This invocation was delivered at St. Petersburg City Hall on Tuesday, January 2, 2018 for the swearing-in ceremony of Mayor Rick Kriseman.
Hello fellow citizens of the great city of St. Petersburg.
It’s an honor to be here today with a group of people committed to creating a future St. Petersburg that is so bright, colorful, inclusive, thriving, open, welcoming. That includes all of you and the work you do every day.
All of us, in addition to our public lives, lead interior lives. A life of meaning and intention. A life of passion and purpose. A life not always seen by our family or co-workers. A life not always seen on Facebook. The life of our true Self that can’t be captured by a selfie.
This interior life is always there for us as a refuge – like a candle burning in a darkened room. And when we turn inward to ask the big questions – Why am I here? What is my purpose? What am I here to create or to do? When we consult our conscience, or our Creator, or our values, it is this interior life that provides the answers.
Some of us identify as Buddhists, Christians, Jews, Muslims, Atheists, Humanists – and some of us don’t have a religious identity at all.
This administration has always embraced (and celebrated) the diversity of this city. We are multiracial. We are multicultural. We are home to an amazing LGBT community. We live in a city that is vibrant and colorful and full of people that I am proud to call my neighbor.
Just like race and politics and gender, religious belief exists along a spectrum. And within each faith tradition there is an internal diversity – no two people think, worship, pray, meditate or practice the same. No two people have the same values or mindset or tell stories in the same way.
Since the day I met him, Mayor Rick Kriseman has been a supporter of this city’s religious diversity and a believer in interfaith dialogue, committed to increasing the spiritual literacy of our citizens. Because if we can’t talk to each other about the big questions, if we don’t have a deep and profound respect for our neighbor and for the way they approach mystery, or grapple with the unknown, or an understanding of their ultimate concern – then the small questions won’t matter, our civil concerns become meaningless.
Mayor Kriseman has a clear vision of how our beloved city fits into the bigger picture. He has fought to make St. Petersburg a welcoming city for those wanting to make it their home, and has continued to work toward reconciliation and healing, toward equality and empowerment, to ensure that all of its citizens feel safe and protected. That they feel valued and successful. And that they feel loved.
So today it is my prayer – to God, Allah, Elohim, the Creator, the Universe, to the Source and the Force – that this mayor and his administration continue to serve this city wisely and well. And that we, as neighbors, continue the work of living in a world that is sometimes overwhelming and painful. The work of serving and caring for one another. Of building a future together that includes all voices, all races, all genders, all faith traditions – Christians, Buddhists, Jews, Muslims, Baha’i, Hindu, Quakers, Scientologists, Native Americans, Atheists, Agnostics, Humanists. Those who are Spiritual But Not Religious. Those whose beliefs can’t be put into words.
I pray we all put our Spirit into action. And by combining the energy and the light from all of those candles in all of those darkened rooms, we create a shining example of community for others. A light as bright and as warm as the sun that eradicates all fear and self-doubt. A light that calls forth the strength to move forward with a shared purpose and common ground and a wisdom and understanding that is beyond ourselves.
I pray that in this age of separation and division and barrier-building and disconnection, that we transcend the lie that our thoughts and actions don’t affect each other. I pray that we put the neighbor back in the neighborhood.
May that sun shine on our community, and may that community bring out the neighbor in us all.
With that we say,
Shalom, Shanti, Salaam, Amen.