Photo by Elizabeth Lepro
 

Imagining a Honesdale for all

I moved to Honesdale from California one year ago. From the beginning, I’ve felt welcome here—everyone I’ve met has been friendly and has done what they could to make me feel like part of the community.

Throughout the last two months, I’ve heard and read things that don’t reflect the welcoming nature of this town. These comments have been spurred by the controversy surrounding the Honesdale star and cross on Irving Cliff, now brightly lit for the holidays, despite controversy surrounding its position on public land. About this issue, I’m surprised to hear such remarks as, ‘If you don’t like it, don’t look, or just leave.’ I understand how important the star and cross are to many people in this community, but I know we can maintain civil discourse while seeking ways to protect them. There are times when each of us will find that our opinion is in the minority, and I think we owe it to each other to provide a space where we can each feel welcomed, heard and respected—even when, and especially when, we don’t agree. I imagine that the Freedom From Religion Foundation was first contacted because someone in our community didn’t feel that they could speak to the Honesdale Borough Council about something that was important to them, and that’s brought us to where we are today.

I don’t agree with the FFRF’s methods, but I do believe the group has one thing right: technically, we have a religious monument on public land, and that is against the First Amendment of the Constitution. However, I think the group is wrong in telling us to take away something that means so much to so many people. It may seem like there are two options—fight a potential lawsuit to keep it up, or upset people by taking it down—but I believe there’s a third potential, a creative solution we can discover together. Honesdale is strong, but only when we consider and respect everyone. Sometimes that means preserving traditions, and sometimes that means making new ones—looking past what is to what could be. I have two possible solutions that I believe could create equal access to the light up on the hill.

If we want to keep both the star and the cross, I think we need to bring other lit symbols into rotation, as an opportunity to celebrate and learn more about diversity here, which isn’t regularly highlighted in our Catholic-majority town. Yes, Church Street is lined with churches of the Christian faith, but there’s also a synagogue in town, and a Universalist Unitarian congregation nearby that holds regular services not far away. Organizations such as the Himalayan Institute bring people to town from all over the world, of different faiths and spiritualities, who integrate into our community. The star could potentially become a symbol of this inclusivity—a giant light bright, perhaps, programmed with symbols for both religious and secular occasions that bring Honesdale residents together, such as Rachel’s Challenge.

The Borough could also consider creating a new symbol, like a candle light, or lit flame. A candle’s flame has long been a symbol that brings people together, and is used in many religious events—from advent candles at Christmas, to the candles in a menorah during Hanukkah, to those used during Kwanzaa, the Indian festival Diwali and the Muslim celebration of Ramadan, along with secular occasions. Many of these observances involve letting go of differences and coming together in unity. This candle could be lit to illustrate a Honesdale that embraces all parts of its whole.

I’m excited to hear other ideas from the community that allow room for all people, and hope we can all join together and develop a creative solution to this issue.

This column was derived from a speech that Glover gave at a November Honesdale Borough Council meeting to hear comment on the star and cross. If you would like to be a guest columnist for The River Reporter, email elizabeth@riverreporter.com with a timely pitch.

 

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