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Secular invocation: Jim Diedrich, Manchester-by-the-Sea, Mass. annual town meeting, April 2, 2018

Mr. Moderator, distinguished Town Officials, my fellow citizens of Manchester-by-the-Sea. I’m honored to have been asked to deliver a nonsectarian invocation to begin our town meeting.

Most invocations start by asking to bow your heads. Instead, I would ask that you take a moment to look around the room at all the men and women here, in this moment, who have come together to share in this extraordinary and unique New England experience, and to dedicate ourselves to working toward the betterment of our town and its residents.

Tonight, in this place, there may be moments of tension, of ideological division, of frustration. But, this also a place where by the very fact of being human we have much more in common than we have differences. We share the same spectrum of potential for care, for compassion, for fear, for joy and for love.

Let us give thanks for all that we have, all that we cherish, and all that we possess — especially for the capacity to care and love, to improve our families, our community and ourselves. Whatever one’s viewpoint, either derived from faith or from reason and science, having the capacity to appreciate and thank others is ingrained in the DNA of the human psyche.

Let us also give thanks to our unpaid elected and/or appointed town leaders, and to the many volunteers, who are the heart and soul of our community. These people donate their time and talents to help all. Let us recognize and laud the sacrifices made by our town employees, especially our first responders — our police, firefighters and emergency medical technicians who risk their lives to safeguard all of us.

Carl Sagan once wrote, “For small creatures such as we, the vastness is bearable only through love.” I would add the word “understanding,” as well. In this room tonight, let us cherish our shared humanness, our shared capacity for reason and celebrate our shared respect for all the people of our town, for our Constitution, and for our democracy. And let us root our decision-making process in these values that are relevant to all Americans, regardless of our individual belief or nonbelief. Let us all commit to working together for a better Manchester-by-the-Sea.

Thank you.

Jim Diedrich