When Rev. John Floberg wrote a letter about Standing Rock to interfaith clergy members all across the country, he hoped to rally 100 people.

"Our duty as people of faith and clergy could not be clearer: to stand on the side of the oppressed and to pray for God’s mercy in these challenging times," the Episcopalian minister wrote.

In the letter, he urged religious leaders to join him for a day of solidarity on Nov. 3, 2016, with the 200-plus Native American tribes protesting against the Dakota Access Pipeline.


And when the day came, he was overwhelmed: More than 500 leaders from 20 different faiths showed up.

‌Floberg stands at the left. All photos by Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service, used with permission.

Episcopalians, Baptists, Catholics, and other Christian denominations joined with Unitarians, Buddhists, Muslims, Jews, and more in a morning prayer circle at the Oceti Sakowin camp.

T’ruah, the Rabbinic call for human rights, released a statement saying, "Throughout Jewish history our cemeteries have been desecrated and destroyed. Jews cannot stand idly by while the Sioux community’s burial grounds are threatened by the planned route of the pipeline."

The leaders marched alongside Native American water protectors down North Dakota Highway 1806 to bear witness to the violence against the protectors.

Meanwhile, other religious leaders headed to Bismarck, where they held a protest that locked down the state's capitol building.

Religious leaders also burned a copy of the Doctrine of Discovery, a ceremonial act meant to demonstrate their support of Native American rights.

The papal document, which dates back to the 15th century, has long been used to justify the continued imperialist attitudes that have been used to steal land from and do harm to indigenous people across the world in the name of God.

"By burning copies of the Doctrine of Discovery we were signaling an end to a past that has affected millions and millions of people," explained Bishop Marc Andrus of California. "People who have been colonized and people who have been enslaved, but also the enslavers and the colonizers, it’s affected us all."

And of course, many of them came with charity in the form of food and supplies to ease the ongoing struggles of the water protectors.

Native American protesters, many of whom already live in extreme poverty, have been camping out for months along the path of the pipeline. The Oceti Sakowin and Sacred Stone camps alike are in desperate need of cash and supplies — food, batteries, clothing, warmth, and so on — in order to keep fighting, particularly as the temperature starts to drop.‌

"This is what the love of God enacted looks like," said Rev. Stephanie Sellers.

Sellers is canon to the presiding bishop for evangelism and reconciliation of the Episcopal Church. "As I’m looking around the circle of 524 faith leaders from all over this country, I feel like I’m watching reconciliation," she said in an interview with the Episcopal News Service.

She also led the gathered leaders in song.

"This is not a liberal or conservative thing. This is not a Republican-Democratic thing. This is a human thing and it’s a Jesus thing to do what is right for all God’s children," said Bishop Michael Curry.

Curry is also a representative of the Episcopalian Church. But his sentiment was echoed by many other religious leaders. The president of the Unitarian Universalist Association even released a statement calling the pipeline "a textbook case of marginalizing minority communities."

"Let us not forget ... our native brothers and sisters who are facing the full force of corporate greed and government callousness at the Standing Rock Sioux reservation," said Imam Zaid Shakir.

He also noted, "We need to change ourselves, end our own greed, transform our own souls, and admit our need for Divine aid in overcoming these daunting challenges."

These inspiring acts of faith remind us that we are strongest when we stand together and embrace our differences.

After all Native Americans have been through, they deserve some kind of divine intervention, in whatever form that might take.

Leah Menzies/TikTok

Leah Menzies had no idea her deceased mother was her boyfriend's kindergarten teacher.

When you start dating the love of your life, you want to share it with the people closest to you. Sadly, 18-year-old Leah Menzies couldn't do that. Her mother died when she was 7, so she would never have the chance to meet the young woman's boyfriend, Thomas McLeodd. But by a twist of fate, it turns out Thomas had already met Leah's mom when he was just 3 years old. Leah's mom was Thomas' kindergarten teacher.

