From Paris, a call for us to be beacon

The Rev. Lucinda Laird
The Rev. Lucinda Laird

By last Sunday, a letter from Paris was read in our Lexington church and the focus of a sermon that made much more sense to me than the political pandering of some 30 or more American governors who say they will resist the resettlement of Syrian nationals in our county.

The letter, addressed to U.S. Episcopalians from a woman priest with many friends in Kentucky, asked for prayers for victims of the horrific slaughter in Paris and for the terrorists “whose anger, fear and hatred lead them to commit such acts.”

The writer was Lucinda Laird, dean of the American Cathedral in Paris, the famed mother church of the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe.

Laird became the dean after 15 years as rector of St. Matthews Episcopal Church in Louisville. In Kentucky, she served on the board of Berea College and was the priest for my Louisville family and for the late Phillip Ardery, the war hero who led 200 pilots in the skies over Normandy in D-Day in 1944.

Ardery, a native of Lexington, became a noted lawyer who, this paper wrote upon his death, “excelled in service to society's disenfranchised and forgotten” and raised millions of dollars for mental health.

A distinguished career of national leadership in her church led to Laird’s appointment as the first woman to be dean of the Paris Cathedral, which serves a congregation of Americans and other parishioners from all over the world. Here is what she wrote, in part, from Paris:

“... Our prayers must lead us to action. Here in France, I suspect there will be very, very strong anti-Muslim sentiment, and one thing we must do is stand with our Muslim brothers and sisters, and foster conversation and understanding. I think we must also work harder to care for the flood of refugees fleeing terror in their own countries – work for immediate care and for political solutions.

“You will need to find your own mission in the U.S., but I know that it must involve continued dedication and commitment to making justice and making peace, and being a light in the darkness.”

Babbling candidates for president and mindless governors who want a wall around their states hardly help to find our mission for justice and peace.

We are in the largest refugee crisis since World War II. Our mission? “Not here” is no mission.

Al Smith of Lexington is founding host of KET's Comment on Kentucky.