For the record, I would like to respond to the article by Michael Rausch in the July 10 edition of the Enterprise, “Town Meeting Will Drop Invocation.”
As I made clear in my letter to the board of selectmen after the November Town Meeting, in my appearance before them in March, and again in my letters to the board and Mr. Pickard after the June 29 Town Meeting, my goal was not to eliminate the invocation altogether, but to keep it and modify it to become more inclusive. Many towns have done away with the invocation, but Bourne has a tradition of this opening prayer that is meaningful to many of those who attend Town Meeting.
In eliminating the invocation, Mr. Pickard is, to coin a phrase, “throwing out the baby with the bathwater.”
Responding to my letter to him post-Town Meeting (in which I also praised his management of the meeting), he noted his knowledge of my proposal for a “more inclusive ecumenical invocation.” He indicated that, prior to the June Town Meeting, Ms. Sundman, the senior administrative assistant, repeatedly informed Reverend Stone, who gave the invocation, of the “restrictions.” To my disappointment, Mr. Stone did not comply.
The July 10 article referenced above cites Mr. Pickard as stating that this task (seeking invocation speakers) has been historically left to Ms. Sundman. To Mr. Rausch, he was quoted as saying, “While it is the moderator’s decision on the invocation, based on the prior practice of Ms. Sundman securing the clergy, I saw no reason for the moderator to intercede.”
So, this leaves me to conclude that, because Ms. Sundman was not successful, the person with the ultimate authority over this, Mr. Pickard himself, decided to dispense with the invocation entirely, so as “not to offend anyone and their specific religious beliefs…”
While I can live with that decision, I do not believe it is the right one. There are invocational templates online that ministers can reference. In addition, laypeople can offer invocations that are nondenominational and inclusive, as Ms. Froman herself acknowledged she has experienced.
It is hard for me to understand why we cannot emulate a prayer, which appropriately may begin with “Sovereign God, Author of Liberty” and end with, “We ask all of this in Your merciful name, Amen.” That was how US Senate Chaplain Reverend Barry Black started and finished his interfaith invocation to set the tone at the start of the recent US Senate impeachment trial.
If the Senate, with all its tradition and despite its current divisiveness, can do that, so can we at Town Meeting. I respectfully ask Mr. Pickard to reconsider for the greater good of the community.
Robert A. Zibbell