By the Rev. Timothy Mulder, interim rector, St. Anne’s, Annapolis
This afternoon my phone began to buzz. “Are you OK?” Before I knew what had happened, I realized what had happened. Today, tragedy had not come to someone else’s town. Today murder came to ours.
I replied to my friends, “I’m OK,” but even in doing that I realized there would be other families tonight who will never be OK again.
The thing I’m beginning to realize is that any town is now our town, that other people are now our neighbors and family members and work colleagues. Someone asked tonight, “Where can we be safe if not here?”
So we are all feeling vulnerable, not just to the physical deadly violence, but to our psyches, to our souls, to our outlook on life.
I suppose it’s never really been different in any age. The issues have been different, but life is always fragile. Every morning when I wake up, the first thing I tell myself is that today is a gift.
I am in awe of those neighbors of ours: the police, the rescue squad, the fire company and so many others who are willing to put their lives on the line for the rest of us. Most of us individually are strangers to them, but collectively we are the community.
That’s one of the core values and messages of nights of pain and unnecessary violence like tonight. In an age of nobody seeming to care about anybody but themselves and their own, the essence of community is still a core value that transcends religions, political parties, ages, wealth groups. We need to care, with all our lives, not just for ourselves and our own, but for our whole community.
Jesus redefined the idea of neighbor. The system of his day wanted neighbors to be folk like us. Jesus turned it around and said that there is no one who is not our neighbor in the household of God. And if neighbor, then compelling of care, even at a personal cost.
I wonder what personal cost we, as a society, are willing to pay for the on-going ramifications of gun violence in our land? Then I have to take it down a level and wonder what cost we, as Christians, are willing to pay? What can we do? And then I need to bring it down to the personal, what about me in my own life, what can I do, what will I do, no matter the cost?
When the General Convention of the Episcopal Church meets in a week, a major topic will be gun violence. I have no delusions that we will solve the matter. But is it acceptable not to think, to talk together, to pray, to work in regard to something that is so regularly and increasingly stealing the lives of our neighbors, our family members, ourselves?
To say that our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the victims is true, while even in believing in the amazing power of prayer, it feels inadequate.
We cry out as the writers of the Psalms did, in lament. We ask, “How long, O Lord?” We are at a loss for words. No one wants this, but what to do?
I believe that what we can do is to stay together, as a town, as a community, as a church, as families, as friends, as colleagues. Talk about these things with each other. I said talk, not argue. Listen. Listen with care. Be humble. Be open to the Spirit.
The other day John Lewis, a member of Congress who marched with Martin Luther King, said that the struggle is not about just this hour, or this day or this season, but all of life. God calls us to be faithful day in and day out. God calls us to affirm life, our own and one another’s. God calls us to act for justice and fairness, realizing we may fail or fall at times.
To those of you hurting tonight, your pain is honored and shared. To those of you angry tonight, try to turn your anger into empathy and action. To those of you discouraged tonight, know that God will not let you or this creation go, and our prayer is still God’s kingdom will be on earth as in heaven. Even on nights like tonight…. May the peace of God, even in the midst of the storm, that passes all understanding, keep you, and all those who mourn, now and always.
On Friday, June 29, 7:00 PM, Annapolis houses of worship (Christian, Jewish and Muslim) will hold a prayer vigil at the Westfield Mall, Pottery Barn parking lot, across the street from the site of the shooting. All are welcome.
This Saturday, June 30, the 5:30 PM Eucharist at St. Anne’s, Annapolis, will be offered for the victims of this tragedy. All are welcome, no matter your faith, your politics; this is the house of God for prayer for all people. St. Anne’s is located at Church Circle in downtown Annapolis. Our clergy are available to talk with you on a private and personal level.