Atheist invocation opens first Lubbock City Council meeting of 2019
LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) - Religion is well represented in Lubbock. The joke that you can stand on any street corner and see a church may not be 100 percent true, but you can stand in the parking lot of Lubbock City Hall and see churches from three different denominations.
Spirituality was on the top of everyone’s mind in the city’s council chambers as the invocation for Thursday night’s meeting was given by Tracey Benefield of the atheist community of Lubbock.
Despite not being addressed to a deity, the invocation was heard loud and clear by its intended audience.
Benefield asked the council and assembled crowd to not bow their heads, instead imploring them to “keep them raised and look around to your neighbors.”
Her call was for the residents of Lubbock to share the city with people of all faiths and backgrounds with civility, something she said Lubbock does very well. “No matter what our differences, Lubbockites have an ability to come together and treat each other with respect and dignity.”
She gave examples of how residents are always willing to prove Lubbock is as friendly as billboards may say. “This city’s strength is in its ability to come together, this is what it means to be from Lubbock. We find a way to connect, no matter what the barriers placed before us.”
Benefield’s message was one of acceptance, especially for members of the community who do not define themselves as religious. She closed her invocation by thanking the council and community for allowing her to speak.
Following her speech, Mayor Dan Pope quickly quelled rumors of a suggested ‘second’ invocation during Citizen Comments by reminding residents council rules allowed for comments only on agenda items. ““We’ve had our invocation for tonight, we’re not going to have another invocation.” Pope said before moving on.
FULL TRANSCRIPT OF BENEFIELD’S INVOCATION:
Thank you, I’d like to start by thanking the council for having me here today. I’m honored to be able to open today’s meeting. Today is the first regular city council meeting of the year, and I cannot think of a more wonderful way to begin the year with a show of unity and willingness to listen. In other cities and other states, when atheists such as myself request to give an invocation of this kind we have had to fight to be heard. But here in Lubbock, we were welcomed. I applaud the city council for their open mindedness in having me here today. Today, I will not ask you to bow your heads as I speak with you, but rather keep them raised and look around to your neighbors. We do not all agree, we come from different backgrounds we believe different things, we have different traditions and cultures, but we all share this community in common. This city represents us all, we call ourselves the friendliest city in America, and I have always found this to be true. It’s why whenever I moved here to go to college, 11 years ago, I fell in love with the city and I never wanted to leave. No matter what our differences, Lubbockites have an ability to come together and treat each other with respect and dignity. We help strangers put on a tire when they have a flat, and we never ask what religion they are. We take time out of our day to pull people out of the snow and the mud because we all know what the Lubbock weather can be and we’ve all been there. We talk to each other in line at United to pass the time, never caring what side of the aisle our neighbor is on. We invite one another to break bread with us at our BBQ’s if someone looks hungry, and we don’t stop to concern ourselves with who they voted for. And we encourage our children to play together and make new friends at the park without worrying about what that child’s culture is. We share our riches, and we share our sorrows, this city’s strength is in its ability to come together, this is what it means to be from Lubbock. We find a way to connect, no matter what the barriers placed before us. An invocation is defined as calling upon someone or something to offer help or support. Most people are probably used to these invocations taking the form of prayer. However, in the spirit of the 42 percent of Lubbock citizens who identify their religious affiliation as none, I would like to ask the council to look within themselves and invoke their own capacity for compassion, civility and reason, and let these things guide you as you reach decisions that are beneficial for all of us who share this community. I ask that this council consider all points of view, and all of Lubbock’s many citizens when deciding on how our city will move forward. As you look around to your neighbors, I encourage you to look beyond the differences and find that which unites us. Let our city be an example of how people from all walks of life can live and work together with the respect and dignity each one of us deserves. As an atheist, I am proud to call Lubbock home, and I am grateful to have the opportunity to speak before my community. I would like to end my time today by thanking the council and everyone in attendance today by having the courage to listen.
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