On Monday evening, November 5, more than 150 members of the Spider community gathered on the University Forum to proclaim that the University of Richmond is united in love and rooted in hope.

In the wake of the anti-Semitic shooting at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, PA that left 11 members of the Jewish community dead on October 27, and the hateful murder of two black people in Louisville on October 24, the Office of the Chaplaincy hosted the “United in Love” vigil to address the grief and complex feelings many on campus were experiencing. 

University Chaplain Craig Kocher opened the program by acknowledging the two tragedies. Chaplain Kocher introduced the night’s theme – United in Love, Rooted in Hope – noting the distinct “U” and “R” within the message. He also highlighted the roots and branches of the gathering’s logo, a beautiful symbol inspired by the Tree of Life Synagogue and drawn by Chaplaincy staff member Karen Redden. Chaplain Kocher concluded with a lesson from Archbishop Desmond Tutu, noting that the candles each guest would light at the end of the program declared in the face of darkness, “I beg to differ.” Chaplain Kocher noted the audience’s power to say, “I beg to differ” when faced with ugliness, horror, exclusion, and violence, and to stand with those on the margins of society.

Josh Jeffreys, Jewish Chaplain and Director of Religious Life, followed Chaplain Kocher’s remarks by addressing the recent violence against Jews and other minorities. Jeffreys emphasized the Torah’s demand to “love the stranger as yourself,” imploring members of the Spider community to love the marginalized and oppressed in our communities now more than ever.

Following Jeffreys’ remarks, fourteen members of the University community – including students, alumni, staff, and President Crutcher – lit memorial candles in honor of the deceased.  In response to each candle, the community said together, “We are United in Love and Rooted in Hope.” In addition to the thirteen candles for the victims of the Pittsburgh and Louisville attacks, President Crutcher lit a fourteenth candle for all those who have been hurt or excluded because of who they are.

As the crowd lit their own candles, Choeur du Roi, a co-ed student a cappella group, performed John Lennon’s iconic “Imagine.” The gathering then concluded with a message from Muslim chaplain Waleed Ilyas, Rev. Jamie Lynn Haskins, Chaplain for Spiritual Life, Deacon Tom Mullen, Catholic Chaplain, and Bryn Bagby Taylor, Associate University Chaplain. The joint sending concluded with a final declaration that we are “united in love, rooted in hope.”