special service to bridge post-election divide

As election issues and election results continue to divide people around the country, some members of the Milford clergy have stepped forward to try to do something about it.

Pastor Brian Bodt of Mary Taylor Church in downtown Milford said a special Love Feast worship service will take place this week “in response to extended rhetoric, bitterness and animosity that is in tension with Christ's command to a love of others…”

The service will take place at Mary Taylor Memorial United Methodist Church on Thursday, Dec. 1, at 7 p.m.

Pastor Bodt and other members of the Milford Clergy Association will lead the service: So far those include the Rev. Karl Duetzmann of the United Church of Christ in Devon, the Rev. Christopher Files of Trinity Lutheran Church, the Rev. Patricia Leonard-Pasley of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, and Dani Levine from Mary Taylor Memorial United Methodist Church.

The public is invited.

“In a time of increasing strife in our culture, the hope for this service is to call us back to the best within us as people of goodwill, as Americans and, most importantly, as Christians,” according to an announcement about the service.

Pastor Bodt said a parishioner asked him if he could organize a service to counter the increasing tide of animosity that has arisen around the country since the Nov. 8 Presidential Election and the campaign leading up to the election. Bodt said he hesitates to cling tightly to statistics, but he noted that the FBI has reported a statistical increase in bias crimes.

And so when asked, he quickly recalled that the church has just such a mass for this situation: The Love Feast. This is the first time he has held the Mass at Mary Taylor Church.

Although the service is Christian, anyone of goodwill is welcome and encouraged to attend, a service announcement states. The theme is “God is Love.”

The Love Feast, or Agape Meal, is a Christian fellowship meal. It recalls the meals Jesus shared with disciples during his ministry and expresses the fellowship enjoyed by the family of Christ, church leaders said.

Readings, choral and congregational music on the theme “God Is Love,” prayers and testimonies about the love of God comprise the service, along with the passing of bread and water.

The service is free. Voluntary offerings will be directed through the United Way of Milford to feed the hungry.

Pastor Bodt said he has hope for unity, and he believes it will start with people becoming informed, accepting the flaws of both party’s presidential candidates, thinking about the issues and then doing something to address their own concerns.

“Nobody can do everything, but everyone can do something,” he said, suggesting that people find a hurt and then look for some way to help heal it.

Democratic Town Committee Chairman Rich Smith said people are coming together, not only in churches but also in support groups and through political action.

“We have received countless calls from folks, wanting to get involved,” Smith said.

“Despite all our nation's shortcomings, I think people believed we were a nation of inclusion and tolerance, a nation of ideals,” he continued. “Now we are left to understand how some among us came to approve of a candidate who openly mocked the men and women who served our country and were taken prisoner, a man who mocked the disabled and objectified women, a man who denigrated immigrants and the faith of millions of Americans, a man who advocated torture.”

But Smith said Americans who did not support Donald Trump in the election still have hope, “hope that he is not the man he presented himself to be, hope that the President-elect chooses to pursue goals that include all Americans, goals that protect our environment and our national security, goals which are bigger than his campaign rhetoric.”

Milford’s Democratic leader said Americans also must now show the office and the institution the respect they deserve.

“We must support him in pursuit of these same goals and to wish him much success,” Smith said. “He is now, our President.”

Milford Republican Town Committee Chairman Paul Beckwith said on Election Night that uniting the country is paramount.

“There is a divide,” Beckwith said shortly after polls closed, “and the first priority is how to reunite the country.”