For more than 100 years, Washington National Cathedral has stood tall here on the highest point in the city, a symbol of faith, hope and love. The power of symbols is that they not only speak for us, but they possess the ability to speak to us.
As House of Prayer for All People, the Cathedral is a place open to all. As a space for the nation, it is a symbol that all people should be able to see themselves reflected in. This month, we will light the Cathedral’s west façade for three distinct occasions —National Gun Violence Awareness, Capital Pride and Juneteenth.
It is important that we not just hold this place as a unique space; we must actively and sincerely be conveners and servers in this place. In this moment of extreme division, mass shootings, racism, prejudice and injustice, we continue striving to serve God and our neighbors as agents of reconciliation and transformation.
As a nation, we are seeking to find our way out of a devastating pandemic – a pandemic that has revealed our need to address the issues that stand in the way of creating the beloved community. No stage in history has had a monopoly on suffering, but when we lack around us here in 2021, ours can claim more than its full share. So with all that we have endured these past 15 months, we remember and uplift to light the path forward.
On June 4, in honor of National Gun Violence Awareness Day, the west front of the Cathedral will be lit up in orange and we will toll the Bourdon Bell 120 times, in honor of the 120 Americans who die each day as a victims of gun violence. We honor the survivors in this moment, shedding light on the reality that we can and must do more.
The Cathedral will be lit in rainbow hues June 6-8 in honor of Capital Pride Alliance’s Still We Are Celebration 2021. The lighting of the Cathedral is a symbol of the Cathedral’s message that all are Welcome — and all really does mean all. For far too long, too many have erected barriers in their lives to marginalize some and welcome others. The Cathedral, with our LGBTQIA Alliance, stands as a partner, supporter and affirmer of all of God’s children.
Finally, we light the west front in celebration and in honor of Juneteenth on June 15-19. It was on June 19, 1865 that Union soldiers made it to Galveston, Texas, with news that the enslaved were now free and the doors to opportunity were opened. Juneteenth is also called Freedom Day, Liberation Day and Emancipation Day. The lights will remind us that making those freedom words real does not benefit some, it is a benefit to all.
On these nights and every night, as we continue the work of lifting us beyond the challenges of today, we pray that we will come out different from the way we went in. May we emerge on the other side with more faith, more hope, more love. We need to do more than just talk about it; may these words be witnessed in lives that are lived and deeds that are done!
The Rev. Canon Leonard L. Hamlin, Sr.
Canon Missioner, Washington National Cathedral