The couple, who have been dating for seven months, made this realization during a visit to McCleodd's house. When Menzies went to meet his family for the first time, his mom (in true mom fashion) insisted on showing her a picture of him making a goofy face. When they brought out the picture, McLeodd recognized the face of his teacher as that of his girlfriend's mother.

Menzies posted about the realization moment on TikTok. "Me thinking my mum (who died when I was 7) will never meet my future boyfriend," she wrote on the video. The video shows her and McLeodd together, then flashes to the kindergarten class picture.

“He opens this album and then suddenly, he’s like, ‘Oh my God. Oh my God — over and over again,” Menzies told TODAY. “I couldn’t figure out why he was being so dramatic.”

Obviously, Menzies is taking great comfort in knowing that even though her mother is no longer here, they can still maintain a connection. I know how important it was for me to have my mom accept my partner, and there would definitely be something missing if she wasn't here to share in my joy. It's also really incredible to know that Menzies' mother had a hand in making McLeodd the person he is today, even if it was only a small part.

@speccylee

Found out through this photo in his photo album. A moment straight out of a movie 🥲

♬ iris - 🫶

“It’s incredible that that she knew him," Menzies said. "What gets me is that she was standing with my future boyfriend and she had no idea.”

Since he was only 3, McLeodd has no actual memory of Menzies' mother. But his own mother remembers her as “kind and really gentle.”

The TikTok has understandably gone viral and the comments are so sweet and positive.

"No the chills I got omggg."

"This is the cutest thing I have watched."

"It’s as if she remembered some significance about him and sent him to you. Love fate 😍✨"

In the caption of the video, she said that discovering the connection between her boyfriend and her mom was "straight out of a movie." And if you're into romantic comedies, you're definitely nodding along right now.

Menzies and McLeodd made a follow-up TikTok to address everyone's positive response to their initial video and it's just as sweet. The young couple sits together and addresses some of the questions they noticed pop up. People were confused that they kept saying McLeodd was in kindergarten but only 3 years old when he was in Menzies' mother's class. The couple is Australian and Menzies explained that it's the equivalent of American preschool.

They also clarified that although they went to high school together and kind of knew of the other's existence, they didn't really get to know each other until they started dating seven months ago. So no, they truly had no idea that her mother was his teacher. Menzies revealed that she "didn't actually know that my mum taught at kindergarten."

"I just knew she was a teacher," she explained.

She made him act out his reaction to seeing the photo, saying he was "speechless," and when she looked at the photo she started crying. McLeodd recognized her mother because of the pictures Menzies keeps in her room. Cue the "awws," because this is so cute, I'm kvelling.

A simple solution for all ages, really.

School should feel like a safe space. But after the tragic news of yet another mass shooting, many children are scared to death. As a parent or a teacher, it can be an arduous task helping young minds to unpack such unthinkable monstrosities. Especially when, in all honesty, the adults are also terrified.

Katelyn Campbell, a clinical psychologist in South Carolina, worked with elementary school children in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook shooting. She recently shared a simple idea that helped then, in hopes that it might help now.

The psychologist tweeted, “We had our kids draw pictures of scenery that made them feel calm—we then hung them up around the school—to make the ‘other kids who were scared’ have something calm to look at.”



“Kids, like adults, want to feel helpful when they feel helpless,” she continued, saying that drawing gave them something useful to do.

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It can be hard to find hope in hard times, but we have examples of humanity all around us.

I almost didn't create this post this week.

As the U.S. reels from yet another horrendous school massacre, barely on the heels of the Buffalo grocery store shooting and the Laguna Woods church shooting reminding us that gun violence follows us everywhere in this country, I find myself in a familiar state of anger and grief and frustration. One time would be too much. Every time, it's too much. And yet it keeps happening over and over and over again.

I've written article after article about gun violence. I've engaged in every debate under the sun. I've joined advocacy groups, written to lawmakers, donated to organizations trying to stop the carnage, and here we are again. Round and round we go.

It's hard not to lose hope. It would be easy to let the fuming rage consume every bit of joy and calm and light that we so desperately want and need. But we have to find a balance.

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