Over the weekend, a mass shooting happened in Virginia Beach. Virginia Beach is less than an hour and a half away from Hickory Neck. Some of our parishioners were colleagues with some of those killed. There are many Episcopal Churches in Virginia Beach, and I know their priests have been working hard on pastoral care and preparing funerals. Having a mass shooting so close to home, and certainly within our Diocese, has made this new reality of mass gun violence weightier and more tangible – as if the violence is making its way toward my personal sphere.
On Tuesday, our Bishop joined a worship service at an Episcopal parish in Virginia Beach. As I thought about the service, I found myself wondering what liturgy they might be using, and how one even constructs a liturgy when you and your community is under such stress. And then a dreadful thought occurred to me – one that is painful to confess. I thought, “well, maybe I should develop a liturgy now when I’m not overcome with grief and counseling others, so the liturgy is easily modified for the situation.”
As soon as I had the thought, I crumpled in grief. This is where I have come. After years and years of devastating, massive amounts of death, countless pleas for us to change – change something, anything, and sermon after sermon preached about how we must do and be better, I have allowed myself to succumb to inevitability instead of demanding change. This realization has been sitting with me all week, and it still brings me to tears when I recall my own sense of resignation.
This week, my prayer for us is a bit different. My prayer for us is that we recommit to working for change. My prayer is that we not let the sin of indifference or the sense of inevitability paralyze us from being agents of love and change. My prayer is that we stop letting the sense of powerlessness take away our power. I do not want to develop a “just in case” liturgy. I don’t want to have to officiate over such a liturgy. I want us all to acknowledge that we want to be better, and start doing the hard work of gathering diverse peoples to the table and finding a path forward. Let’s be the Church – the Church our community needs.
O God, you made us in your own image and redeemed us through Jesus your Son: Look with compassion on the whole human family; take away the arrogance and hatred which infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us; unite us in bonds of love; and work through our struggle and confusion to accomplish your purposes on earth; that, in your good time, all nations and races may serve you in harmony around your heavenly throne; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (BCP, 815)